GLOUCESTER — With two games scheduled in a span of about 17 hours, the Beverly High hockey team wanted to use plenty of players in last night’s season opener against Essex, Vermont.
It fit the bill perfectly that the night’s biggest goal came from the fourth line.
Sophomore Tyler Cloutman netted his first career varsity goal late in the second and the Panthers held off the Hornets, 4-1, at Talbot Rink.
Senior Connor Irving scored twice for Beverly (1-0), senior Bryce Mitchell made 12 saves and junior defenseman Nick Albano had three assists.
The Panthers don’t have much time to feel good about the win, as they host Peabody today at 12:30 at Salem State in the first meeting between the Northeastern Conference rivals since the Tanners scored an upset win in the 2013 Carlin Cup.
“It’s a happy thing to get that first win under the belt,” said Beverly coach Bob Gilligan. “We wanted to keep everybody fresh with this quick turnaround. I saw a lot of good things and a lot of things we’ll want to work on.”
Beverly was all over Essex (1-1) in the first period. The hosts, wearing new cream-colored jerseys, outshot the Hornets 14-3 in the opening frame and jumped ahead on goals by Jake Straw and Irving.
Straw’s marker, the first of the 2013-14 season on the North Shore, came as he tipped in a blast from Albano that was generated by Kevin Lally’s offensive zone faceoff win.
Then with only 42 seconds left in the first, Irving finished a 2-on-1 with winger Graham Doherty by putting it between Essex goalie Brock Paquette’s pads for a 2-0 lead.
Essex controlled the flow in the second by causing turnovers in the neutral zone. The Panthers seemed to have been lulled to sleep when Cloutman, a speedy sophomore, broke free for a 2-on-1 chance with junior Clinton Cabral. The duo passed back-and-forth twice before Cloutman finished for a 3-0 lead for the hosts with 5:03 left in the middle period.