he story of an athlete begins with one seemingly insignificant moment in time. Some are prodigies—Tiger Woods, for example, swung a golf club before his second birthday. Others are introduced later in life, like Lorenzo Cain, who joined the baseball team after a failed attempt at basketball his sophomore year of high school.
In first grade, Boston College women’s hockey forward Delaney Belinskas wanted to play a second sport. She already had been playing softball for as long as she could remember, but wanted to expand her interests— she decided that she would try figure skating. But before she could buy a pair of white skates, she saw her older sister, Sydney, play a different sport on ice: hockey.
Hockey is not a common sport for a girl that resides in Port Orange, Fla. to participate in. When the temperature is in the 80s and the sun is shining outside for a good portion of the year, it would have been permissible for Belinskas to stick to playing softball year-round. But Belinskas—who was born in Massachusetts—did not have the upbringing of your average Floridian, and she also revered her older sister. So when Sydney hopped on the ice, Belinskas knew where she needed to be.
“I saw my sister playing, and I ran to my mom and said, ‘No, I’m going to do that’,” Belinskas said.
It didn’t take long for Belinskas to excel as a hockey player. As a grade-schooler, she showed that she could consistently dominate the girls’ divisions. Feeling that she was not being pushed enough, Belinskas decided to join a second team in an all-boys league. Being the only girl on the ice would be a difficult task for many, but Belinskas’ competitive mindset allowed her to take it in stride.
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hen Belinskas was 12, she was introduced to Sondra Pacey, who was the head coach of the boys team. She provided a challenge for Belinskas from day one. Pacey’s team was close-knit and didn’t treat Belinskas differently because of her gender—and her game only improved as a result.
“The boys had a ton of respect for her,” Pacey said. “On that team she was an assistant captain, not just because she was a nice person, but because of the way she played the game. She was our MVP that year.”
By the time she was a teenager, Belinskas balanced two hockey teams in two different areas of the country: a girl’s team in Pittsburgh, and Pacey’s team in Florida. She was living the hectic lifestyle of an advanced athlete at an early age—for a period of time, she could be found almost exclusively on a rink or an airplane. But knowing the opportunities that she could create for herself by working that much harder than the rest made it all worth it.
Belinskas decided to attend high school at Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, Mass. Even though she considers herself a homebody and knew that she would miss her parents and town, it was an easy choice—one that allowed her to reunite with sister, at the time a junior at the school, and provided her unique opportunities to excel as both a student and athlete.
At Williston, she met a woman who would serve as her inspiration. For all four of Belinskas’ high school years, Christa Talbot Syfu was the head hockey coach. “Talbot,” as Belinskas refers to her, was a motherly figure when one was needed. She invited Belinskas and her teammates over to her house frequently and would even check in with them in their dorms on off days.
Talbot, who had a knack for seeing the little things that could use improvement in Belinskas’ game, put her in a situation to be the best hockey player that she could be early on.
“Delaney has some gifts athletically that made her an immediate impact to our program,” Talbot said. “She was a contributor right from the start.”
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elinskas was a three-sport athlete at Williston. When she wasn’t playing hockey, it was either field hockey or softball season for her. While it takes a strong sense of commitment to strictly participate in three different sports, being the star of each team is a completely different story—yet Belinskas accomplished this.
In the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council, or NEPSAC, she was a two-time all-star in hockey while serving as a team captain. Recording 100 points in a high school career is often considered a benchmark for excellence, but she was able to eclipse this mark late in her senior season, ending with 106.
Even though hockey is the sport Belinskas committed to play at BC, she was still among the best in her conference in the other sports she played. In both softball and field hockey, she was a captain and two-time divisional all-star. Surprisingly enough, it was in field hockey, a sport she picked up in high school, where she won MVP honors, after leading Williston to the NEPSAC Class B Championship and scoring the game-winning goal in both the semifinals and the championship game.
These accomplishments were not surprising to her older sister, who was the primary witness of both Belinskas’ youth and high school playing careers. Sydney saw the tireless work ethic her sister had when no one else was watching, and knew that she was destined to take her talents to the college level.
“She never misses a day,” Sydney said. “Even if we’re on the beach… and there is ice that she could be on, we’re leaving so she could go home and pack her bags and head on out to the rink.”
When Belinskas arrived on the Heights, she knew she would be playing for a championship-level program and coaches who genuinely wanted her there—a combination that made BC a dream scenario for Belinskas.
Like every other freshman, Belinskas felt overwhelmingly busy her first year of college. She would leave her dorm room at 7 a.m. and not return until 8 p.m. During this time, she would either be in the classroom, on the ice, in the gym, or studying. This was a shock to even a busy-minded person like Belinskas, who was taken aback by the 110-percent effort needed and the general lack of free time.
