STONEHAM — They will talk about this game for as long as there is high school hockey played.
In a contest that immediately becomes an instant classic, Beverly High got shootout goals from junior Nick Albano and captain Connor Irving while junior goaltender Tim Birarelli stopped four of Danvers’ five shootout attempts as the top-seeded Panthers prevailed, 2-1, before a packed-to-the-gills crowd at Stoneham Arena.
"Wow. Now that was a hockey game, without a doubt," said Birarelli inside the jubliant Beverly locker room afterwards. "Danvers, they just played us so tough. They were really well prepared. I'm just so happy that we were able to get the win."
Danvers High goaltender Alex Taylor had a marvelous game, making a season high 41 stops against constant Beverly pressure. The eighth-seeded Falcons (11-11-1), a huge underdog coming in, executed their game plan to near perfection and took Beverly (19-1-1) to two 6-minute overtime periods and into the shootout before their season ultimately came to an end.
Albano put a deke on Taylor and scored on a backhand on Beverly’s first shootout attempt, and Irving did likewise on Beverly’s third try after making a move, holding the puck and waiting for Taylor to commit before knocking the disc into the cage.
"I didn't think I was going to score in the shootout," said Albano, who fired a multitude of shots on Taylor during regulation, but to no avail. "But Timmy told me what to do: go blocker side on (Taylor) and pull the puck back before shooting a backhand. It worked perfectly."
Kyle Cahill had the Danvers goal in the shootout, sliding one under Birarelli (19 saves) to keep his team alive. But captain Kevin Hodgkins’ shot rang off the right post on Danvers’ final shootout attempt, sending the Beverly players and fans into delirium.