The Orange-and-Black’s top line of Irving with Santo and Jesse MacLaughlin on his wings accounted for five goals and seven assists against the Redmen. Normally one to dish the puck off -- he does have BHS records of 121 assists and 194 points for his career -- it was Irving’s night to catch fire with the puck on his blade. He scored once on the power play, one shorthanded and had two 5-on-5 tallies, including a backbreaker with 3.4 seconds left in the first period that gave the Panthers a 3-1 lead that seemed like 13-1.
That one play seemed to signify Beverly’s night: MacLaughlin threw a pass across the sheet to Santo, who batted it down out of the air with his stick and, in one motion, flung a pass up to Irving for a breakaway goal just three-and-a-half ticks before the horn sounded.
“Connor, he’s usually like an apple tree,” said MacLaughlin, a junior who is hands down the Panthers’ most loquacious and quotable player, said, using the modern day slang term for assists. “But tonight he was ripping those ginos, and me and Ryan were getting the apples. Everything was clicking for us.”
Then the Panthers put their foot all the way down on the accelerator in the second, dictating the period from puck drop to the intermission whistle. Considering the circumstances, it may well have been the most thoroughly dominant 15 minutes of hockey ever played by a Beverly High hockey squad.
“Right from the first shift of that second period, we started taking it to them,” said Irving. “We were skating well, cycling the puck. We knew the first goal of the second period would be huge.”
Everyone, it seemed, got in on the fun. Winger J.J. Bachini and defenseman Nick Albano both had a goal and two assists while Graham Doherty dished out a pair of helpers. Defensive defenseman Matt Hamor, a two-year senior captain, snapped home his second goal of the season by using a Tewksbury defenseman as a screen to rifle a shot home from inside the right circle. Another defenseman, captain Sean Munzing, played his usual you’re-not-getting-one-past-MY-goalie game, locking down any Redmen who came within his radius.