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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Senior Night

Clockwise from top left
Frossard, Reardon, Ciarlertta, Parker, Wigmore, Belmonte
Clockwise from top left

Feb. 6 was senior night for the UMass Boston women’s hockey team, but not only did it mark the end of the careers of some of the program’s stalwarts and most celebrated players, it also stood as an example of how far the program has come.

Five years ago, women’s hockey at UMass Boston existed only as a club team. “I think we had about seven players,” senior forward and captain Katie Reardon said. The team was young, undermanned and inexperienced but still managed to compete successfully and even pulled off some wins against much more experienced college varsity teams.

Other than Reardon, senior starting goaltender Shannon Palmer and backup goaltender Katie Frossard are the only remaining members from those days and both have vivid memories of the hardships and early frustration that came with being overmatched on a nearly nightly basis.

In the five years since those primitive beginnings, the program has risen to become a perennial contender for the conference title and a powerhouse in New England women’s hockey. In a sign of things to come, the team came out of the gate in their first year as a varsity program with a 5-0 mark and ended with a 13-12-1 mark, including a first round playoff win against an established RIT program. Despite their quick start however, the program was far from full strength.

“When I came in as a freshman, there were only a few players there from the club team,” Melissa Belmonte, the team’s other captain and a senior forward, said. “We were pretty much playing every other shift and then the third line wasn’t that strong, so it was the one and two lines that were decent and had to do all the grunt work”.

Over time the team has built itself up through both solid recruiting and transfers, such as steadfast defensive player Melissa Wigmore, another senior, who transferred in last year from Northeastern. For most young programs just starting out, simply fielding a team during the building process is an accomplishment in itself, but this group has managed to get past the first round of the playoffs in two of its first three years and could make it three out of four with a playoff win this year.

Much of the team’s success over this time period has been due to the inspired play of Belmonte and Andrea Ciarletta, who will go down as one of the best duos to ever play NCAA women’s hockey. Linemates since they both took the ice as freshmen, the pair began their careers as Beacons in stellar fashion and never looked back. As freshmen, Ciarletta led all of Division III in points and goals per game and was named the ECAC Rookie of the Year while Belmonte finished third in points and second in goals per game and was named to the conference all-rookie squad.

Ciarletta has since been named USCHO.com Pre-season Division III Second Team as well as the ECAC East Second team as a sophomore and the First team as a junior on her way to eighth place all time on the NCAA career points list with 153 total points. Ciarletta either owns or shares 34 school records and has been named offensive MVP three times. Belmonte, the other half of this dynamic duo, has played in every UMass Boston varsity women’s hockey game to date while scoring 142 career points, good enough for 15 on the all-time NCAA career points list.

“They’re irreplaceable, I mean just what they bring to the team is something that I don’t think will be seen again by anyone in this program,” noted head coach Patricia Crowell. “They’re just great leaders on and off the ice and just their love for the game, their love for playing hockey is something that you don’t see in every kid. Every year the league gets better and they’ve managed to remain consistent with their offensive abilities and really made people want to come to this team. I mean, those two put UMass Boston women’s hockey on the map from the get-go and it’s really beyond words what they mean to this program.”

Despite their individual achievements, one really cannot be talked about without the other and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Without ‘Cheese,’ I wouldn’t be the player I am today,” Belmonte said of her linemate. “Everything that I’ve done, everything that I’ve earned, all of the points that I’ve gotten are because of her. If she didn’t come here, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for me. I mean she’s just my strongest point.”

“‘Belle’ is just an amazing leader, no matter what happens she’s always keeping it upbeat,” Ciarletta said. “If anything goes wrong, she’s there to pick everybody up and she just knows so much about the game, it helps me so much. She is just so fun to play with, we don’t even have to communicate on the ice, I just throw the puck and there she is. She’s taught me so much strategy and about the system, and whenever I don’t know what to do I go to her.”

Fittingly, the first goal ever scored in UMass Boston women’s hockey history was a collaboration between the two, as was the first goal of Senior Night.

There are many, many players who have contributed to the success of this program over the last few years, and many more who will leave their mark in the years to come, but it is this group of seniors who have seen the birth of this program and walked it through its infancy that will define the team from here on out. They have given the program something that could have only been forged through the hard work, triumph over adversity and will to succeed shared by these pioneers of UMass Boston women’s hockey. In the words of Belmonte, “Heart. It’s all been about heart.”

About the Contributor
Ben Whelan served for the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2009; 2009-2010. News Editor: Spring 2008; Fall 2008 Sports Editor: 2006-2007