It’s not hyperbolic to say that the matchup between No. 2 Arlington and No. 7 Belmont on Wednesday evening was the biggest game the two programs have played since both were crowned co-state champions in their respective divisions in 2020.
With nothing to really play for but pride last season, Wednesday’s matchup was the first time in a long time both teams hit the ice with a lot at stake. First place in the Middlesex League’s Liberty division was up for grabs.
This one turned into a goalie duel and ultimately ended in a 2-2 tie. Arlington’s Jake Davies made 21 saves while Belmont’s Ryan Griffin made 22.
Belmont remained unbeaten at 10-0-1 while Arlington moved to 6-1-1. Both teams are now 5-0-1 in the league.
“I thought it was a good game,” said Arlington coach John Messuri. “They’re super well-coached and play with good structure and made it hard on us to get to certain spots. We played pretty good, especially in the third. Even game, so it should be a tie.”
“I really like the way we competed,” Belmont head coach Tim Foley said. “We came out a little bit sloppy in the first and gave up a couple tough bounces. The harder you work the better bounces you get and Arlington earned it in the first. We came back and worked hard from that point on, got some pressure on them and we were able to pop a couple ourselves.
“From there, it was two hard working teams battling it out in the Middlesex League, which we see a lot.”
The Marauders got on the board in the first five minutes when Adrien Gurung let a clapper go from just inside the blue line after the puck had bounced around inside the zone a bit. With 9:07 left in the first, Arlington tied things up at a goal apiece when Stefanos Sotiropoulos let a slapper of his own go on a rebound. Assists went to Reid Malatesta and Cam Desmond.
The Spy Ponders went up 2-1 after 1 when Jack Sadowski tapped in a loose puck after a bit of a broken play. Malatesta and Matt Alesse were credited with assists on the play. Arlington was called for too many men late in the frame and Belmont hit the post in the final seconds but couldn’t sneak one past Davies.
The second period turned into the Ryan Griffin show as he single-handedly kept it a one-goal game until Belmont finally knotted things up at 2-2 on a rebound goal from Cam Fici. The second frame ended the same way and the teams headed to the third deadlocked at two goals apiece.
“Just go out, play my game, relax and have fun,” Griffin said of his mindset in the second. “Couple tough bounces in the first, we just wanted to tighten up our D-zone. They did a great job keeping the shots to the outside and I saw a lot of them.”
Both goalies had a few huge saves in the third and in the overtime period to preserve the tie for their clubs while also keeping both squads atop the league standings.
“I gotta stay focused and when they get shots I gotta stop them,” Davies said when asked what his mindset is when it’s clearly going to be a goalie duel. “I can’t let (Griffin) beat me.”
There’s still about two months to go until Arlington or Belmont will have a crack at getting back to the big stage and competing for a state title, but Wednesday night’s matchup was a great litmus test for both programs.
“Momentum wise, it’s a situation where we obviously would’ve loved to have won the game, however, I’m glad the way we picked it up over the second half of the game so we’ll take that and hopefully carry it into our next game against Woburn Saturday,” added Foley.
“We’re still searching for ourselves a bit,” Messuri said. “Hopefully in the next few weeks we can figure it out. I didn’t love our first period but I liked how we progressed as the game went on.”