Belmont Boys’ Hockey Falls To Xaverian, 2-1, As Season, Playoff Run Ends

Photo: Belmont High sophomore Michael Pomer on the attack against Xaverian in the quarterfinals of the 2022 MIAA Division 1 ice hockey tournament.

The playoff run for Belmont High’s boys’ ice hockey squad ended on a dreary Saturday afternoon in far off Attleboro.

The defense and goaltending that gave up just 25 goals in 22 games was keeping Belmont High in its Division 1 boys’ hockey quarterfinals with Xaverian Brothers High. The Hawks relentless offense and clear shots should have given the opponent more than a single goal deep in the third period but for senior standout goaltender Ryan Griffin who stopped 43 of 44 shots late in the stanza.

Yet in the end, the consistent pressure the Hawks applied in Belmont’s end of the ice foretold the playoff game’s outcome as the Hawks’ senior forward Max Lockwood steered in an in-close rebound on his team’s 45th shot on net with just under four minutes remaining to seal a 2-1 victory over Belmont, sending the Xaverian (19-3-1) into the state semifinals where they meet Arlington on Tuesday, March 15.

Belmont ends the season at 19-2-3 with the program’s second deep playoff run in as many tournaments.

“Great season, great game. We played our usual game, we weren’t going to deviate from that,” said Belmont’s first year head coach Tim Foley postgame. “We have to strike when the opportunity presents itself. We had a couple of chances but didn’t really capitalize on them.”

Belmont High’s senior Matty Rowen and Xaverian’s Max Lockwood face off in the first period of the quarterfinal of the 2022 MIAA Division 1 Boys’ Ice Hockey championships in Attleboro.

“We had nothing left on the bench when this game was over which is all you can ask for,” he said.

Belmont fans and student supporters – bused to the game thanks to a donated bus paid for by Lynn Findlay Homes – hoofed the 80-mile round trip to Attleboro to provide a true playoff experience for the Marauders who were very much the away team.

As they had done all year, Belmont “wanted to jump on them right from the start” said Foley to grab an early lead. With the drop of the puck, Belmont skated by the Xaverian defense and just missed going up in the first 10 seconds as a shot deflected just beyond junior Cam Fici’s reach at the doorstep.

On the other end, the Hawks’ came out banging, looking to sit any Marauder with the puck onto the ice. The Hawks’ game plan was to spread out its forwards and breakout with long “stretch” passes or solo carry the puck deep into Belmont’s defensive zone, somewhat negating the Marauders defensive set up on blocking passing lanes and winning the stick-on-stick battles.

“We knew that was coming and and think we were successful most of the game. But they really dug in and played their game,” said Foley.

Xaverian broke through midway into the first on a text book passing play had the Marauder defense somewhat static leaving junior first liner Joe DiMartino wide-open in front to beat Griffin.

The Marauders spent most of the second watching Xaverian control the puck deep in the Belmont end as Griffin made a series of one-on-one saves. As the clock ticked down to the end of the period, that one opportunity the Marauders were hoping for opened and they took advantage.

Belmont High before the game vs Xaverian in the 2022 MIAA Div. 1 boy’s hockey tournament.

While on the penalty kill, junior defender Joe Gaziano sent junior Shay Donahue and Fici away on a two-on-two break. With both Xaverian defenders preoccupied by Fici – who scored 35 goals in the season – Donahue shot from the left slot was blocked but landing back down on his stick. The junior would not miss from six feet away knotting up match at one with two minutes remaining.

While reminiscent of Marco Santagati’s shorthand goal in Belmont’s 2020 Division 1 semi-final classic vs St. John’s (Shrewsbury) tying that game late, the Marauders could not capitalize on the change of momentum that included a power play that stretched into the third.

