By Phil Stacey
---- — At 112 days — from the first official day of practice the Monday after Thanksgiving until championship Sunday at the Boston Garden in mid-March — there is no high school season longer than hockey season.
(For the record, that beats basketball by one day and the high school football season by eight).
That gives North Shore puckheads more than three-and-a-half months to watch, study, analyze, talk about and dissect their favorite winter sport.
A lot can — and most certainly did — happen during that time frame.
So while the uniforms have been turned in, the skate guards put on for good and the hockey bag (hopefully) being aired out for a while, it’s time to take one final journalistic lap around the rink and take a look back at the magical season that was 2012-13.
STACEY’S SUPER SIX
(a.k.a.. The Salem News Dream Team)
F — Andrew Irving, Beverly: Let’s not mince words: he’s one of the best four-year players in Beverly High history. Strong on his skates, speedy and possessing the requisite bit of on-ice snarl, Irving could skate by opponents as if they were pylons and had one of the hardest shots in the area. He’s going to make some prep school very happy next winter.
F — Brian Pinho, St. John’s Prep: Immense talent was part of three Prep teams that reached at least the Super 8 semifinals. Terrific going right-to-left (or vice versa) behind the net and either generating scoring chances for himself or his linemates. A true difference maker; he’ll head to a year of junior hockey before playing on scholarship at Providence College.
F — Connor Irving, Beverly: Great hands and on-ice vision made him dangerous any time his number was called. Could stickhandle in a phone booth and proved to be masterful scoring while shorthanded by anticipating plays. Arguably the best neutral zone forward on the North Shore in terms of winning 50/50 pucks and generating scoring chances.
D — Nick Albano, Beverly: Built off of a strong freshman season with a monster 10th grade year. Physical maturity and comfort playing a heavy workload in all situations made a very good defender a great one. Never rattled and had no problem mixing it up with opponents.
D — Mike DiSciullo, Danvers: Thrived on pressure situations and seemed to play his best when the stakes were highest. Comfortable firing outlet passes or carrying the puck into the offensive zone as he was clearing the zone or preventing shots from getting through.
G — Tim Biarelli, Beverly: Technically sound and unflappable, Biarelli had a season for the ages by pitching seven shutouts in 16 games, with a goals-against average of 0.99 and a save percentage of .943 to go along with a sparking 14-1-1 record. Big things await this big netminder in his hockey career.
F — Andrew Irving, Beverly
F — Brian Pinho, St. John’s Prep
F — A.J. Couto, Danvers
D — Chris Carman, Swampscott
D — Chris Minter, Peabody
G — Billy Price, St. John’s Prep
F — Tom Koopman, Marblehead
F — Connor Irving, Beverly
F — Tyler Bird, St. John’s Prep
D — Liam Gillis, Marblehead
D — Jack Morency, Beverly
G — Harrison Young, Marblehead
F — Joe Griffin, Masconomet
F — Teddy Leathersich, Beverly
F — Sam Petri, Salem
D — Nick Albano, Beverly
D — Mike DiSciullo, Danvers
G — Tim Biarelli, Beverly
F — Brendan Boyle, Beverly
F — Matt Koopman, Marblehead
F — Noah Maercklein, Swampscott
D — Kyle Koopman, Marblehead
D — Donny Shaw, Peabody
G — Tristan Bradley, Swampscott
ULTIMATE SALEM NEWS TEAM
(Based on the actual positions and lines that players skate on)
1ST LINE — Andrew Irving (Beverly Sr. LW)-Brian Pinho (St. John’s Prep Sr. C)-Jack McCarthy (St. John’s Prep RW)
2ND LINE — Robert Serino (Swampscott Sr. LW)-Graham Doherty (Beverly Jr. C)-Trip Franzese (Marblehead Sr. RW)
3RD LINE — Ryan Santo (Beverly Jr. LW)-Matt Koopman (Marblehead Fr. C)-Kevin Hodgkins (Danvers Jr. F)
4TH LINE — Justin Longo (St. John’s Prep Sr. LW)-Cam Shaheen (St. John’s Prep Sr. C)-Paul Crehan (St. John’s Prep Sr. RW)
1ST DEFENSE — Nick Albano (Beverly Soph.) and Mike DiSciullo (Danvers Soph.)
2ND DEFENSE — Kyle Koopman (Marblehead Fr. D)-Patrick Burkett (Swampscott Sr.)
3RD DEFENSE — Ryan Byrne (St. John’s Prep Jr.) and Trevor Gelineau (Marblehead Sr.)
