SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

March 13, 2014

Secretaries of defense

Beverly foursome giving opponents the blues on the blue line

Minutes played isn’t a popularly tracked statistic in high school hockey. That makes it easy to overlook just how often defensemen are on the ice.

A game lasts 45 minutes, and there are two defensemen on the ice at any given time. If a team plays four D-men, that’s about 22:30 for each guy every night.

Looking at the number brings to life just how much is asked of these skaters. For some teams, it’s a challenge due to speed, strength, plain old talent and fatigue.

For the Division 2 North champion Beverly High Panthers, however, their foursome on defense serves as a bedrock foundation as they chase the program’s first outright state championship (against Medfield at TD Garden in Boston Sunday at 7:45 p.m.).

The Panthers have two regular pairs: senior captain Matt Hamor alongside junior dynamo Nick Albano, and hard-hitting senior Jack Morency flanking steady senior captain Sean Munzing.

All four rearguards have contributed to the varsity since they were freshmen. They’ve essentially been working together as a foursome since Albano’s emergence as a ninth grader allowed the team to move Andrew Irving to forward in 2011-12.

In that time, they’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses while perfecting the symbiotic relationship that develops between the best defensive partners.

“We love playing together. We compliment each other well,” said Hamor, a two-year captain. “Our approach is just to be the best defense we can be. We know we need to play from (junior goaltender) Timmy (Birarelli) on out and not to let anything by us.”

Offensive contributors

Statistically, it’s impossible to argue with the results. Beverly’s plus-78 goal differential (goals scored vs. goals allowed) is the best in Division 2 by a wide margin. It’s also third in the entire state behind Super 8 contender Springfield Cathedral (plus-95) and Division 3 club Shrewsbury (plus-94).

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