Soon Griffin was under assault as the Hawks would station a player at the top of the crease to bang away at every advantage. The stubborn Belmont defense led by Gaziano and junior Peter Grace finally cracked when Lockwood scored from right of the goal with just under three minutes to play. With Griffin pulled, Belmont could only send a few long distance testers at senior goaltender Brendan Flanagan as the horn sounded.

Speaking to his team after the game, Foley told the senior class they “have a lot to be proud of … and had nothing to be ashamed of the way they played and competed in every single game of this season.”

“I know going forward in life, I have no worries that’s any of them rate going to be anything but a success because of the way they performed on the ice and conducted themselves with class everywhere they went,” he said.

Day after the quarterfinals, Belmont High team mates surround Cam Fici after he was recognized by Belmont Youth Hockey for his dedication to learn to skate instruction.

Griffin Leads Belmont Boys’ Hockey Into D1 Quarterfinals With 3-1 Victory Over Marshfield

Photo: Belmont High Senior Ryan Griffin in action.

A good goalie will keep a team in the game. A great goalie will lead it to a championship.

On Wednesday afternoon, March 9, Belmont High senior goaltender and co-capt.Ryan Griffin demonstrated once again the elevated level of first-rate quality and coolness under pressure which is the backbone of Belmont’s season in leading the Marauders’ past Marshfield, 3-1, in the “sweet sixteen” round of the MIAA State Division 1 playoffs.

“Ryan Griffin just stood tall today,” said said Tim Foley, Belmont’s first year head coach after the “home” game played in Woburn [The “Skip,” Belmont’s home rink, was considered too small to accommodate supporters and students from both schools].

“[Ryan] just works hard,” said Foley. “He’s focused. He’s a guy that we know is back there. And he’s a momentum breaker. I’ve been saying this all year; teams come in and try to break him and they haven’t been able to.”

“My defense does a great job of getting guys coming to the net,” Griffin said postgame. “So I knew that if I could just make the first save, they could clear them out.”

The victory sends the 7th-ranked Marauders’ (18-1-3) into the Elite Eight quarterfinals against second-seed Xaverian Brothers High School (18-3-1). The game will take place at New England Sports Village in Attleboro, on Saturday, March 12 at 2 p.m. Only online tickets will be accepted. Tickets can be ordered at gofer.co

The matinee contest started with Belmont’s stellar defense – giving up 25 goals in 22 games – not allowing the motivated, if not as technically adept, Rams to establish a cohesive offense while the Belmont attack, fronted by the first line of senior Matty Rowen and juniors Shay Donahue and Cam Fici, forced Marshfield to focus all its attention on trying to hamper Belmont’s high scoring trio.

While looking dangerous early one, it was only a matter of time before Belmont struck first when Rowen swept a blocked shot past a surprised Brady Quackenbush, Marshfield’s junior goaltender.

By the second 15 minutes, Marshfield upped the tempo in an attempt to out hustle the Marauders which they did with ever greater success. Led by the Rams’ man-of-the-match sophomore Tommy Carroll, Marshfield took the game to the Marauders. By the end of the period, Belmont was finding opening for the counter coming off its defensive scheme. Yet it was Marshfield who nearly found an opening late in the period but Griffen stoned the Rams’ Cam McGettrick who saw his open net attempt blocked away by Belmont’s senior net-minder.

Marshfield took advantage early in the final stanza of an interference call by scoring on the man advantage when a puck ping-ponged off a skate and the post to be knocked in by senior Colleen Doyle to tie it early in the third. With the Marshfield supporters – many wearing yellow safety vests – in high sprits, the Rams began flooding zone with attackers with the promise of taking the lead. But again Griffin was not to be beat from distance or when the scrum packed the crease.

But an unusual outcome from an attempted clearing pass from deep in the Marshfield end would result in the game winner for Belmont. A defender’s lofting shot hit one of the banners hanging over center ice resulting in a face-off in the Rams’ zone. Rowen won the face-off and, bang-bang, Donahue slipped it by Quackenbush from the slot to recapture the lead, 2-1.

