WINTHROP — Senior winger Ryan Santo is developing a flair for the dramatic for the Beverly High hockey team.
After some theatrics of a different sort dissipated Saturday night at Larsen Rink, Santo stepped up with his second game-winning goal in as many games to deliver the Panthers a 3-1 victory over host Winthrop.
Unbeaten Beverly (15-0-1) clinched its second straight Northeastern Conference North title in a contest marked by a game disqualification for fighting on each side and two other major penalties.
Third period goals by Santo and Jake Straw, plus a successful 4-minute penalty kill at the end of the game, were the difference as the Panthers handed second-place Winthrop (11-5) its first home loss.
The victory gave Beverly back-to-back NEC titles for the first time since 1989-90 and became the first program to win two straight NEC North titles since the league split in 2005.
“The first goal is to win the conference. Of course, we want to see what we can do in the (state) tournament, but its a huge thing for these kids to win the league,” said Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan. “To beat Winthrop in their own rink is a huge win for us, a character win.”
Tempers boiled over midway through the second period. Some pushing and shoving between players took place after a stoppage behind the Winthrop net, which led to all 10 skaters that were on the ice and Vikings’ goalie Ray Feeley exchanging contact in a heated scrum. The referees separated the players and issued fighting disqualifications to Beverly’s Jack Morency and Winthrop’s Zach Deeb, a 4-minute major penalty to Feeley and minor roughing infractions to the rest of the skaters involved. The DQs carry automatic 2-game suspensions under state rules.
“It is what it is. The kids were getting into it, and it seemed the referees made the right calls,” said Gilligan. “It’s a rivalry game. We’re on a roll, Winthrop’s been on a roll and the emotions get the best of the some of the kids.”