By Phil Stacey
---- — While tens of thousands of children across the North Shore gleefully count down the days until Christmas, area hockeyologists are focusing on numbers of a different sort.
There are a slew of milestones that can be reached and/or broken by local skaters, goaltenders and even coaches this coming season. So let’s reach into the enormous hockey bag atop Santa’s sleigh and see what we can find ...
With five points in his team’s first two games, Beverly co-captain Connor Irving now has 146 career points (52 goals, 94 assists), moving him into second place all-time in Panther scoring annals ahead of Brendan Fullerton (143 points). Next up: the school’s all-time scoring record held by Roger LeBlanc Jr., who scored 172 career points from 1996-99. Irving, a senior center, already holds the BHS career mark for assists.
Barring anything unforeseen, the only local player who looks like he could reach 100 career points this season is Marblehead’s Tom Koopman. The senior left winger takes 68 career points (29 goals, 39 assists) into tonight’s clash with Danvers, and getting top line minutes for the explosive Headers could certainly help in his century quest.
We should have a handful of players hit the 50-point career mark this winter: Beverly senior Graham Doherty (he needs 10 points for 50); Marblehead senior defenseman Liam Gillis (15 points needed); senior forward Sam Petri of Salem (21 points needed), Ryan Santo, another Beverly senior wing (22 points needed) and even high scoring sophomore center Matt Koopman of the Headers (22 points needed).
Four others who skate on the top lines for their respective teams and see significant power play time could also hit 50 career points with big senior seasons: center Jay Calcagno of Danvers (26 points needed), Peabody linemates Mike Vadala (26 points needed) and Derek DeMild (28 points needed); and Salem’s Danny Heck (30 points needed).
On defense, Nick Albano has already scored 46 points (12 goals, 32 assists) in a shade over two seasons at Beverly High (he currently leads the Panthers in scoring through two games at 1-5-6). Those 46 points place him seventh all-time in BHS history for defensemen only, meaning Derek Shairs (57 points) and former University of Maine blueliner Andy Silverman (60 points) could be passed on the Panthers’ D-man scoring list by Albano this season. So too could Albano’s former teammate, Andrew Irving; before moving up to left wing halfway through his junior year, Irving had 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points as a defenseman.
In the nets, Brett Harring of Salem heads into his fourth year as a starter having stopped 1,588 career shots. While we don’t have the records to confirm this, it’s believed that the Witches’ senior could become the first local boys goalie to ever finish his career with 2,000 or more saves; Harring has never had fewer than 497 stops in his first three seasons.
Across the bridge in Beverly, junior Tim Biarelli has already posted some of the best goaltending numbers in Orange-and-Black hockey history. Ten of his 27 career victories have been shutouts; he takes a 27-6-2 career record, 1.64 goals-against average and .919 save percentage down to the Talbot Rink for the Panthers’ game against Gloucester tonight. In 1,532 minutes of varsity ice time, Biarelli has given up just 56 goals while making 633 saves.
Several area coaches are also fast approaching some landmark numbers this winter.
Heading the list is Mark Leonard; Peabody High’s bench boss needs just three victories to hit 200 for his career. The winningest coach in program history will also coach his 400th career game if the Tanners came participate in two playoff games.
When Beverly High beat Essex Junction of Vermont in its season opener last Friday, it was the 200th game that Bob Gilligan had been head coach since taking over the Panther reins seven games in the 2003-04 campaign. His 112 career victories (including 2 this season) put him in second place in school history, behind only Mike Deering (161 wins).
Danvers’ 19th game of the season — at this juncture scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 12 at home against Marblehead — will be the 150th game coached by Kevin Brown. Another 11 wins this season will give him 75 for his head coaching career.
Across town, St. John’s Prep’s Kristian Hanson will also be coaching game No. 150 at his alma mater in the Eagles’ final contest of the regular season: Friday, Feb. 21 at Wakefield. He enters his seventh season 15 wins shy of 100 with the Eagles.
Having had their first two scheduled games cancelled by snow, the Bishop Fenwick Crusaders hope the third time’s the charm when they play at Ristuccia Arena tomorrow night (8 p.m.) against St. John’s Prep.
Fenwick will have a new face in goal this season; look for Saugus native Bobby Lombardi to man the pipes against the Eagles. The team’s four captains — defenseman Nick Coccoluto and forwards Brian Corcoran, Nick Finan and Brian Bassett — will likely make up four-fifths of the Crusaders’ starting unit, with blueliner Dylan Maida rounding out the group.
