, Salem, MA


February 12, 2014

The Blue Line Report: Playoff performance will ultimately determine Panthers' legacy


Beverly has not lost a game at Salem State’s Rockett Arena (its home rink) in more than two years; Winthrop blanked the Panthers 2-0 back on Jan. 4, 2012 — that’s 770 days ago. They’ve allowed 10 goals in three games against Marblehead and 12 goals combined in their other 14 contests. They’ve outscored teams 21-7 in the first period, a whopping 34-8 in the middle stanza and 24-7 in the third and final frame.

Six players have scored in double-digit points for the Orange-and-Black, and a half-dozen others have between 7 and 9 points. In all, 18 of the 19 skaters on the varsity roster have at least one point, with 16 of those scoring at least one goal.

They have plenty of studs: senior captain Connor Irving (15-24-39), the North Shore’s leading scorer and recently crowned all-time point leader in BHS hockey annals (180 points and counting); senior Graham Doherty (16-12-28), who’d be a first line force on any other team but centers an extremely potent second line here; junior Nick Albano (5-26-31), who is believed to be the state’s leading scorer among defensemen; and goaltender Timmy Birarelli, a junior whose numbers (14-0-1, 1.37 goals-against average, .919 save percentage, 4 shutouts) are among the best in school history.

Irving or Birarelli will be named Most Valuable Player in the NEC when the vote is held next Monday; for Irving, it’d be his second honor in three seasons; a nod to Birarelli would be his first.

But the core of this hockey team is made up of role players, grinders, muckers and unsung heroes who know what their job is and how to get it done to best benefit the Panthers. Captain Matt Hamor, Jack Morency and Sean Munzing are all four-year starters on defense who can play in any situation adroitly; combined, they’ve also added to the offense with three goals and 20 assists. Backup netminder Bryce Mitchell is ready when called upon; he’s won both of his starts (with a shutout to boot) and has stopped 42 of 45 shots that’ve come his way.

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