Defending ISL champion Noble & Greenough and Belmont Hill had both played to their identities coming into Wednesday’s showdown for the top spot in the league.
The reigning champion Bulldogs have been an offensive juggernaut, averaging near 17 goals per game through nine league contests. Meanwhile, Belmont Hill has been shutting teams down defensively, holding opponents to just six goals or fewer in all but one contest so far.
A commonality between these two powerhouses: elite goaltending. Being two of the top 2023 goalie prospects in the country and seemingly always fighting it out on the club circuit against one another, Nobles four-star senior Cornell commit Matt Tully and Belmont Hill’s Matt Torrey (Air Force / Laxachusetts) know each other very well. Tully earned some bragging rights against Torrey by going coast-to-coast for a tally.
However, Torrey got the last laugh and the result; a 9-6 meat grinder win that saw the future Falcon make 15 massive saves as Belmont Hill took over sole possession of first place in the ISL.
“We’re feeling really confident. Definitely not going to have a first-round exit like last year,” said Torrey following the win. “We’re pumped up and ready to go. I have so much faith in my defense, my entire team and I think that’s going to get us very far. We’re ready to go.”
Bernstein The Lead Dawg Early
With four-star senior Grayson McClements (Penn) seeing early slides and doubles the majority of the day, someone on Nobles needed to step up and produce. Enter Thatcher Bernstein. The country’s top-ranked hockey goalie in his birth year, who is off to play in the USHL this fall, buried all of Nobles first three goals and helped his team to a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter.
Ben DiBattista tied the game at three off a feed from sophomore Preston Evans (Laxachusetts) at X. Moments later, Evans found Will Stewart (Villanova) for an open look on the man-up and Stewart cashed in with a high-to-low bullet to give Belmont a 4-3 lead at halftime.
Belmont Answers McClements Counterpunch
A hard finish inside by McClements evened the game at four early in the second half, but Belmont responded with authority. A bullet by Lindan Verville (Laxachusetts) gave Belmont back the lead before Eli Friedman won a ground-ball battle and made it a two-goal game off the ensuing face-off win. Stewart completed the hat trick moments later off a feed from Luke Theberge (Laxachusetts / Tufts) as Belmont snagged its biggest lead of the day at 7-4.
McClements rallies Dawgs, Torrey & Fox shut it down
After the coast-to-coast goal by Tully made it 7-5 at the end of three quarters, Belmont’s two-headed defensive monster of Finn Fox (Laxachusetts / Princeton) and Charlie Hazard (Laxachusetts / Johns Hopkins)) took over.
McClements was able to beat Torrey low off a feed from Collin Kenney (Laxachusetts) to make it a one-goal game with about six minutes to play, but DiBattista answered in transition for Belmont following a takeaway and clear by Fox. A push by Tully on a 10-man awarded Belmont a man-up bid with the chance to shut the door. Stewart launched home a high-to-low rocket to seal it with 2:51 to play. Back-to-back saves by Torrey on Kenney and McClements as well as a pair of caused turnovers by Fox allowed Belmont to run out the clock to the three-goal win.
Belmont Hill 9, Noble & Greenough 6
Ben DiBattista ’24 3 goals, 1 assist
Will Stewart ’24 (Villanova) 3 goals
Jack Schneider ’24 (Laxachusetts) 1 goal
Eli Friedman ’25 1 goal
Lindan Verville ’25 (Laxachusetts) 1 goal
Preston Evans ’25 (Laxachusetts) 3 assists
Matt Torrey (Laxachusetts / Air Force) 15 saves
Noble & Greenough
Thatcher Bernstein ’25 3 goals
Grayson McClements ’23 (Penn) 2 goals, 2 assists
Matt Tully ’23 (Cornell) 1 goal, 8 saves
Henry Tweedy ’24 1 assist
Colin Kenney ’25 2 assists
Belmont Hill vs. Noble & Greenough Standouts
Thatcher Bernstein ’25, midfield / attack, Noble & Greenough
As the highest ranked hockey goalie prospect in the country, Bernstein is just built different. He’s one of those people that’s good at everything he does. With Belmont’s defense keying in on McClements all afternoon, Bernstein took advantage of open looks and buried three goals.
Ben DiBattista ’24, attack, Belmont Hill
DiBattista plays with a lot of fire. Putting his three goals aside, where he really excels is his speed and grit. Late in the third quarter, DiBattista came up with a huge ground ball along the sideline and escaped to space to help keep Belmont’s 3-0 run going. Goals and high energy are great, but It’s third-effort plays like that make DiBattista a special player.
Preston Evans ’25, attack, Belmont Hill / Laxachusetts
Wednesday’s tilt was a bit different for Evans. As Belmont’s leading scorer, Evans was forced into a passive role. His three assists show that he didn’t seem to mind. It’ll be interesting to see if Evans’ role changes if Nobles and Belmont meet up again in the ISL playoffs, but this performance showed that Evans can be effective as both a scorer and/or facilitator. His stat line this season is split almost right down the middle. Pick your poison with this offense.
Finn Fox ’24, defense, Belmont Hill / Laxachusetts – Princeton
It’s hard to combine structure and aggression, especially as a defensive player. Guys who run around knocking heads off commonly find themselves out of position and in the penalty box. Players who stay home and aren’t aggressive often have a hard time forcing the big turnover or getting that game-winning ground ball. Foxx plays angry, causes mayhem around the crease, communicates well and is seemingly never out of position. He makes his presence felt with devastating checks, exceptional slide recovery and excellent foot work. He’s the full package and the anchor of this defensive unit.
Colin Kenney, attack, Noble & Greenough / Laxachusetts
Kenney provided a rugged element that Nobles needed on Wednesday. Although he was held without a goal, Kenney was one of the few guys on Nobles that could hang inside the box against a beefy and mean Belmont Hill defensive unit. Kenney made some high IQ plays and assisted on both of McClements goals thanks to some nifty passing and quick hands. It wasn’t a performance that will go down in the record books but there is definitely a promising future for the sophomore as a physical presence inside.
Matt Torrey ’23, goalie, Belmont Hill / Laxachusetts – Air Force
Credit to Belmont’s defense for limiting the number of quality looks the Nobles offense got, but 15 saves is 15 saves. He may not have found the back of the net like Tully did, but Torrey just as effective on clears and without a doubt the MVP of Wednesday’s contest. If he keeps playing like this, Belmont Hill is going to run the table.
Will Stewart ’24, attack, Belmont Hill – Villanova
Stewart managed to stand out amongst the surplus of weapons in Belmont Hill’s offense with three goals, the last of which iced the game late on the man-up. A lot of Stewart’s production came following the work of others such as Preston Evans and Luke Theberge, but Stewart’s knack of moving off-ball and finding open space rewarded him greatly.