“When an opponent gets a face-off in their own zone … we try to make the team pay for that,” said Foley. “We want to make sure we take advantage of every offensive end face-off because we know we have Griffin in the net.”

Soon after the goal, Belmont benefited from a Rams’ roughing call on Fici and the subsequent power play. After the conclusion of the man advantage, Belmont’s defense rose to the occasion. For the remainder of the seven minutes of the game, the Marauders essentially playing pitch and catch with the Rams, intercepting passes and stealing pucks off the sticks and dumping it back into the Marshfield zone.

For the third game running, Belmont faced a team willing to gamble on pulling their goalie. And the Marauders made them pay as Fici sent a long distance volley into the back of the net for the 3-1 final.

“We weren’t playing as well as we have been but they just find a way to win. I don’t know how but we do,” said Foley. “We are looking forward to the game Saturday. We’ll go down there and we’ll compete as hard as we can and well see what end up.”

Belmont High Hockey Throws Off Natick, 3-0, In First Round of Div. 1 State Playoffs

Photo: Belmont High senior Matt Rowen scores the game’s first goal off a Tim Cushing rebound as Belmont defeated Natick, 3-0, in the first round of the MIAA Div. 1 state hockey championship Friday, March 4

The 800 fans who stuffed themselves into the ancient forum known as “The Skip” Friday night, March 4, had the opportunity to witness the quintessential “Belmont” game played by the High School Boys Ice Hockey during the successful 2021-22 season.

In its 3-0 home shutout over Natick High in the first round of 32 in the MIAA Division 1 state tournament, the Marauders demonstrated the three elements that produced a 17-1-3 record: solid goaltending from senior Ryan Griffin, a defensive scheme based on frustrating and tiring opponents with an attack that can strike anywhere inside the blue line.

A physical game, for sure.

“We’ve established this year an identity and that we’re a defensive team that strikes when the opportunity presents itself and that we did tonight,” said first-year head coach Tim Foley.

Belmont set the tone of the game scoring within the first two minutes of the puck being dropped when four Red Hawk skaters playing a high line defense lost senior forward Matty Rowen who drifted behind them and lifted an in-close rebound by Natick senior goalie Tim Cushing with 13:03 on clock.

“It’s always important in the playoffs to strike first, you don’t want to be playing from behind and trying to catch up to the team,” said Foley. “You’ve got to get out in front, you got to make that push early on.”

For the remainder of the first, Belmont’s defense – which has surrendered a mere 24 goals in 22 games – took the play from the Red Hawks by thawing its attempts to establish any cohesive tactics by forcing Natick to fight for the puck along the boards while blocking the rare centering passes.

Belmont High’s Joe Gaziano (left) covers Natick’s top goal scorer freshman Sam Hubbard as Belmont’s Ryan Griffin guards the net during a second period Natick power play. Host Belmont defeated Natick, 3-0, in the first round of the MIAA Div. 1 playoffs.

While Friday demonstrated Belmont’s three tier team approach to victory, sophomore forward Matt Pomer was a presence on all corners of the rink. On several occasions in the second and third period he was a handful for Red Hawk defenders around the net, nearly scoring on a solo rush from behind the net. On the first penalty kill, he out-muscled Natick’s leading scorer Matt Haskell and striped the puck early in the second period.

“Mattie is a very good player who is very steady and plays hard,” said Foley of his second line forward. “We knew that Natick was going to come with a physical plan and that’s Mattie Pomer’s game. He loves the physical part of the game, taking pucks away from people, hitting players with his shoulders down. He was in his office today.”

Belmont was at its strongest midway through the second as they squeezed the Red Hawks into their zone which produced Belmont second tally. With junior Shay Donahue screening Cushing, Fici deftly slotted the puck from his favorite left side circle into the back of the net to double Belmont’s advantage with 3:15 remaining. The goal was Fici’s 35th of the extended season.

