NORTH BILLERICA — Nick Albano picked the perfect time to have a career night.
The top-seeded Beverly High hockey team scored five unanswered goals, with Albano, a junior defenseman, Albano assisting on the entire quintet of strikes, and rolled into the Division 2 North finals for the first time in program history by defeating Lincoln-Sudbury last night, 5-1, before a packed house at the Chelmsford Forum.
"I'd say we were on tonight," smiled Albano, who increased his North Shore-leading assist total to 33 points this season. "We were a lot more relaxed and just concentrated on playing our game."
Senior captain Connor Irving scored a pair of goals, his team-leading 18th and 19th of the season, while Brenden Boyle, Kevin Lally and Teddy Leathersich also scored for the winners. Tim Birarelli earned his 18th win of the season in net as the junior finished with 18 saves.
The victory means that Beverly (20-1-1) will meet No. 3 seed Tewksbury — a 3-2 winner over Marblehead in last night’s first game — Monday at the Tsongas Center in Lowell (6 p.m.). The winner of that game will play for the Division 2 state championship at the TD Garden in Boston against the South champion on Sunday, March 16.
Many of the Panthers’ 10 seniors played against Tewksbury three years ago in the Div. 2 North semifinals, a game won by the eventual state champion Redmen (6-1).
"All (last) summer on, the whole team has been focused on doing this in our senior season," said senior center Kevin Lally.
This makes the second time in Beverly High hockey history it has been among the last four teams standing in its division; the 1972 Panthers reached the Division 1 state semifinals at the old Boston Garden before falling to Arlington — a game in which current BHS head coach was a star defenseman for the Panthers.