BOSTON — Beverly High captain Connor Irving made a habit of handing out assists over the course of his record shattering career at Beverly High.
The senior had a run of goals in the playoffs, eight in all — including the game-winner in Sunday’s state final at TD Garden, a 2-1 triumph over Medfield. The actual assist on the winning goal came from defenseman Nick Albano, but Irving gave a symbolic assist to one of the Garden City’s most inspirational figures.
Pete Frates, the former St. John’s Prep and Boston College baseball star who is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neighbor of Beverly head coach Bobby Gilligan in the Centerville section of the city. Frates gave a motivational speech to the Panthers last winter and handed each member of this year’s team a red ‘Strike Out ALS’ shirt before the state final.
Irving is known in North Shore hockey circles for the turtleneck undershirt he usually wears under his shoulder pads, but in this case he made an exception.
“It was pretty hot at the Garden, so before the third period I lost the Under Armour and put Pete’s shirt on,” Irving said. “Then in the third period I scored the goal. Pete has to get some of the credit.”
Frates made the journey to TD Garden to watch his hometown Panthers win their first state title in person, watching from his wheelchair on the right of the Panthers’ bench. Beverly’s players made sure they pointed the state championship trophy in his direction when they took their victory lap around the Garden ice.
“It means a lot to us that he came in person,” said goalie Tim Birarelli. “It’s pretty amazing what he’s going through. He might be tired for a week after this, but he wanted to be here for us.”