Belinskas knew that hard work was the only way to combat the challenges that college had to offer. While there might have been some times when she felt overwhelmed, she was still able to make a good impression on those around her. Katie Burt, the NCAA’s all-time winningest goaltender, was a junior and one of the leaders in the Eagles locker room when Belinskas first entered through its doors. She was impressed by her young teammate from day one.
“It is really hard [for some people] to transition to the college game because it is much faster and everyone is a little bit stronger than they were in high school,” Burt said. “But Delaney fit right in … and she really blew us away. Delaney never missed a beat.”
Belinskas’ goal was freshman year was to play. As long as she got on the ice and contributed to the team’s well-being, she would have considered the season a success. But for the first time in her life, Belinskas might have set her expectations too low. After not playing in her first college game, she was able to get on the ice and play limited minutes in games two and three. She was already accomplishing her goal and feeling great about her production.
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n Oct. 9, 2016, Belinskas broke out in jaw-dropping fashion. After team captain Andie Anastos got injured, head coach Katie Crowley called on Belinskas to play significant minutes, for the first time in her college career, against Maine. It would turn out to be the right call for the veteran head coach.
After facing an early 1-0 deficit against the Black Bears, Belinskas netted four goals, boosting the Eagles to a 5-1 victory. It was the first time a BC freshman scored four goals in a game since 1999.
“I’m not someone that holds myself to a low [standard] … [but] I was very shocked with myself,” Belinskas said.
It was a moment that confirmed all of her and her sister’s hard work throughout the years. Sydney, who at the time was a goalie at Trinity College in Connecticut, was watching the game with her teammates in the video room.
“I was amped,” she said. “Everyone was texting me ‘your sister is so good!’… Boston College was a dream school of ours growing up, and it was pretty cool to see her [perform early on].”
Against Maine, Belinskas recorded the first points of what would be her decorated freshman season, in which her 33 points tied for second most out of freshman nationally and her 16 goals were tied for the team lead. She was unanimously selected to the 2017 Hockey East All-Rookie Team and won three Hockey East Rookie of the Week awards, along with the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for December.
The 2016-17 Eagles fell short of their goal to win the National Championship when they lost to Wisconsin in the Frozen Four—concluding a season in which the Eagles went 28-6-5 and won the Beanpot, in addition to the Hockey East regular season title and tournament title. What would have been a perfectly acceptable season for most programs was disappointing for the Eagles, who were coming off a loss in the year prior’s National Championship.
“Nothing hurt more,” Belinskas said of the loss.
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rriving on campus for her sophomore season, the forward felt more confident as a player after training with Pacey back home in Florida during the summer. She used the loss against Wisconsin to motivate herself during the offseason and knew that she had to not only maintain her performance, but also improve it if she wanted to win the National Championship as a sophomore.
Belinskas recorded 14 points in the 2017-18 season, but the dip in her statistics might be explained by her playing on three different lines, thereby taking on different roles on the ice, throughout the season, as well as the fact that other teams were noticing that she was a player to focus on.
“Sophomore year was a little harder because they were double-teaming her [and] were aware of who she was,” Pacey said. “She’s quite the player when it comes to seeing the game. I tell her, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, you will break through it, don’t concentrate on points.’”
Belinskas’ sophomore season concluded in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, when the Eagles lost to Ohio State on their home ice. After a year of preparing to overcome the Frozen Four loss to Wisconsin, the Eagles, in the end, took a step back.
“It’s tough, especially being a part of two of those big losses,” Belinskas said. “It’s definitely emotional, [and] you don’t want to feel like that ever again.”
The Eagles are currently ranked No. 18 in the country and have started 3-2-0 after bouncing back from two straight loss to open the 2018-19 season. Now that Belinskas has gained a lot of experience on the ice, her aspirations are different than they were freshman year: Her only goal is to win the National Championship, and after tournament losses her first two years, she wants it now more than ever.
“[I] come in hungrier year after year,” Belinskas said. “The group we have in the locker room, and what we have all been through [makes us want it that much more]. … [Our coaches] will do everything in their power [to win], and it is on us to give everything as well.”
Belinskas knows that her athletic prowess is incomplete without victories. When BC softball head coach Ashley Obrest offered her a spot on the roster her sophomore year, Belinskas knew that she could help win games. She not only joined the team, but excelled on it, scoring seven runs and stealing two bases down the stretch as the Eagles fought for an ACC Tournament berth.
Belinskas worked hard to ensure that she would be competing among the most talented athletes the NCAA has to offer at this point in her life. But this winter, her attention will be fixated on hockey, and it’s clear that she will do everything in her control to succeed, regardless of what her role entails, as she and the Eagles chase their first-ever National Championship.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff
Photos by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor and Sam Zhai / Heights Staff