“I told the team they have to get the pucks in deep, get pressure on the other team and that will get pucks to the net and hopefully in the net,” said Foley.

The Red Hawks entered the final 15 minutes on the front foot to get back into the match but Griffin held the fort as the Marauders’ defensive stalwarts – first pair of juniors Joe Gaziano and Peter Grace along with fellow junior Theo Martin, sophomores Adrien Gurung and Ryan Holloran, junior Henry Melanson and senior John Whouley – shut the door on any comeback.

A late interference call against the Marauders allowed Natick to pull Cushing with two-and-a- half minutes remaining, but the resulting two man advantaged could only produced a pair of long-range shots against Griffin. Down a man, Belmont sealed the victory when Grace picked up a loose puck and “waltzed” to the blue line to fill the empty net before falling on his back while attempting a rare goal celebration.

Belmont (18-1-3) will host 10th-ranked Marshfield High (which took down Lincoln/Sudbury Regional, 2-0, on a pair of goals in the final four minutes. Time and date to come.

“I know [Marshfield] … and they play hard, they play physical and they’re going to be tough to play against. But we have to rely on our attributes and our abilities and we’ll execute our game plan and hopefully, have another win,” said Foley.

Friday Night Is Alright! Belmont High Boys’ Hockey vs Natick In Div 1 First Round At 7 PM

Photo: Belmont High junior Cam Fici being a nuisance against Catholic Memorial

After winning the Middlesex League Liberty title and recording a one-loss season, the 7th-ranked Belmont High School Boys’ Ice Hockey now heads into the post-season hosting 26-seed Natick High School in the opening round of 32 of the MIAA Division 1 tourney at ‘The Skip’ on Friday, March 4. The puck will be dropped at 7 p.m.

Tickets will be on sale at the door. Adult tickets are $10, student and senior tickets, $5. Come early, stay late.

(Lead by solid goaltending from senior Ryan Griffin and with one of the top defensive pairing in the state of juniors Peter Grace and Joe Gaziano, Belmont has held opponents to an eastern Massachusetts low 24 goals in 21 games. The defensive scheme established by first-year head coach Tim Foley is in large part the reason the team secured a 17-1-3 record playing in a league in which each team secured a placement in the playoffs.

Belmont’s offense is led by its first line of senior Marty Rowen and juniors Shay Donahue and scoring phenom Cam Fici who finished the season averaging more than a goal-and-a-half per game (34-10-44).

It’s no surprise the Boston Globe labeled the Marauders the “sleeper” of the tournament.

Natick from the Bay State Carey League comes in with a 10-9-3 record. They are led by a pair of forwards – freshman Sam Hubbard with 11 goals and senior Matt Haskell (7-18-25) – while the goaltending is shared by senior Timmy Cushing and freshman Jason Danahy who have a GAA of 1.80.

Don’t let the Redhawks’ near .500 record fool anyone; they tied (1-1) and lost by a single goal (3-2) against league rival Wellesley which beat Belmont for the Marauders’ only loss. Against other common opponents, both teams beat Franklin (2-0 by Natick, 4-0 by Belmont) while Natick lost to Catholic Memorial 4-0 and Belmont beat up on CM, 4-1.

Belmont Boy’s Hockey Preps For Tourney Taking Down Top 5 Catholic Memorial; Natick High Next Up For Marauders

Photo: Belmont High senior Matt Rowen (right) scores his second goal within two minutes in the second period giving the Marauders a lead they would not loss in beating Catholic Memorial, 4-1.

After the final whistle sounded in Belmont High Boys’ Ice Hockey statement-making 4-1 victory against Bay State powerhouse Catholic Memorial last Friday at the Skip, the players and coaches didn’t want to leave the ice. They hung around chest bumping, hugging, attempting a “snow” angel but mostly just skated around taking in the victory on what would likely be the final time playing on home ice.

