Warriors leave it all on the ice in 2-1 OT loss to Belmont

Feb 19, 2021 by

Published in the February 19, 2021 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WATERTOWN — They were even for 49 minutes and 57 seconds. 

The Wakefield and Belmont boys’ hockey teams put on a show in the first round of a Middlesex League playoff game on Wednesday at the John Ryan Arena in Watertown. The two teams were tied at 1-1 after 45 minutes of regulation and for all but three seconds of an overtime period as Belmont’s Matty Rowan became just the second Marauder to beat a locked-in Jacob Barrett (33 saves) as Belmont won it 2-1 with three seconds left in OT. 

“I thought it was a really good high school hockey game,” said Wakefield head coach Mike Geary who concluded his second year at the helm. “Both teams played very hard and both goaltenders played very well. Jake made a bunch of key saves for us.

“Belmont has been a top team in the state for the last few season so we are proud of our effort.”

The Marauders kept Wakefield on their heels for most of the first period, outshooting the Warriors 16-6 before Wakefield came back with a great second as sophomore Bobby DeFeo tied it up to force OT.

Wakefield drew a penalty just one minute into the first, but Belmont provided the initial shock of the day when Ben Fici forced a turnover and scored on a breakaway to make it 1-0. 

At that point, nobody could predict that Barrett would turn this game into the best of his career. He got into a rhythm after that, piling up save after save as Belmont peppered the net for the next 10 minutes. 

It took a Belmont penalty to bring out the best in Wakefield’s defense as Kevin Doherty, Matt Elwell, Evan Simoneau and Joey O’Brien put their bodies on the line to stay in front of shots and kill the first half of the man advantage. Forwards Brogan Chambers and Matthew Moniz helped kill the second half with a Moniz diving block, the highlight. 

Cal Tryder had a good bid on the Belmont net from the right dot, but a fast counter attack, set up the most spectacular save of the day, and possibly the season for Wakefield as Barrett, in a perfect Dominik Hasek impression, dove from right to left in an all-out sprawl to stone a Belmont one-timer. 

That save got the Warriors going as they skated hard for the final six minutes of the period while Barrett’s glove continued to flash. 

Tryder, Doherty and Dan Mailhoit provided a solid forecheck and the Warriors closed the period by killing another Belmont man advantage, thanks in large part to multiple clears by Simoneau. 

Trailing 1-0 to start the 2nd, the Warriors ramped up the pressure. It’s safe to say that Belmont won the first both on the scoreboard and on the ice. The same can be said about Wakefield in the 2nd. Second period shots were a more even 13-12 in favor of Belmont but the Warriors picked up the pace and came right after the No. 3 seed. 

Michael Parent had a nice shot block as the physicality picked up between the teams, earning ice inch by inch. 

Fici had another shorthanded bid in a nearly identical breakaway up the right wing but Barrett closed the five-hole to keep it a one-goal deficit. The best chance of the Warrior man advantage came from O’Brien who played big minutes for Wakefield as mostly a defensemen, different from his usual center position. “OB” skated up from the D zone and got around the defense for an off-angle backhand shot that was stopped.

Doherty battled deep during a strong shift for the Warriors as Simoneau found Joe Colliton for a point shot that was somehow stopped through traffic. 

That momentum led to DeFeo’s goal. O’Brien battled for possession on the left wing and let loose a laser that DeFeo got a piece of in front, changing direction and finding its way into the cage to make it 1-1. 

Barrett dealt with a swift Belmont response by robbing a right dot shot with the glove and followed that up with a strong pad save.

Belmont went back on the power play with 7:14 remaining but Wakefield’s defense was ready, surrendering zero shots. 

O’Brien moved back up to the forward ranks to help provide the best shift of the period as the Warriors had over a minute of extended offensive zone time. Parent’s shot was the result of that effort but Belmont’s Ryan Griffin held strong in net. 

There were no doubts that Wakefield was the better team in the final five of the frame as they dug deep to find a game winner. Simoneau broke up another dangerous chance for Fici and Barrett continued to stand tall with 13 saves in the period. Matthew Moniz battled to clear the puck late as both teams, exhausted, started their glide back to the benches to get ready for overtime. 

Belmont outshot Wakefield 5-1 in OT. The 3 v. 3 setup was challenging for both teams. Longer periods due to this season’s modified COVID rules, means one less intermission for skaters to recharge. The final five of a second “half” is when that fatigue usually becomes apparent. It struck in overtime, especially for the Warriors, but Barrett kept them in it until Belmont’s gut punch with three seconds remaining left Wakefield heartbroken. 

In the end, this game exemplified the whole purpose of the 2021 Middlesex League playoffs. Winter athletes just wanted a chance to prove themselves on a bigger stage. The Warrior boys’ hockey team did that. 

Wakefield will graduate a great group of seniors (Jacob Barrett, Brendan Vacca, Matthew Moniz, Oliver Miller, Brogan Chambers, Cal Tryder, Kevin Doherty, John DeFeo, Jared Green and Howie Melanson) who have helped build the team up into a consistent contender especially over the last two seasons.

“I am particularly proud of this group of seniors’ play on the ice and more importantly the condition in which they left the program moving forward,” said Geary. “They instilled work habits which the younger players have bought into. They have left the program in a place where the team believes we can compete with any other team in the Middlesex League.”

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