Cam Fici vividly remembers one of the biggest goals in Belmont boys’ hockey history.
Time was ticking inside the final two minutes of regulation in last March’s Division 1 North championship game against St. John’s (Shrewsbury) . The Marauders had overcome a shaky start to twice tie the game and overtime was looming until Ben Fici, as his younger brother put it, “took the game away.”
Jumping on a loose puck after a turnover, Ben Fici rushed through the neutral zone, then the righthanded-shooting right wing cut to his left into the offensive zone. Reaching the faceoff dot, he snapped a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net, sealing Belmont’s 3-2 victory for the sectional title.
“I had the best view,” Cam said of his vantage point from the seats at Tsongas Center.
Cam was a freshman at the time, attending Belmont Hill. Looking back, he admits he wishes he could have been part of the Marauders’ magical run.
Of course, COVID-19 wiped out Belmont’s chance to play Walpole at TD Garden for the state title. By the time Belmont returned to the ice last Saturday for a regulation game, Cam was in a Belmont High uniform, the now-sophomore skating on a line with his brother, a senior captain.
“We actually only have played together a little bit,” Ben said. “Each year is a two-year difference for Belmont [youth hockey] leagues.”
Almost like bookends of the past, present and future for Belmont — and the Fici family — Cam made a sterling debut with a hat trick in the Marauders’ 3-0 victory over Middlesex League rival Lexington.
“It was a process,” Cam Fici said of his decision to transfer across town. “I decided to go back to public school to develop as a person, and not just a hockey player and play with my brother. That was a bonus.”
That certainly is true for Belmont coach Fred Allard, as well.
“Cam is someone I coached in my youth hockey coaching days. We had a real nice team that won New Englands as Squirts,” Allard said. “Cam was one of the key players, as well as a few others that are sophomores.
“He was one of those players I was hoping would come back, because Ben ultimately stayed. This year, for whatever reason, the stars aligned and he wanted to play with his brother.”
In Saturday’s win, the brothers were in synch right from the puck drop, along with their linemate, sophomore Shay Donahue.
“It’s awesome,” Ben said. “Last year my linemates had great chemistry, but it took a while to get it. This year it’s just clicking already.”
All acknowledge that the brothers have different games. Cam is a natural center who sees the ice well and plays a more finesse game, while Ben says he is “more of an up-and-down skater, play the body . . . Our styles of play kind of complement each other.”
“If you watch them on the ice, you wouldn’t necessarily know they are brothers,” Allard said.
Off ice, the difference can be even more glaring.
“[Cam] kind of gets there, does his own thing,” Ben said of their pregame routines. “My game day is kind of peculiar, I’m laser-focused, I don’t really talk to anybody much.”
Said Allard, “He’s a very intense player. You watch him closely in the warm-ups, even for a scrimmage, he’s so amped up, you have to reel him in.”
One thing Allard doesn’t want to change is Ben’s knack for scoring big goals. He also had an overtime goal against St. Mary’s last March in the quarterfinals, and Allard also recalls a key goal in a win over Arlington.
And, of course, the one that clinched the sectional title. Belmont eagerly was eyeing its chance to play at the Garden, until it all came crashing down and the state championships were canceled.
“It was a moment nobody in that locker room will ever forget,” Ben said. “We had just gotten off the ice from a great practice, hard practice. We were all joking around. Then someone checks their phone to see someone tweeted it out [about the state finals being off]. It hadn’t really set in yet. Once we saw the captains get emotional, everyone broke down crying.”
Allard said he was glad the team still was together, so he could break the news to them after he received a call from athletic director Jim Davis.
“It still hurts, I’ll be honest,” Allard said. “We got off the ice a little after 4 [p.m.], and I think I left the rink after 8. It took some time. By the time we left, we looked back and could say, we really accomplished a lot.”
Even with no chance at an MIAA state tournament this season, Belmont — and the Fici brothers — believe they still have a lot to accomplish. Belmont hasn’t won a Middlesex League championship since 2004, when it made the second of back-to-back Super 8 appearances under longtime coach Dante Muzzioli.
“Most of the guys are kind of looking at it as, win as many games as possible, have a winning record,” Ben said of this season. “We have the same mind-set going into it.”
Allard said beyond Cam Fici’s performance Saturday, there was satisfaction for the whole team just to be back on the ice in a game after nearly 10 months.
“Watching the emotions of Saturday, the joy they had, and the quick postgame before we had to get them out of the rink,” he said, “it felt good. It felt real good.”
Ben hopes to be able to play college hockey at some point. The same is true for Cam, but he hasn’t committed to anything beyond this season, and making the most of his opportunities to skate alongside his brother.
“The season can change at any point,” he said. “We’re just trying to play as best as we can, as long as we can.”
▪ Cam Martin who played three seasons at Pentucket before transferring to Bishop Fenwick, made a splash in his Crusaders’ debut. The senior notched his 100th career point with Fenwick’s lone goal in a season-opening loss to St. Mary’s.
▪ Brendan Fennell, the co-MVP of the Middlesex Freedom last season, picked up where he left off. The senior standout scored with 33 seconds left as Melrose rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie Stoneham, 4-4. Joe Kranefuss had a hat trick for Stoneham.
Jim Clark can be reached at email@example.com.