In front of a packed Skip Viglorolo Skating Rink (the last time it was this full was almost two years to the night when Belmont beat up Braintree on its way to the 2020 co-state Div. 1 championship) Belmont buried two early chances then relied on its defensive system and strong goaltending by senior Ryan Griffin to defeat the second-ranked and Catholic League champions in what the Marauders’ hope is a harbinger of things to come in the state tournament.

The MIAA released the tournament schedule on Feb. 26 and 7th-ranked Belmont will take on the 26th-seed Natick High in the round of 32 sometime and somewhere still to be determined. [Editor’s note: An earlier edition stated information from the original MIAA Div. 1 tournament seeding with Belmont vs. Bishop Fenwick.]

“We just brought it tonight. From the beginning to the end, from buzzer to buzzer the players were hyped up by who we were playing and it showed,” said Tim Foley, who has led the Marauders to a 17-1-3 season in his first campaign as head coach.

“It was a great night for the town of Belmont and Belmont High School hockey,” he said.

Up against a big team which has used its size and speed on the wings to dominate opponents, Belmont relayed on its designed defense tactics that put a lock on CM’s ability to string passes in the Belmont zone while forcing most of the action along the boards. “We always talk to the defense: play poised, don’t panic. ‘You know how to play the position; stay between the opponent, keep your stick in the right place and you’ll be hard to beat’,” said Foley.

Midway through the contest, a CM coach implored his charges that “we have to win the puck battles. We are not winning the one-on-ones.” When told of CM’s concern on being unable to get the better of Belmont’s defenders, Foley pointed to the Marauders’ mindset.

“We have a good, quick fast team that plays with a high tempo and we just kept coming with pressure, kept clogging up the middle and kept frustrating them. The more we frustrated them, the more chances we got,” said Foley. “The players have worked hard all year with the stick work, keeping sticks in lanes and keeping the pucks on the outside. And that has been a big part of our success.”

During a fairly even opening stanza, a pair of tripping penalties by CM 30 seconds apart gave the hosts a two-man advantage and that’s all Belmont needed. Co-captain senior Matty Rowen grabbed a partially blocked shot from defender Peter Grace and with a snap shot stirred it by CM goalie Dom Walecka for a 1-0 lead at the 11:46 mark. Rowen doubled Belmont’s lead half a minute later, having lost the weak-side defender and scored off a pitch perfect pass from junior Cam Fici resulting in an open net tip in.

And the momentum continued despite a man down early in the second. Thirty seconds into the second period while on the penalty kill, a deft clearing pass found Fici speeding down the left wing on a two-on-two. With co-captain Shay Donahue occupying one defender and the other retreating into the slot, Fici waited for the slightest move by Walecka and fired a slap-shot past the helpless CM goalie.

While CM pressed on, the remainder of the nearly two periods would be a repetition of the visitors entering the Belmont zone and the Marauders taking procession and dumping it back to center ice. CM’s Ty Magliozzi put the Knights on the board with 10 minutes remaining in the third on the power play but they couldn’t come up with anything more imaginative to break Belmont’s D. A Fici open net finished off the Knights with two to play.

“That’s a very good team,” Foley said of CM. “I give credit to them and I wouldn’t want to play them in a four out of seven. But we got them tonight.”

Scrappy Tie vs Woburn Leaves Belmont Boys’ Hockey Looking At Another Shared Championship

Photo: Belmont Matty Rowen scored Belmont’s first goal vs Woburn

Despite an undefeated Middlesex League season secured with a come-from-behind 2-2 tie against host Woburn, it currently appears Belmont High Boys’ Ice Hockey will be looking forward to sharing yet another title.

Unlike the 2019-2020 Div. 1, state crown shared with Walpole when all MIAA finals were abruptly canceled at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic shut down that March, the likely sharing of the Middlesex League Liberty title with Arlington is due to what happened on the ice as Belmont finished the final stretch of the league season with a win and two ties seeing a pair of points go wanting.

