Belmont Hill sits atop the Independent School Keller Division with a 7-1-1 record and second overall at 18-2-2. Second-year coach Jeremiah McCarthy had four major goals for his team to accomplish this year, with one already checked off.
“We wanted to win the Lawrenceville and the Nichols/Belmont Hill tournaments, we were able to win Lawrenceville but weren’t able to win [the latter],’’ said McCarthy. “Our third goal is to win the ISL tournament and then finally, to become New England champion in the year-end tournament.”
The Hillies played in the aforementioned tournaments back in December, competing in the Lawrenceville tournament just eight games into the year. McCarthy believes that getting his team accustomed to the tournament atmosphere early will come in handy toward the end.
“One of the great things about prep hockey is the urgency every game brings with it,’’ he said “It’s very similar to college hockey, football or basketball because the games have such importance. [The tournaments] are an excellent opportunity to learn how to be focused and prepare for multiple games in a short period of time.”
Belmont Hill has won nine of its last 10 contests, scoring at least four goals in each victory. In the two most recent Hillies victories, the team has scored a combined 10 goals and allowed just two. McCarthy chalks this up to junior goalie Ryan McConnell and leadership from all the upperclassmen.
“McConnell has been very consistent; he has an outstanding work ethic,’’ said McCarthy, who took over after Ken Martin retired in 2011 after 39 years. “We have great ledership from the line out and the little things make the big difference. Back checking, taking hits to make a play. We’ve had great success as a team, prioritizing the defensive end.”
Along with McConnell, captains E.J. Rauseo, Mike Najjar, and Carl Hesler have been big contributors both on and off the ice for this team. Combined, the three captains have tallied 79 points.
“Having great seniors and senior leadership makes a big difference on our team. Their work ethic and dedication to leadership have been a key to this team’s success,” said McCarthy.
The captains are just three examples of the teams’ impressive offensive firepower this season, with four players already scoring double-digit goals on the year.
“We talk about trying to make the puck do the work and playing together as a team. We [stress] using our teammates to create opportunities. Like an outlet pass from a defensemen to a forward to another forward. It’s about being selfless over selfish as a team,” McCarthy said.
With just seven games left on the season schedule, Belmont Hill has a strong chance of checking their coach’s last two goals off the list in the weeks to come.
Games to Watch This Week
As the days go by in February, each game gets more and more crucial for every hockey team, but here are some especially crucial games to watch this upcoming week.
The Tri-Valley League’s top two teams face off Wednesday Feb. 6, where the Medfield Warriors will travel to Franklin to take on the Medway Mustangs. Not only is it a battle of top teams in the league, but the top two scorers in the league. Matt Dresens of Medfield and Jack Kilty of Medway lead the league with 37 and 34 points, respectively.
After rallying to beat Catholic Memorial, BC High will host Springfield Cathedral Thursday, Feb. 7. The Panthers handed BC High its first loss of the season on Jan. 12, winning 3-2 at home. That contest was one of the closest Cathedral has had all season and one that served as message to the rest of Massachusetts boys’ hockey that the Panthers are for real.
The Eagles and Panthers seem locks for the Super 8 tournament, so it will be interesting to see how these two powerhouses play one another in the second matchup.Alex Hall can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall