, Salem, MA


March 17, 2014

On Hockey: When Beverly needed him, Birarelli was the strongest

BOSTON — The rather large, somewhat intimidating fisherman on top of Beverly goaltender Tim Birarelli's mask shows you that the ocean is in his blood.

The seaman's son knows how important a steady landmark is in stormy waters.

With the Medfield hockey team swarming all around him in the Division 2 state final last night, Birarelli was that bouy.

The calmest man on the ice played with nerves as cold as the water at West Beach on New Year's Day and Beverly made history with its first state ice hockey championship, beating Medfield 2-1 at TD Garden.

Birarelli made 25 saves in all, and held the fort in front of the Beverly net during some tense action in the latter half of the third period. The Warriors (18-4-3) were desperate for the tying goal, and the Panther goalie played like a man who was not desperate at all in making difficult saves look easy.

"I don't want to say its simple, because I work really hard at it, but I focus on being calm at all times," said Birarelli, the first and only goalie to backstop Beverly to a state hockey title. "If you're not calm, you arms lock up and you can't react."

Beverly brought what felt like most of its city to the Garden last night, filling an entire half of the lower bowl with black-and-orange. It's a safe bet that tons of those noisy fans were wearing orange bracelets that say, "Birarelli Strong" in honor of the goalie's father, Joe, who is battling cancer.

"It makes you feel like there's a piece of you with everyone. It's cool to see how much people care about you, and Beverly's such a good community when it comes to that," said Birarelli. "I'm pretty good at keeping it upbeat."

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