You couldn't wipe the grin off Head Coach Mark Haley's face and it wasn't because it was frozen in place after spending two hours in North America's coldest indoor rink on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Nope, Haley's satisfaction was due to this season's first complete performance from the Belmont High School Girls Ice Hockey team (2-2-1) as the team overwhelmed Winchester High (4-2) in a comprehensive 3-0 shutout at Belmont's Viglirolo Rink.
"They're getting there," said Haley of the team top-heavy with freshmen and sophomores, noting the team beat the Sachems in all facets of the game: goal tending, defense and offense.
"It's certainly an improvement and you can see that they are playing at a higher level each time they're on the ice," said Haley.
Belmont frustrated Winchester for the entire game by sending the center to harass the Sachem puck carrier with the Marauder wingers attacking the pass. The tactic, which Haley said the team practiced over the holiday break, never allowed Winchester to generate speed out of their zone. And when they did move into center ice, Belmont young – no seniors – defense led by junior Kendal Brown clamped down on their opponents.
It was two underclassmen who took charge on the scoring front: Erin McLaughlin hit a brace and Pauline Ayers finished the scoring as Belmont tallied in each period. McLaughlin's first goal – with assists from youngsters Jordan Brown and Serena Nally – was a thing of beauty; deking around two defenders before using a quick stick to round Winchester goalie Rachel Fama to put the puck into an open net after only four minutes into the match.
While McLaughlin's opener displayed individual style, Ayers' came from a picture-perfect pass from line mate and senior captain Alexandra Cellucci from deep along the left boards finding the sophomore open in front.
McLaughlin nearly bagged the hat-trick but hit Fama square in the chest on a breakaway late in the third.
Wednesday's match also marked the return of senior co-captain goaltender Megan Foley who was out before the season started due to a concussion suffered in practice. But Haley noted Foley was hardly tested facing only a handful of shots including one in the first period and two in the second. When needed, Foley came up big by holding the left post to stop the puck inches from the goal line midway into the second.
Saturday, Jan. 5, will be a test for the young Marauders as they face 11th ranked and undefeated Reading High School Rockets (5-0-1) at Viglirolo Rink at 12:45 p.m.
Boys can't continue great Holiday run
Belmont High School Boys' Ice Hockey's annual venture north of the border proved an offensive and winning trip this year as the Marauders outscored their New Hampshire and Maine opponents 14-2 to produce the first three wins of the season.
Yet the young team – ten of the 18 member team are freshmen and sophomores including backup goalie Cal Christofori who is a Chenery Middle School 8th grader – could not repeat the scoring punch they had a week before as the Marauders (3-5-0) fell to an undefeated (3-0-2) Winchester High team, 6-1, on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
One of the freshmen corp, forward Dan Vetrano, poked home his first Middlesex League goal early in the second period with assists from fellow frosh David Bailey (all of 5'6", 130 pounds) and junior defense man Nick Vetrano.
Outstanding in goal, again, was sophomore Chris Owens while senior defender Jake Cole and sophomore center Joe Paolillo pestered the Sachems all afternoon long.
Next up for the Marauders will be 6th-ranked Reading High School (6-1-1) on Saturday, Jan. 5 at 2:30 p.m. at Viglirolo Rink.