While Belmont does hold the advantage in head-to-head matches against the SpyPonders (a 2-2 tie at home and a 6-2 whitewashing in Arlington earlier in the week), Arlington is expected to win its final League contests against Winchester and Woburn to finish equal 24 points with the Marauders. It will be Belmont’s first title – albeit with the SpyPonders – since 2003-4 and its third crown in program history.

“We showed up obviously a little bit too late to the game today. We didn’t really didn’t get into it until the third period,” said first-year Head Coach Tim Foley, who praised the Tanners for working “from the opening face-off to the last whistle.”

On paper, it looked like a match the Marauders (13-1-2) could secure the title outright against Woburn sitting at the tail end of the division at 8-4-3 coming into the game. But the Tanners have played well this year, losing three of its games by a goal and rated 17th in the Division 1 power rankings (Belmont is ranked 7th.)

“But like all games in the Middlesex Liberty, it was going to be hard-fought and we didn’t expect anything less,” said As each team in the division are in the top 22 ranked squads in the MIAA power rankings.

After controlling the first four minutes and change, Belmont found itself trailing 1-0 as junior Jackson Powers snapped the puck just to the side of Belmont goalie Ryan Griffith coming against the run of play. Afterward, the Marauders found space along the boards but could not connect with anyone near the crease, The second period began brightly with junior phenom Cam Fici clanging a blast off the crossbar after five minutes and nearly connected a minute later on a power wrap around that brought oohs and aahs from the crowd.

It appeared it was just a matter of time before the Marauders would knot up the contest when during a rush-up ice Powers got his brace as he buried a sitter past with 3:07 left in the period. The last time Belmont has trailed by two this season was in its only loss to Wellesley.

“Today there was a similar vibe in the locker room as we had against Wellesley, we just didn’t have a game mentality,” said Foley. “Maybe they don’t like morning games.”

What Belmont needed was a lifeline which it received early in the third with a power play. With Fici and senior first line Shay Donahue causing chaos in the zone, linemate co-captain Matty Rowen settled on the doorstep of the goal where he reached out to grab a pass and slide the puck off the left post to cut the deficit to one with 11:58 left.

As Woburn turned most of its focus on defending its advantage, Belmont pressed in the Tanners zone to squeeze the defenders and cut off passing lanes. And it would be a breakout that gave Belmont its breakthrough as Fici proved, once again, the junior co-captain is an absolute sniper with the puck on his stick. Coming into the offensive zone cradling the puck with a defender screening him, Fici launched – with one skate on the ice the other two feet off the surface – off of a screamer from beyond the right circle that snuck between Ryder’s stick and right pad and into the net with 6:13 remaining. The goal was Fici’s 32nd of the season.

“Fici being Fici,” as Foley has stated in the past.

The remainder of the third and during the five minutes, four-on-four overtime saw each team played with an abundance of caution, so much so that in OT Woburn sat on the puck behind its goal for 30 seconds with no initiative to break out until Belmont sent a forechecker to entice the action.

With the game settled, Foley said a goal at the beginning of the season was to win the division outright. “But there is no shame in sharing this [with Arlington]. The seniors have a lot to be proud of. I think we are in a good place going into the tournament.”

Belmont will finish the season with the main event matchup as the Marauders host perennial powerhouse Catholic Memorial High from West Roxbury for a battle between top ten programs in the state. The game takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, if the ballywire and gum holding the Skip together doesn’t come apart.

Hockey: Boys’ Back In The Win Column With Win Vs Burlington; Girls’ Hang On For Victory Against Red Devils

Photo: Belmont High defender junior Peter Grace.

After taking a first loss of the season – shut out 2-0 against a rising Wellesley High team on Wednesday – Belmont High School Boys’ Hockey took the most of the opportunity to return to the win column with a dominate 3-0 victory against Middlesex Freedom Division foe Burlington on Saturday, Jan. 22 at the Skip.

