"We're not trying to give up 2-on-1's or 3-on-1's," said Irving. "But Timmy, he gives us so much confidence that when they happen, we know it's not going to be the end of the world."
It was hard to see the clock in the final minute and the noise in the building for the most tense game of Championship Sunday made it hard to hear the final horn. Nonetheless, Birarelli held his butterfly to keep Medfield's final scramble out of the cage.
"We tried to get to the net. They did a great job letting their goalie see the puck," said Medfield coach Toby Carlow. "He made some great saves, and he handled the rebounds."
Birarelli finished the season with a school record 20 wins in the Beverly cage. He made 339 saves and had five shutouts. The bigger the game, the better he played. He fed on big crowds, both friendly and hostile.
"Every minute was a joy to be a part of," Birarelli said. "I think if you have that mindset where you're playing for things, and yourself, you enjoy the game a lot more. I like the spotlight and I like to be making the big saves. I like doing it for everyone else."
Every great goaltender serves as his team's true North in turbulent times, and Birarelli certainly fits in that port. For him, after celebrating with his coaches and teammates last night, he knew he was playing for the man that's been his own personal buoy of strength.
"Especially my dad. If he can make the effort to come to my games, with what he's going through, I can make the effort to stop every puck I can," Birarelli said. "I just want to go over and give my dad a hug, and let him know that this was awesome."
Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.