By Phil Stacey
---- — NORTH BILLERICA — Perseverance, it appears, most certainly does pay off.
Scoring three times in the final period, the Danvers High hockey team shook off an early two-goal deficit and scored a decisive victory in the Division 2 North hockey playoffs by knocking off Amesbury, 4-2, last night at the Chelmsford Forum.
Defenseman Jon Milne’s goal with 10:45 to go tied the game at 2-2 before captains Kevin Hodgkins and Matt Flynn each had unassisted goals in the final five minutes to give the eighth-seeded Falcons (11-9-1) a dramatic win.
“We stayed calm and kept after it,” is how head coach Kevin Brown explained his team’s comeback triumph. “We just wanted to keep after it; that’s been our attitude all season because we haven’t scored a ton of goals, so we do have to keep going and going.”
Getting a loose puck in the slot, Hodgkins turned a fired a wrist shot high over goalie Jake Harlow’s stick shoulder with 4:23 remaining, sending the Danvers fans into euphoria. Flynn (1 goal, 3 assists) connected on a wrist shot of his own out front 73 seconds later, ensured that victory would come for the Blue-and-White.
Alex Taylor, the junior goaltender who has played all but five minutes for Danvers this winter, made it stand up with 13 saves.
The victory for Danvers (11-9-1) sets up a rematch with Northeastern Conference archrival and top seed Beverly Friday night in Stoneham (7:45 p.m.) in the Division 2 North quarterfinals. A year ago, the Falcons pulled off one of the greatest upsets in program history by knocking off the top-seeded Panthers, 4-3, en route to an appearance in the Division 2 North final. Beverly (18-1-1) is once again the No. 1 seed in Division 2 North this winter and, having a first round bye, will be playing its first postseason game at that time.
After a sluggish first 15 minutes in which the Falcons trailed, 2-0, they ratcheted up the pressure tenfold in the second stanza and cut their deficit in half. They pelted Amesbury sophomore goaltender Jake Harlow with 21 shots (believed to be the most ever by a DHS team in a playoff game) and seemingly had the ice tilted in their favor. Defenseman Stephen Ganley ripped the twine on the power play at 4:01, with captains Jay Calcagno and Flynn assisting.
Milne — who had missed a month of action with an injury and was originally thought to be lost for the season — returned to the Danvers lineup last night, and his third period shot from the left point went off an Amesbury player’s leg and past Harlow to tie the game at 2-2. It was just the second goal this season for Milne and third of his varsity career.
“Jon plays with a real calmness,” said Brown. “He’s a big kid with a big reach who happened to get the puck on net in that instance, and it worked out great for us.”
Danvers, which outshot the Indians, 35-15, blocked four Amesbury shots in the final two minutes. The third line of James Curley, Ryan Buchanan, Troy Fleming and Kyle Cahill were lauded by Brown for their terrific play.
Danvers 4, Amesbury 2
at Chelmsford Forum, North Billerica
Amesbury: 2 0 0 — 2
Danvers: 0 1 3 — 4
First period: A, J.T. Chamberlain (un), 3:17; A, Austin Toohey (Connor Stevens, Brendan Foley), 7:18.
Second Period: D, Stephen Ganley (Jay Calcagno, Matt Flynn), ppg, 4:01.
Third Period: D, Jon Milne (Flynn, Trevor Daly) 4:15; D, Kevin Hodgkins (Flynn) 10:37; D, Flynn (un), 12:50.
Saves: A, Jake Harlow 31; D, Alex Taylor 13.
Records: D, 11-9-1; A, 8-9-4.