A year ago, the Beverly girls hockey team was a bit of an unknown despite a lofty record and high seed in the Division 1 tournament.
Now, the Panthers are among the elites. At 17-2-2, they drew the No. 2 seed in the D1 brackets released on Saturday and they’re feeling as if they have a chance to do some damage in the tournament.
“I think we all feel pretty excited,” senior captain Nicole Woods said. “From the start we set a goal for our team to either go all the way, or go further than we’ve ever been before. Practice has a whole different atmosphere now. It’s the most exciting time of the season.”
The Panthers will begin their quest for the state final at TD Garden next Saturday at Salem State, where they’ll face either St. Mary’s or Hingham. Beverly beat the Spartans, 3-2, in mid-January, but St. Mary’s has plenty of experience as the defending state champs. If St. Mary’s defeats Hingham, Beverly will see a top-flight goaltender in senior Lauren Skinnon of Boxford. Recent Southern Maine commit Tatiana Doucette, who played at Peabody before enrolling at St. Mary’s, is excellent on the blue line.
“Every team in the tournament is pretty good and everyone is pretty even talent-wise,” said Woods, who has a single-season area record 68 points this season and was co-MVP of the Northeastern Hockey League. “I definitely don’t like to look ahead. We have to go at this one game at a time.”
The Panthers enter the postseason unbeaten in their last eight. They’re hoping to have scoring machine Julia Nearis back in the lineup for next week’s playoff opener, reuniting her with Woods and Kristen McCarthy (60 points) to form the state’s top scoring line. Anna O’Neill (13 points) and seniors Nicole Kamens and Rachel Trocchi are playing well on the second line.