One way or another, Beverly High School hockey history is going to be made tonight.
Either the Panthers will advance to the Division 2 state championship game for the first time in program history, or the team’s 10 seniors will end their careers one game short of their desired location.
On a season-long mission to claim the program’s first state title, top-seeded Beverly (20-1-1) will skate against No. 3 seed Tewksbury (17-3-2) at the Tsongas Center in Lowell (6 p.m.) for the Division 2 North crown. The winner advances to TD Garden in Boston Sunday, where they’ll meet Division 2 South champion Medfield.
“They play similar to us and have a really sound system. And we know they’re going to come out after us hard,” Beverly head coach Bobby Gilligan said about Tewksbury. “They’re well coached (former Redmen star Derek Doherty is the team’s head coach) and have had a lot of success in the playoffs. They got stronger as that (quarterfinal win over) Marblehead went on and really shut them down.
“We’re going to have to be really smart, be on our toes and play aggressively, but without taking (foolish) penalties. We have to beat them to the puck and do those little things that are so huge in tournament games.”
No Beverly High hockey team has ever won three postseason games in one season. Seven different BHS editions have done so twice (1967-70-72-77-78-2005-2011), and this year’s squad has no interest in being the eighth.
Additionally, this is the third time that the Panther icemen have been one game away from playing for a state title. The 1972 team lost to Arlington in the Division 1 state semifinals at the old Boston Garden, 3-2; five years, later, the 1977 squad fell in the same round at the same venue to mighty Matignon, 10-2.