By Phil Stacey
BOSTON -- One of the happiest guys in an exuberant Beverly High locker room late last night was senior center Graham Doherty.
Not only did he bask in the glory of his team's first-ever state hockey championship, a 2-1 triumph over Medfield in the Division 2 title game, but he also felt good about playing his best playoff game at a time when his team needed him most.
"This is probably the last competitive hockey game I'll ever play," said Doherty, "so to go out and win it like we did, and to be able to contribute like I did, feels awesome."
Doherty was a presence all over the TD Garden ice last night..
Right off his first shift, Doherty set the tone for himself and his team. He skated with a purpose, drove hard into the Medfield end and was aggressive when it came to battling for pucks, especially in the neutral zone. He also had no problem laying out to block potential shots, of which he turned away three.
"First time out there Graham beats his guy wide and attacks their end. He set the tempo for his game right off the bat," said captain Connor Irving. "It was great to see because he had been struggling a bit the last two games and wasn't getting his shots. I'm really proud of him for playing through it, keeping after it, moving his feet and how he played tonight."
While Doherty didn't factor into the scoring, he didn't have to in order to make himself known. Every time No. 21 hopped over the boards last night, something positive seemed to happen for the Panthers.
"It's just a great way for us to finish our careers," said Doherty, who by an unofficial count won 12 of the 16 faceoffs he took last night. "We've wanted this for so long ... and now it's ours."
Beverly's four-man defensive corps of two-year captain Matt Hamor, fellow captain Sean Munzing, senior Jack Morency and junior Nick Albano were also immense in keeping Medfield both off the scoreboard and away from goaltender Tim Birarelli.
"It was just about playing our game, chipping the puck out, and trying to generate offense from our defense," said Munzing.
"They had a lot of speed and came at us pretty good," added Hamor, "but we just had to stick with what we do well. There was no panic."
As seniors, Hamor, Munzing and Morency definitely played their last games for the Orange-and-Black last night. It's very likely that Albano did, too; an outstanding lacrosse player, he might be transferring out to prep school and repeating his junior year.
"It's a great way to go out," said Morency. "To be able to play at the Garden and win the program's first state title, it doesn't get any better."
Munzing had perhaps the best line of the quartet.
"I may have finished my career without a goal," chuckled Munzing, who had 16 career assists, "but I'll take a state title any day."
Medfield bench boss Toby Carlow said his team was able to hit a couple of long home run passes up the boards in the first period, leading to mini-breakaways on Birarelli, but that the Panthers adjusted over the final two stanzas.
"They did a better job (of) not leaving that weak side open," said the Warriors' coach. "They're a strong side forechecking team and we knew from watching some stuff (on them) they'd sometimes have three guys on one side, leaving some of the ice (open) and we could have a wide lane.
"But they're a well-coached team and picked up on what (they were doing), so they moved one guy to the other side of the ice to cut off that pass. And even if we did make the pass, they'd backcheck hard and we couldn't get away for a shot."
As a former Beverly High standout on defense (Class of 1972) who played at the old Boston Garden for his alma mater, Gilligan felt immense pride in bringing the Garden City its first state hockey championship.
"What's so important about this," said the 60-year-old Gilligan, "is that it brings the community together. I've gotten more phone calls the last 2-3 days than I can ever remember.
"A lot of little kids come out to the games; they see these guys and to them, they're like the Bruins. I tell my team, 'You're going to remember this the rest of your lives.'
Leave it to MacLaughlin, the always-happy, always-smiling junior winger, to deliver the final shot on his team's championship season.
"Team Flow had it going," he laughed.