, Salem, MA


March 11, 2014

Celly Hard: Beverly wipes out Tewskbury to claim first D2 North title (With photo slideshow)

LOWELL — The Garden City is getting ready for a Garden Party.

The Beverly High hockey team used a dominant second period to blitz Tewksbury, 9-1, at Tsongas Center yesterday. The Panthers seized the program’s first Division 2 North title and a earned a spot in the Division 2 state final Sunday at TD Garden in a championship game that was anything but garden variety.

Top-seeded Beverly (21-1-1) scored the last nine goals of the game to dispatch the No. 3 Redmen (17-4-2). Senior captain Connor Irving had four goals and one assist, Ryan Santo handed out four helpers and nine Beverly skaters had at least one point.

The Panthers will face Division 2 South champion Medfield Sunday at the Garden (time TBA) for the state championship.

The Northeastern Conference champs had endured early playoff exits the last two years, and skating off the Tsongas ice with the Division 2 North trophy gave them a feeling of vindication.

“We were so close, but so far away those last two years. It just seemed like anything we did wasn’t good enough,” said Irving. “This year we’re doing it. It feels great.”

For the third time in as many postseason games, Beverly trailed 1-0. Tewskbury’s lead lasted 58 seconds, and once the Panthers got going they never took their collective skates off the gas pedal.

“This feels awesome,” said senior defenseman Matt Hamor, a two-year captain. “This is our last chance to do it and we’ve been leaving it all on the ice.”

Jake Straw erased Tewksbury’s lead, and 170 seconds after that Jesse MacLaughlin buried the game-winner on a slick cross-ice feed from Irving.

Then with seconds left in the first, Santo knocked down a loose puck at center ice and sent Irving in all alone on Tewksbury goalie Kyle Paquette. The gifted centerman finished for a stunning 3-1 lead after the first 15 minutes.

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