STARTING GOALIE — Tim Biarelli (Beverly Soph.)
BACKUP GOALIE — Trent Gallagher (Swampscott Soph.)
TEN PLAYERS I’D BE REMISS IF I DIDN’T MENTION ...
Andrew Bisconti, Peabody Jr. LW: Did what every player aspires to do: played his absolute best at the end of the season.
Alec DiGiorgio, Masconomet Sr. LW: One of the area’s most underrated talents, he can light up a scoresheet in a hurry.
Nic Gianelli, St. John’s Prep Sr. C: Loved the way he scrapped on faceoffs and battled for the puck at all times.
Matt Hamor, Beverly Jr. D: Rock steady and technically sound on the blue line — and grows an absolutely fantastic beard.
Brett Harring, Salem Jr. G: People have no idea how good he really is — until they actually watch him tend goal for the Witches.
Ian Maag, Marblehead Sr. C: Playoff hat trick in win over Rockport cemented his status as a Header all-time standout.
Nunzio Morretti, Swampscott Jr. C: Plays with unbridled enthusiasm and pure joy every single time he hops over the boards.
Joe Strangie, Danvers Sr. C: A familiar sight: Strangie scoring, followed by his patented ‘Discount Double Check’ celebration.
Drew Thibodeau, Bishop Fenwick Sr. F: In constant motion with or without the puck on his stick; adept at burying his chances.
P.J. Usalis, Bishop Fenwick Sr. D: Impressed with his head-on-a-swivel play and smarts in all three zones.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Matt Koopman, Marblehead: You couldn’t help but notice the young center’s raw talent and spectacular skating ability the first time you saw Marblehead this winter; his play stood out in a way that’s usually reserved for older players. A slick playmaker who was unafraid to jump into the play from Day 1, the best part is there’s plenty of room for his game to grow. Other candidates: Noah Maercklein, Swampscott RW; Kyle Koopman, Marblehead D; Tristan Bradley, Swampscott G.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Graham Doherty, Beverly: From someone who fought to crack the Panthers’ top nine forwards as a sophomore to a blossoming superstar this past winter, Doherty was an easy choice. He had one of the best individual outings of the season with a 4-goal explosion in the regular season finale against an excellent Marblehead squad. Won draws, worked well with his linemates and just plain made things happen. What more do you want out of your second line center? Other candidates: Kevin Anderson, Danvers D; Jared Brann, Masconomet C; Guiseppe Zarro, Peabody D.
BEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR
Nunzio Morretti’s GWG for Swampscott in the Division 3 North final: Couldn’t have been an easier choice. A goal two minutes earlier saw the Big Blue tie their showdown up with Bedford, and they kept the pressure in the offensive end from that point forward. Linemate Corey Carmody slid a cross-crease pass to Morretti all alone on the left side, and he buried it with just 6.2 seconds to play. His spontaneous celebration — equal parts astonishment, incredulousness and an outpouring of physical and mental exhaustion — was an all-time enduring moment. It was the perfect snapshot of a player who literally wore every emotion he was feeling all over his face ... skating with the North trophy high over his head before a deafening roar at the Stoneham Arena.
BY THE NUMBERS
141: Career points by Beverly’s Connor Irving (50 goals, 91 assists); he’s 32 away from setting a new all-time Beverly High record.
124: Career points by his cousin, Andrew Irving (47 goals, 77 assists). Even more impressive: he played defense for the first 2 1/2 of his 4-year varsity career.
114: Career points by Danvers senior Joe Strangie (54 goals, 60 assists), making him the 14th player in DHS history to reach triple digits.
101: Career points by St. John’s Prep center Brian Pinho (35 goals, 66 assists); his game-winning goal vs. Central Catholic in Game 3 of the Super 8 quarterfinals was Point No. 100.
80 and 71: Career points, respectively, for outgoing Marblehead seniors Ian Maag (32-48-80) and Ty Bates (27-44-71).
58: Career totals of Swampscott’s Nunzio Morretti, meaning he’ll need 42 more as a senior to reach elite Big Blue Century Club status.
AND FINALLY, SIX BREAKOUT STARS FOR 2013-14
Tim Kalinowski, Marblehead F
Jake Stahlman, Salem F
Devon Wall, Swampscott F
Stephen Ganley, Danvers D
Cam Smullen, Peabody D
Mitch Nekorski, Masconomet G
The Blue Line Report, a column on North Shore high school hockey, appears each week during the winter sports season in The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.