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.”