It’s an extremely rare meeting of these two programs in hockey, which are two of the three Division 1 schools locally (St. Mary’s of Lynn being the other). St. John’s Prep, while working in a boatload of new players this season, is an established Massachusetts high school powerhouse while Fenwick is beginning its third year as a Division 1 entry.
Regardless of how tomorrow night’s game ends up, we’d like to see this game continue well into the future — it’s great for North Shore hockey.
Fenwick’s scheduled opener last Saturday against visiting St. Bernard’s of Fitchburg has officially be moved to Wednesday, Jan. 29 at 8:15 p.m. at the McVann-O’Keefe Rink in Peabody.
Good to see one of the greatest scorers in Danvers hockey history, Kyle McCullough, back serving as a volunteer assistant coach with this year’s Falcons. McCullough, who went on to star at UMass Darmouth before embarking on a few seasons of minor league hockey, joins one of his former high scoring linemates, Ryan Hayes, on the DHS staff. (Bryan Duggan, the third member of that electric trio that led Danvers to the 2001 Division 2 state championship, is happily married and living in Connecticut).
Three teams showed off new uniforms for the 2013-14 season at Salem State this past Saturday.
Peabody got rid of the big ‘P’ on its uniform fronts and instead has ‘Peabody’ going down the front of its sweaters in white lettering trimmed in baby blue on navy. New ranger-style shells go over the Tanners’ pants as well.
Gloucester showed up wearing a slick maroon-on-maroon look, also with diagonal lettering that spelled out ‘GHS.’ As Twitter follower @Dougie-Mane correctly pointed out, their uniforms looked a bit like UMass Amherst’s.
Lastly, Beverly wore its cream-colored home sweaters, with black lettering trimmed in orange running diagonally down the front of their sweaters spelling out ‘Beverly’. They have similar road uniforms where black is the dominant color.
Speaking of new threads, St. John’s Prep will be donning replica 1947 Eagles’ sweaters for their New Year’s Eve game at Fenway Park against Malden Catholic (2:30 p.m.). We haven’t seen them yet, but have to imagine they’re going to be classic.
I can’t recall the last time a team had only five scheduled home games (out of a typical 20-game regular season), but that’s what lies ahead for Danvers this winter. All five of those games, played at Salem State, will take place against the Falcons’ Northeastern Conference North foes: Beverly, Peabody, Marblehead, Gloucester and Winthrop.
The Blue-and-White are actually playing 21 games (including a non-including contest at St. John’s Prep), meaning they’ll have 16 road contests. In addition to the Prep game at Ristuccia in Wilmington, they’ll wear their road blues at Salem State against Beverly and Marblehead; play as the visitors at Larsen Rink in Winthrop, McVann-O’Keefe Rink in Peabody and Talbot Rink in Gloucester, in addition to non-league battles at Masconomet, Lynnfield, Concord-Carlisle, Acton-Boxboro, Amesbury and Stoneham.
To round things out, Danvers is participating in a pair of two-game in-season tournaments: the Saugus Bank Tournament at Kasabuski Rink in Saugus, and the Newburyport Bank Classic at Graf Rink in Newburyport.
The Blue Line Report, a column on North Shore high school hockey, appears in The Salem News each Wednesday during the winter sports season. (NOTE: next week’s Blue Line Report will appear on Thursday, Dec. 26.) Contact sports editor Phil Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.
In the spirit of the season, we now present the author's favorite Christmas singers and songs -- presented, naturally, in hockey lineup style: 1ST LINE: The heavyweights of Christmas: Bing Crosby centering Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis 2ND LINE: Great rock 'n roll Christmas tunes: "Father Christmas" by The Kinks between "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon & Yoko Ono, and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid 3RD LINE: Everlasting rock 'n roll Yuletide melodies: "Jingle Bell Rock" by Bobby Helms the pivot; "Rockin Around The Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee and "Run Run Rudolph" by Chuck Berry on the wings 1ST DEFENSE PAIR: A pair of powerhouses: anything from Burl Ives on one side and Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" on the other. 2ND DEFENSE PAIR: U2's version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) paired with The Waitresses' sublime "Christmas Wrapping" 3RD DEFENSE PAIR: Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" gets the nod here alongside the underrated "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" version done by Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan GOALIE: You need a Christmas stalwart here, so we'll go with jazzman Vince Guaraldi of 'Peanuts' fame. HEALTHY SCRATCHES: Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen. All great musicians in their own right (I'm a HUGE Beatles/McCartney guy), but there's no place for holiday schmaltz on this list.