The W gives Belmont a 13–1-1 overall record and 8-0-1 in the Middlesex Liberty division.

Once again, it was Belmont’s first offensive line on the power play that wreak havoc against an opponent as two of Belmont’s scores came with the man advantage as senior senior Matt Rowen and junior Cam Fici potted goals in the second and third periods. In the past three games, the Marauders scored six of eight goals on the power play with Rowen (3) and Fici (4) tallying. Fici gained the brace against the Red Devils with a pretty even-strength first period goal in close with the assist coming from line mate junior Shay Donahue who helped on each Belmont goal.

A stubborn opponent for the better part of the past decade, the Red Devils had a hard time to keep up with Belmont’s team speed with arguably one of the best defensive pairing in eastern Mass – juniors Peter Grace and Joe Gaziano – shutting off the Red Devils’ incursions into the zone with senior net-minder Ryan Griffin adding his seventh clean sheet of the season.

Belmont will visit Wilmington on Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Belmont High Girls hang on for sixth victory

A great second period led to a very nervy third as the Belmont High Girls upped its record to 6-4 (5-4 in the league) defeating Burlington High at the Skip, 3-2, as the Marauders’ relied on standout goaltending from Bridget Gray on Seniors Night on Jan. 22.

You could say that Belmont’s forwards “stole” this victory as freshman Sadie Taylor and senior Jaelyn Marchetta intercepted clearing passes in the Burlington end and scored – Taylor’s a rocket from the left circle three minutes into the second while Marchetta grabbed the puck on the penalty kill and put in a shorthand tally late in the same period – to go along with senior Molly Dacey’s second chance opportunity just outside the crease at the four minute mark in the first period.

It was Gray’s stellar play in the final stanza securing the win as Burlington stormed the crease time and time again as the Marauders tired down the stretch. Two of the best saves came in the final 1:40, one off Gray’s helmet and a deflection off her glove with seven ticks left.

Belmont will host Lexington on Friday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m.

COVID Ends Belmont Boys Hockey’s Chance To Be Solo Champions For A Second Time In A Year

Photo:

For the second time in less than a year, the Belmont High Boys’ Ice Hockey team saw its chances of playing in a championship game cancelled as the Marauders’ Saturday, Jan. 20, match with Winchester in the first-ever Middlesex League tournament was scraped Friday night due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Middlesex League has declared the teams co-titlists.

In March 2020, the finals of the MIAA Division 1 state tournament between Belmont and Walpole was postponed when the first surge of the coronavirus spread across the country and the teams were declared state co-champions.

The abrupt end of the season, and also the careers of one of the most winningest senior classes, came after Belmont earned a place in the finals with a pair of nail biting tournament games in which the Marauders won both matches in extra time.

After dispatching Wakefield with 3.2 seconds left in a 3-on-3 overtime session Wednesday, the Marauders came back the next day to prevail, 2-1, in a shootout over league powerhouse Arlington.

Belmont came into the game having twice been shut out by the SpyPonders in the previous week, giving up nine goals in the two matches. Despite Arlington’s advantage on offense in setting the tempo and scoring chances, the Marauders had an answer in the guise of sophomore goaltender Ryan Griffin and senior captain Tom Grace who lead the defense.

When the Belmont coaching staff selected the three players to take the sudden death penalty shots, they needed to only look to the Fici brothers – senior captain Ben Fici and sophomore standout Cam – to seal the deal.

After Arlington’s Jack Sadowski scored first in the second round of shots, Ben Fici threw off Arlington goalie Jack Davies with a quick move to his right and roofed a backhand by the sophomore netminder to tie the shootout at one.

It was now Griffins time to shine as he blocked Reid Malatesta’s attempted to go between the pads. With the game on the line, Cam Fici took it in close and shoved a shot through Davies’ pads to hit the side netting for the winning goal.

