SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

February 24, 2014

Intrigue abounds as state hockey playoffs announced

Beverly earns top seed in Division 2 North; Danvers, Marblehead and Masco also have eyes set on the prize

For the second consecutive year, the once-beaten Beverly High hockey team will enter the state tournament as the top seed in Division 2 North.

And for the second consecutive year, the Panthers could be staring across the ice at the blue-and-white sweaters from Danvers in their first playoff contest — and would clearly hoping for a better result this time around.

Looking for their first postseason triumph since 2011, Beverly is the No. 1 seed in the 11-team Division 2 North bracket. The Panthers (18-1-1) have been on a season-long mission to bring home the school’s first-ever state hockey championship.

But it’s a road that will be as smooth as pond ice in April. Danvers (10-9-1), which gained 11 of a possible 16 points down the stretch run to punch their own postseason ticket, is the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 Amesbury tomorrow at Chelmsford Forum (7:30 p.m.); the winner gets Beverly in a quarterfinal clash Friday at Stoneham Arena (7:45).

Two other local clubs with Division 2 title dreams of their own, Marblehead (16-5-1) and Cape Ann League co-champion Masconomet (14-4-2), kick off postseason play Tuesday. The Headers are the No. 7 seed and host No. 10 Haverhill (9-9-2) at Chelmsford Forum (5:10), while No. 6 seed Masco (14-4-2) faces off against No. 11 Revere at Stoneham Arena (7:30).

Elsewhere locally, St. John’s Prep won’t be in the Super 8 tournament for the first time in four years. Instead, the Eagles (9-9-2) are the No. 15 seed in Division 1 North, where they’ll meet second-seeded Arlington (12-3-5).

In Division 3 North, Salem (9-8-4) is back in the state playoffs after a seven-year hiatus. The Witches earned the No. 10 seed and have drawn No. 7 Dracut as their first round matchup Thursday in Stoneham (5 p.m.).

Beverly doesn’t need to be reminded of its 4-3 upset loss to Danvers in last year’s quarterfinal round, and there is little doubt they’d love to gain a measure of revenge if given the chance this year. But head coach Bob Gilligan said his team isn’t focused on that.

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