By Matt Williams
---- — SALEM — On the first shift of a hockey game, one team is looking to make a statement and the other is looking to survive.
Saturday night at Rockett Arena, the unbeaten Beverly girls hockey team used the first shift to let rival Marblehead know exactly which team would be surviving this one.
Senior captain Nicole Woods scored just 26 seconds into the game and a fast start helped push the Panthers over the Lady Headers, 7-2.
Julia Nearis, an eighth grader, had four goals and notched her third hat trick in five games for Beverly (5-0-0). She scored her first goal of the game 32 seconds after linemate Woods opened the scoring, and in just 68 seconds of action Marblehead (3-2-1) was behind by two.
“The first shot goes in and on the bench you say ‘Ah.’ The second one goes in and you really say ‘Ahhh’,” said Marblehead coach Emily Hudak. “Beverly’s a really good team. It took a little too long before we learned what we were up against.”
Nearis, who leads the area with 16 goals this season, completed the hat trick by the end of the first period as Beverly led 5-0 after one. She scored once more in the second and also had an assist on one of Woods’ two goals. The young winger showed off a variety of shots, scoring from the blue paint and the top of the circle with both high shots and low, accurate blasts.
“Some people are natural scorers and some naturally have other stuff. Julia is a natural scorer,” said Beverly Brian Seabury. “She has a knack for the net, both getting it there and putting it in.”
Woods had two goals and two assists to hike her season point total to 27. Kristen McCarthy, skating on the other wing with Woods and Nearis, had a pair of assists. The Panthers’ top unit has combined for 34 goals and 76 points in the first five games of 2013-14.
Beverly’s second line got in on the scoring in the first Saturday night, too. Eighth grader Marlee Hamor stuffed home captain Rachel Trocchi’s rebound at 8:58 of the first and fellow captain Nicole Kamens also earned an assist.
Defensemen Anna Hayden and Rachel Spencer had helpers for the Panthers as well.
“For the most part we were really happy with the way we played,” said Seabury. “We jumped on them early and when you do that, you don’t want to start developing bad habits. We didn’t have much of a let down after the first.”
Once Woods scored in the opening 30 seconds of a period for the second time to make it 6-0, Marblehead found some legs. Emma Rose Winder’s power play goal with 5:13 left in the second broke up Beverly goalie Madison Jalbert’s shutout bid, though Nearis scored her last goal 50 seconds later to make it 7-1 after two.
The third period provided much more even play, with the Lady Headers outshooting the Panthers 9-7 in the final 15 minutes. Brooke Keough scored her team’s second goal with assists from Emma Brophy with Brittany Smith with 5:19 left. Sydney Cresta and Caroline Hughes had assists on Winder’s earlier tally.
“We finished stronger than we started,” said Hudak. “I think we saw that we need to have a physical presence out there and we can’t back down when the other team is playing physical.”
Jalbert made 16 saves, including eight of nine in the third period and six of seven in the second. The young goaltender warmed up to the action late in the game after being asked to make just two stops in the first when Beverly outshot their opponents 14-2.
“That was definitely a good thing for Madison,” said Seabury. “The more chances she sees, the better she’s going to be out there. She needs that kind of experience.”
Aly Hopkins made 20 saves in the cage for Marblehead, stopping 11 of 13 over the final two frames and all seven shots she saw in the third.