Duluth native Bellamy finding success on, off ice at HarvardRICK LUBBERS: Laura Bellamy balances a busy student-athlete lifestyle at Harvard University, spending a large chunk of the days honing her goaltending skills for the Crimson NCAA Division I women’s hockey team and studying to keep her grade-point average above 3.5.
By: Rick Lubbers, Duluth News Tribune
Laura Bellamy balances a busy student-athlete lifestyle at Harvard University, spending a large chunk of the days honing her goaltending skills for the Crimson NCAA Division I women’s hockey team and studying to keep her grade-point average above 3.5.
She also manages to simultaneously carry a Minnesota and Boston accent.
“Can you tell?” she asked while visiting family and friends in Duluth during Christmas break.
Her East Coast intonation isn’t as thick as the Boston-drenched dialogue in a Matt Damon and Ben Affleck movie, and her Upper Midwest tones won’t remind anyone of “Fargo.” It’s a blend: Minnesotan spiced with a subtle Bostonian flavor.
So, the essence of her accent depends on the listener.
“That’s what some people say, but if I’m out East, they say, ‘You say that funny, like you’re a Minnesotan,’ ” Bellamy said. “It’s kind of mixed, but I don’t notice it. My parents and my brother do.”
Bellamy, 21, had plenty of time to work on her Minnesota inflection during a quick sabbatical from hockey and academics Dec. 19-27.
“I always love coming home,” she said. “There are quite a few Minnesotans on the team, and we all love to come back to Minnesota for Christmas. To be with my family is just great. Even though it’s a short week, it’s a lot of fun.”
Part of that fun included catching her former team, the Duluth Northern Stars, take on Proctor-Hermantown and skating outside. It’s easy for Bellamy to wax nostalgic about her early hockey years. And much like her mixture of accents, she’s a Minnesota girl at heart who’s fallen in love with life and hockey on the East Coast.
“Just growing up in this state — where hockey is it — it’s been great,” Bellamy said. “While I’ve been back, I’ve been skating on the outdoor rink a lot. A lot of my teammates can’t even fathom that. I’ve been so lucky to grow up on the outdoor rink and around people who just love hockey. It’s definitely what caused me to want to play in college. I can’t thank the people around here enough for that.”
A six-year starter at goaltender (2003-09) in high school, Bellamy yearly garnered postseason awards, including team MVP her junior and senior seasons, several spots on All-Lake Superior Conference teams, an All-State honorable mention nod in 2008 and All-State first-team honors in 2009.
Bellamy’s path from Denfeld to Harvard was blazed the summer before her senior year when she was contacted by then-assistant Harvard coach and former UMD assistant Joakim Flygh (who happens to be married to a former Duluth East star who played hockey for Harvard, Angie Francisco). Flygh’s pitch was enticing, so Bellamy visited Harvard in November 2008.
“I loved it. It was really different, but I knew that I wanted to go outside my comfort zone a little bit, and that it could be great,” she said. “I just decided to go there, and I can’t imagine anything else.”
Neither can the Crimson.
Bellamy began her freshman season splitting time in goal with Christina Kessler, but Kessler tore an ACL halfway through the year and Bellamy played the team’s final 18 games.
She then spent the bulk of her time in net as a sophomore and junior.
This season the 5-foot-8 senior captain is back to splitting time in goal for Harvard as the squad prepares freshman wunderkind Emerance Maschmeyer for more duty once Bellamy departs.
“She’s a great goalie — probably the best goalie I’ve ever seen,” Bellamy said. “To play with her just brings the level up. It makes me a lot better.”
Right now, Bellamy’s playing at the highest level of her college career and is a major reason why the Crimson (16-1-1 overall, 13-0 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) are ranked No. 2 in the PairWise Rankings and in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll. Bellamy is 9-1, leads the country in goals-against average (0.54) and save percentage (.968), and is tied for second in shutouts (five). She has 149 saves and has only given up five goals. Her 19 career shutouts are second in program history. Kessler tops the list with 25.
Even though her performances in goal this season seemingly warrant more playing time, Bellamy understands from her experience as a freshman the need to prepare Maschmeyer for next year. Maschmeyer is 7-0-1 with a 0.87 goals-against average and .949 save percentage. She has made 131 saves and allowed seven goals.
“Last year I played every minute and I would love to be in the net for every game, but I think right now what we have is really working well,” Bellamy said. “We’re very competitive in practice and it’s making us better. I have a great relationship with Emerance and I think she has made me a lot better with how skilled she is.
“It’s helping the team a lot to have two goalies to be fresh every time they go out there. By the end of last season, it was a grind. It’s working well to have two. It’s good for her because she’s working into the role as a starter.”
It’s that unselfish attitude and leadership that have led to her teammates naming her an assistant captain last season and captain this year.
“Laura is a true leader,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “Her teammates have tremendous respect for her as a person, athlete and teammate. Her commitment to our program’s team-first mantra is second to none.”
“It’s the greatest honor to be a captain at Harvard,” Bellamy said. “I’m very proud of that and I take it very seriously. I’m definitely proud of where I came from and proud to say I’m from Duluth.”
Even though much of her day is devoted to hockey, she still manages to stay atop her studies at academically passionate Harvard.
“I thought I was a hard worker before I went there, but it’s totally been redefined,” said Bellamy, who is a pre-med student with a history and science major. She plans to apply to medical school within a year or two.
“It’s definitely a balancing act,” she added. “Time management is a huge thing for us with playing hockey as much as we do. We’re at the rink for hours on end every day. It’s a competitive environment and it’s really intense, but we all understand that that just makes us better. We all want to be good students. With the team, too, we kind of help each other out where we can and remind each other to stay on our work. Being an athlete kind of helps that because you have to balance it.”
Bellamy will continue balancing sports and studies for the next few months as the second half of the season winds down. She and her teammates have three goals in sight: winning the 35th Women’s Beanpot tourney, wrapping up the ECAC title and advancing to the Frozen Four.
“We definitely have our eyes set on a national championship,” Bellamy said. “With the Frozen Four being in Minneapolis — seven of us are from Minnesota — to be able to come back would be a dream for all of us.”
And winning a national title for Harvard on Minnesota ice would perfectly cap a college career for a goalie with two accents.
Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5317. Follow him @ricklubbersdnt on Twitter.