A shut-down defensive game and timely scoring from the first line have been Belmont’s calling card all season, and is worked to perfection again in Wednesday’s Round of 16 battle with Marshfield.
The Marauders were able to limit Marshfield’s offense, and got a goal apiece from Matty Rowan, Shay Donahue and Cam Fici (empty net) to post a 3-1 win over the Rams. Belmont (19-1-3) will now face #2 Xaverian in a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday (2pm, New England Sports Village).
“They (Belmont) play a great defensive system,” said Marshfield coach Dan Connolly. “They have some very good defensemen, the forwards buy in and they play solid, team defense in front of a great goaltender. They don’t have many weaknesses. Everyone is on the same page.”
The Marauders opened the scoring just 3:54 in. Junior defenseman Peter Grace collected the puck at the left point and fired on net, where Rowan was in the perfect position to re-direct it past Marshfield goaltender Brady Quackenbush.
Both had a power play chance in the second period, but couldn’t convert. Quackenbush made a huge stop late in the period to rob Rowan of a second goal.
Marshfield came out flying in the third period and went on the power play early. At the 1:14 mark, the Rams evened the score at 1-1 when Collin Doyle slammed home a loose puck in the crease. Connor Merrick took the initial shot from the blue line that got tipped off the post, and Doyle was in the right place at the right time.
Whatever momentum Marshfield had was wiped away just three minutes later. Off a faceoff to the left of Quackenbush, Rowan was able to slide the puck up to Donahue, whose bad-angle backhander snuck in on the near side to make it 2-1 Belmont.
“Just a defensive breakdown on the faceoff,” said Connolly. “Unfortunately, it has been killing us all year. We had a breakdown and the puck ended up in the back of the net. It was the deciding goal. But, our kids played hard. They can leave the rink with their heads held high. We lost to a very good hockey team.”
With 1:26 to go and a faceoff in the defensive one, Connolly called timeout to set up strategy for the stretch drive. But the Rams had trouble getting the puck in deep in the Belmont zone and couldn’t get Quackenbush out for a sixth attacker until about 35 seconds remained.
Fici was able to pounce on a loose puck in the neutral zone and slide the clincher into the vacated cage for the 3-1 final. Marshfield finished up 16-6-2.
– In other Division 1 action, #13th-seeded BC High surprised fourth-seeded Catholic Memorial, holding on for a 1-0 win. Jack Burke was solid in goal for the Eagles, while James Marshall scored the game’s only goal. CM won both regular season games between the two teams.