SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 12, 2014

Beverly High hockey notebook: First Gillette, now the Garden for Morency

Beverly High Hockey Notebook
Phil Stacey and Matt Williams

---- — Jack Morency is well versed in Beverly High hockey history.

The four-year starter and senior defenseman has heard plenty of stories from his grandfather, Roger Morency, who captained the 1953 Panthers’ squad. His father John was a football/basketball/baseball star at BHS, but was head of Beverly Youth Hockey for a time and is certainly familiar with the history of hockey in his hometown.

But now it’s Jack’s turn to make some history of his own.

Having played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough during the Beverly football team’s 2012 unbeaten championship season, Morency will now achieve an ultra-rare double-double of also getting to play at the TD Garden in Boston Sunday afternoon while wearing the Orange-and-Black.

“It’s been my luck of the draw to play on two great teams like those,” said Morency, who will patrol the blue line for the Panthers Sunday when they meet Medfield High for the Division 2 state championship (time TBA). “Getting to play at the Garden ... there are no words to describe it.

“On that football team, we had a lot of seniors and juniors who took the lead in games and practices, and that really carried us. It’s the same mindset we have in hockey; there’s a lot of upperclassmen who’ve taken control: the captains, other seniors and juniors. It’s been a total team effort to get us to this point.”

Morency earned his first playoff point in Monday’s 9-1 shellacking of Tewksbury in the North final. He has two goals and seven assists on the season, but that’s only a small part of his game.

Generally regarded as the team’s best bodychecker, Morency is usually good for a couple of big open-ice pops per game or along the walls. Steady is the best way to describe his body of work on defense; he knows when to chip the puck out of his zone, how to use his body to get leverage and move opponents from the front of his team’s net, and when to pinch and take chances.

“Starting in front of this guy,” said Morency, clapping goaltender Tim Birarelli on the back, “on out, we stress playing solid defensively. We preach getting the puck from D-to-D up and out of the zone. We’ve really been focused on that.

“My grandfather always says, ‘Great job; tell the boys to keep it going.’ He and my grandmother (Mary) are really into it. There’s a lot of Beverly hockey tradition on this team; Connor (Irving), Matt (Hamor), there’s a lot of legacy guys on this team whose dads or grandfathers also played here.”

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Here’s what we know about the 18-3-3 Medfield Warriors in a nutshell:

The South champions have won four straight playoff games after dropping their regular season finale, 3-0, to Boston Latin. They defeated Quincy (6-2), Martha’s Vineyard (3-1), Oliver Ames (3-0) and finally, in the South title game, Canton (3-2).

Tying for the Tri-Valley League title with Westwood (each had 20 points), the Warriors have scored 94 goals and allowed 38 (Beverly is at 106 GF, 28 GA). Their three losses came against Medway (3-2), Canton (4-2) and the aforementioned setback against Boston Latin; they also tied Cumberland, R.I. (3-2), Medway (2-2) and Mansfield (3-3).

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Known first as an assist man, Connor Irving has been tearing it up on the goal ledger in the posteason. He has seven goals in three playoff games and eight total points. For the season, he stands at 23 goals, 30 assists and 53 points, and heading into the final game of his high school career he sits six points away from 200 points (73-121-194).

Defenseman Nick Albano, who had a goal and two assists in the win over Tewksbury, also has eight points in Beverly’s three playoff wins (1-7-8) and is second on the team in scoring with 43 points. Thanks to his four-point night Monday, senior wing Ryan Santo is next with five postseason points (all assists), while three players (Graham Doherty, Jesse MacLaughlin, J.J. Bachini) have three points each.

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Birarelli calls Santo “our unsung hero. He beats everyone to those 50/50 pucks so we get possession; his hand-eye coordination is through the roof, and he does whatever you ask him to all the time. He’s a great player.”

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The Panthers won 32 of 50 faceoffs against Tewksbury, and that 64 percent success rate undoubtedly helped them gain puck possession in all three zones and generate offense. Third line center Kevin Lally led the way, winning 10 of 13 draws, followed by Irving (11 of 19), Doherty (8 of 14), Clinton Cabral (2 of 3) and MacLaughlin (1 for 1).

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In all three playoff games their opponents have gotten an early jump on Beverly with first period goals — but one score is all the Panthers have allowed in those three games.

Beverly has not played from behind for long, however. In the first tourney game against Danvers, Irving tied it 29 seconds later. The against Lincoln-Sudbury, it took 4:01 for Brenden Boyle to erase the Warriors lead. In the North final, Tewskbury’s 1-0 lead was history in a matter of 58 seconds.

So while Beverly’s been behind in all three games, it’s been for a grand total of 5:28.

“If you don’t jump on us with a couple early,” said Birarelli, “well, once we get going, it’s pretty tough to stop us.”

In fact, this postseason the Panthers have held the lead for 74:40 and been tied for 68:42 in addition to their 5:28 of time behind. Interestinly, out of that 68:42 of time tied, 56:31 came in the first-round game against Danvers.

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Quick strikes have also become a habit for Beverly in the playoffs. Two goals within 15 seconds of each other were scored in the victory over Lincoln-Sudbury while there were also a pair of occasions in which they netted two goals withing 60 seconds of each other in the romp over Tewksbury.

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One place where the Panthers could possibly improve? On the power play, where the Orange-and-Black are just 1-for-10 in the playoffs. Taking special teams as a whole, however, Beverly is a perfect 11-for-11 on the penalty kill with a shorthanded goal for. Both special teams goals came in the previous playoff win over Tewksbury, meaning each of the eight goals scored in the first two postseason games were even strength.

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The ever-quotable MacLaughlin, on getting the chance to skate at the Garden four days from now: “It’s been in our dreams for two years now. We fell short last year, but now we’re right there. It’s a dream come true for the boys.”

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Athletic director James Coffey may have taken some flack in some circles when he chose the Panthers cream colored home sweaters. It cannot be denied, however, that those shirts have been good luck for Beverly this postseason. They’re 3-0 wearing the jerseys, which from this corner look pretty sweet.