SALEM — As she cut to the net in the final minute of a tie game, Beverly’s Julia Nearis was thinking pass first.
So was Hingham’s goaltender, whose reflexes betrayed her as she moved towards Beverly’s Anna O’Neill at the opposite post. That opened up just enough space for Nearis to snap in the winning goal with 37 seconds left in a Division 1 first round game Saturday at Salem State’s Rockett Arena.
Nearis’ late tally, her 37th of the season, lifted No. 2 seeded Beverly over the Harborwomen, 3-2.
“Nicole Woods put up a big fight to get me that puck and I took a walk to the net. I was hoping to get it to Anna on the other side, but I shot,” said Nearis. “I was a little lucky. It feels great. It’s another step towards the Garden for us.”
The Panthers (18-2-2) advance to Wednesday’s state quarterfinals against Austin Prep at Stoneham Arena (time TBA).
Woods, who had a spinning, backhand goal in the first, became the fifth girl in Massachusetts girls hockey history to reach 70 points in a season when she assisted on Nearis’ winner. Beverly’s captain went crashing into the boards and pushed the puck to Nearis along the wall near the endline to set up the late tally.
“Julia’s great coming out of the corners. She’s strong and she’s got good reach and a knack for getting to the net,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “That’s why she’s out there in the last minute, because of the way she can get to the net.”
It was Beverly’s third one-goal lead of the game, and Hingham (10-8-6) didn’t have time to strike back. Victoria Messina netted a power play goal with 57 seconds left in the second to tie it 2-2. Earlier in the second, Hingham tied it 1-1 on Katherine Saleski’s goal. Only 108 seconds later, Beverly captain Rachel Trocchi buried her third goal in the last two games to give the Panthers the lead back.