By Matt Williams
---- — SALEM — The take away open space, in-your-face brand of hockey that Winthrop plays so well makes any game against the Vikings less about skill and more about energy.
Last night at Rockett Arena, the energy guys came through in spades for Beverly.
Graham Doherty’s power play goal with 9:12 to play was the winner and sophomore Ross Wahl had his first career goal as the Panthers ran their unbeaten start to the season to 10 games with a 2-0 win over the visiting Vikings.
Beverly (9-0-1, 5-0 Northeastern Conference North) limited Winthrop (4-4, 3-2 NEC) to 14 shots on goal as junior goalie Tim Birarelli collected his fourth shutout. The low shot total was a credit to defensemen Matt Hamor, Nick Albano, Jack Morency and Sean Munzing, who took the body and, in doing so, forced what could have been a few solid Winthrop chances to sail wide of the cage.
“We played better today than we have in the last few games. We had energy and jump at both ends of the rink,” said Panthers head coach Bob Gilligan. “Our defense was very strong. They stepped in to take away clean breaks and they took the body.”
The penalty killers were hugely important for Beverly, which had to kill three man advantages in the final 5:58 of the second period. The Panthers also had to kill two Winthrop power plays while ahead by a goal late in the third.
Employing two pairs of forwards (captain Connor Irving with Ryan Santo and Kevin Lally alongside Jake Straw), with the defense, the Orange-and-Black did the job.
“Winthrop had an umbrella (setup on the power play), which we don’t see too much. We really just want to block the point and try to clear it out,” said Lally. “As soon as you can get a stick on the puck, you just whack it out.”
The PK helped Beverly keep it 0-0 after with two, with Birarelli collecting nine of his saves in the middle stanza.
“Those are our energy kids. Winthrop was really only able to set up once. We didn’t ever let them get comfortable or get a flow to it,” said Gilligan. “A kid like Lally just goes and goes, and he’ll frustrate you as an opponent.”
The Panthers took advantage of their first power play chance in the third. Hamor (2 assists) passed to Albano along the blue line, and his partner’s shot landed at the pad of Winthrop goalie Ray Feeley (15 saves). Doherty was there and took two shots before the puck popped over Feeley’s leg for the game-winning goal.
“A lot of kids put their nose in and did those dirty things we needed tonight. Graham was one of them,” said Gilligan.
Beverly killed a penalty with 8:28 to go, then was in the midst of another with 5:19 left. Winthrop took a penalty to make it 4-on-4, and on the ensuing offensive zone draw the Panthers scored once again as Lally won it back to Hamor, whose drive was tipped in by Wahl for his first career marker.
“It was a huge win for us against a really good team, a conference rival,” said Lally. “It’s pretty tough to get the puck in deep against their trap, and every line contributed. Everyone was fresh because we were able to roll lines 1-2-3, 1-2-3.”
Irving, the North Shore’s leading scorer, had a pair of breakaways snuffed out by Feeley, who made a glove save on one in the second and a pad save on the other shorthanded in the third.
Winthrop’s Chris Page had his team’s best scoring chance, which Birarelli took away on the pad side.