COLOGNE – Daniel Bellissimo blocked a shot with his left pad and after puck went end for end in the air, he booted it down the ice with his right pad before the disc landed on the ice.
And while the showy save by Italy’s goaltender was made at practice on Monday, Bellissimo hopes someone attending the IIHF World Championship has taken note of his performance.
“I want to play as long as a I can and hopefully move up in leagues eventually and just try to make my living over here,” said Bellissimo, who plays in Italy but would like to take his game to a better league. “But first we have a game to win.”
Italy heads into its final Relegation Round game against the United States on Tuesday right in the mix of things in the standings. Two teams will be headed to the IIHF’s second tier when play in the relegation pool ends.
The United States has six points for top spot, and France and Italy are tied for second, with three points apiece. Kazakhstan hasn’t registered a point in the relegation pool and will likely play in Division I next year.
Bellissimo is the only reason why the Italians have any chance of sticking in the elite division.
He has a 95.0 save percentage, and a 1.80 goals-against average for the Italians, and he is the goalie on a non-contending teams to crack the top five in the 2010 Worlds for save percentage.
Mention Bellissimo’s name and people talk about his 49-save performance in a 3-0 loss to Sweden in the Preliminary Round.
“With average goaltending, it would have been 6- or 7-0,” said Roland Ramoser. “He has done a very good job and we need a great game again like he had against Switzerland. When you have a team like we have, you need great goaltending if you want to have a chance.”
Bellissimo is a Canadian-Italian who was born in Toronto and played U.S. college hockey for the Western Michigan University. He left after his third year for Italy’s HC Asiago and the team won the Italian league title a few weeks ago.
“It was a career choice to come to Italy and there I was offered a contract and I know that does not come all the time, so I left college,” he said.
He was hoping to have his paperwork completed in time to play for Italy in the event it qualified for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. And when that didn’t happen, he set his sights on playing in World Championship tournament.
“I worked hard all last summer for this opportunity and I think so far I have played well. I have another game (on Tuesday) and I want to play well and help my team,” said Bellissimo.
“It has been going well so far. It is fun. I love the game and I love being a goalie and hopefully I can play as long as I can.”
Bellissimo has been a goalie since he was four years old and the only time he wasn’t in net was when he was playing road hockey.
Growing up in the Toronto area, he worshipped Curtis Joseph and Felix Potvin, who both played for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, along with Patrick Roy.
While he’d be the first to say he’s not in the save class as the aforementioned goalies, you have to think Bellissimo has made enough of an impression that he will end up in a higher-calibre league somewhere in Europe.
“Hopefully my play has impressed people. I still have one big game tomorrow and I have to stay focused on that. You never know and hopefully someone will give me a chance. I know I can play in these other leagues as well and it is just up to someone to give me he opportunity.”
And as far as opportunity goes, coming to Italy has provided Bellissimo with the chance to do a few things he once though he’d never do, including playing on the same Italian team with his brother, Vince.
“He finished on my team, on Italy this year. He came to my team halfway through the year and ended up winning the championship.”