Belmont finished the shortened season with a record of 7-3-1.

Three Belmont Teams In Middlesex League Tournaments Starting Wednesday

Photo: Belmont teams are participating in a first-ever Middlesex League championship tournament.

The regular season might be over but three Belmont teams will be playing on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of a first ever Middlesex League championship tournament.

Boys’ Hockey and Girls’ Hockey and Basketball are playing in this impromptu playoff as the Middlesex League is following the examples of other athletic conferences by adding a tournament in place of the MIAA interscholastic championships which have been suspended for the school year.

Wednesday’s schedule includes:

  • Third seed Boy’s Hockey will play host to Wakefield at noon, Wednesday at John A. Ryan Area in Watertown. You can catch the game on cable – Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon – or on the web at belmontmedia.org/infotv
  • Girls’ Basketball, the fourth ranked team will play long time rivals Watertown at 2:30 p.m. While Belmont is the home team, the game will be played at Watertown High School. Watch the game on Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon or at belmontmedia.org/infotv
  • Finally, fourth seed Girls’ Hockey takes on Winchester at 7 p.m. at the Burlington Ice Palace. You can see the game on Ch. 96 Comcast or Ch. 30 Verizon and on the web at belmontmedia.org/infotv

Belmont Hockey Sees Epic Playoff Run End As State Finals Cancelled, Named Co-Champs

Photo: Belmont High Head Ice Hockey Coach Fred Allard

In the locker room after a thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 victory over St. John’s (Shrewsbury) in the Division 1 North finals last Monday, Belmont High Head Coach Fred Allard ended his postgame talk to the players proclaiming “Practice tomorrow at 3!”

“What that meant was our season is still going on and we still get to be together,” Allard said in an empty White Field House on Thursday afternoon, March 12, with the North trophy and title banner on a nearby table.

It also signified the team had punched its ticket to the TD Garden this Sunday to play for the program’s first ever state championship title.

But the the season-long goal of just having the opportunity of skating to the Belmont student section with a state championship trophy in hand would end with an email.

Two hour previous, after hard practice at the “Skip”, the starkness of the outside world entered the hockey sphere when, due to the growing threat of a global pandemic, the MIAA announced it had cancelled the Division 1 state finals against Walpole.

The consolation for the Marauders was being declared co-champions with the Rebels. But it wasn’t much solace for the Belmont players to share a title that they couldn’t play for.

“We had just gotten off the ice so everyone was in the room,” said Allard. The squad’s reaction to the announcement was heartbreaking.

“These guys were more crushed than past teams who lost to St. John’s Prep four years ago and to Waltham (losing in overtime in the North semifinals in 2018). And they were just announced as co champs of the state!” said Allard. “That’s how all in they were because it’s such a special experience.”

“It was emotional and they were devastated. We talked our way through it. We shared some memories, we reminisced on what we accomplished and hopefully the healing process of the initial pain is starting to wear off.”

As late as Thursday morning, Allard still believed the team would be on a bus Sunday heading to the Garden in Boston’s North End.

“I was thinking we got practice on Friday and Saturday and hopefully the dust will settle and we’ll get this [game] in,” he said.

On Tuesday, the powers that be were hell bent on playing the six state finals on Sunday, but all that changed Wednesday when the Coronavirus was accelerating through all segments of society including sports. In just a day, professional sports leagues announced the cancellation or suspension of their seasons.

“That’s when the [MIAA] were obviously becoming more concerned for the safety of the kids, which was the right thing,” said Allard.

By early Thursday afternoon, the NCAA cancelled their winter championships including the entire “March Madness” basketball tournament, the Boston Marathon was looking for an autumn date to the run the race and states were prohibiting large gatherings.

“Our hope was that the worse case would be playing the finals at [six] separate sites and not just at the Garden,” Allard said.

“The kids worked so hard to get to this point. They just wanted to play.”