SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 19, 2014

The Blue Line Report: Putting the season on ice

Picking out the best of the best from the 2013-14 North Shore high school hockey season

Blue Line Report
Phil Stacey

---- — Practices officially began four days after Thanksgiving, and the season finally ended mere hours before St. Patrick’s Day began.

Over the course of those 106 days the North Shore had a state champion crowned, one player join his school’s 100-Point Club while another set his program’s all-time scoring record, a scintillating playoff shootout, and the usual slapshots, snapshots, shutouts and showstopping performances.

So let’s get to it, the best of the best from North Shore high school hockey in 2013-14:

STACEY’S SUPER SIX

(aka The Salem News Dream Team)

LW — Tom Koopman, Marblehead. Powerful yet graceful with a strong net drive and even stronger leadership abilities, the eldest of the Headers’ three Koopman brothers was the squad’s offensive rock. Think a schoolboy version of Milan Lucic, and you’ve got a perfect picture of what Koopman meant to his team.

C — Connor Irving, Beverly. Has another player of his stature (5-foot-6) ever played so big in area hockey history? Led team in scoring for the third straight season and finished four points shy of 200 for his career and led the Panthers to their first-ever state title. Had area-high five game-winning goals. Two-time member of the Super Six.

RW — Jimmy Currier, St. John’s Prep. Would run neck-and-neck with Irving as the area’s best passer. Smart skater and left-shot stickhandler was frighteningly good at coming up the off-wing boards, curling to the middle and either firing a shot on goal or delivering a perfect drop pass.

D — Nick Albano, Beverly. Had one of the best offensive seasons by a blueliner in North Shore history, averaging nearly two points per game. Led the area in assists (37) and was second in points (45) behind Irving. Junior had nine assists in four playoff games, including five in a 5-1 win over Lincoln-Sudbury. Two-time Super Six honoree.

D — Liam Gillis, Marblehead. Steady as they come with an offensive flair and some snarl to his game. Played more minutes than any other player on the team and hopped over the boards in all situations: power play, man down, final minute of the game, etc. Second among local defenseman in scoring (25 points).

G — Tim Birarelli, Beverly. Best season of all-time (20-1-1, 1.26 goals-against average, .929 save percentage, 5 shutouts) while leading Panthers to Division 2 crown. Allowed just four goals in four playoff games, totalling 192 minutes. Junior holds career records for wins, shutouts, GAA and save percentage. Another two-time Super Six recipient.

ALL-SENIOR TEAM

F — Tom Koopman, Marblehead

F — Connor Irving, Beverly

F — Jimmy Currier, St. John’s Prep

D — Tyler Costello, Masconomet

D — Liam Gillis, Marblehead

G — Mitch Nekoroski, Masconomet

ALL-JUNIOR TEAM

F — Joe Griffin, Masconomet

F — Mike Castro, Masconomet

F — Nick Latham, St. John’s Prep

D — Nick Albano, Beverly

D — Stephen Ganley, Danvers

G — Tim Birarelli, Beverly

ALL-SOPHOMORE TEAM

F — Tim Kalinowski, Marblehead

F — Matt Koopman, Marblehead

F — Kyle Lynch, St. John’s Prep

D — Kyle Koopman, Marblehead

D — Matt Pino, Peabody

G — Freddy Robitaille, Peabody

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

F — Mike Johnson, Swampscott

F — Ryan Donnelly, Swampscott

F — Braden Haley, Marblehead

D — Greg McGunigle, Bishop Fenwick

D — Alex Delvento, Marblehead

G — Zach Laramie, St. John’s Prep

ULTIMATE SALEM NEWS TEAM

(based on the actual positions and lines that players were on for their teams)

1st LINE: Tom Koopman (Marblehead Sr. LW)-Connor Irving (Beverly Sr. C)-Jimmy Currier (St. John’s Prep Sr. RW)

2nd LINE: Erik Powers (Marblehead Sr. LW)-Graham Doherty (Beverly Sr. C)-Tim Kalinowski (Marblehead Soph. RW)

3rd LINE: J.J. Bachini (Beverly Sr. LW)-Kevin Lally (Beverly Sr. C)-Jake Straw (Beverly Sr. RW)

4th LINE: Ross Wahl (Beverly Soph. LW)-Colby Shepard (Marblehead Sr. C)-Mike Dooley (Masconomet Sr. RW)

1st DEFENSE: Nick Albano (Beverly Jr.)-Liam Gillis (Marblehead Sr.)

2nd DEFENSE: Kyle Koopman (Marblehead Soph.)-Ty Costello (Masconomet Sr.)

3rd DEFENSE: Patrick McCarthy (Peabody Soph.)-Trevor Gelineau (Marblehead Sr.)

STARTING GOALIE: Tim Birarelli (Beverly Jr.)

A DOZEN OTHER PLAYERS I’D TAKE ON MY TEAM ANY DAY ...

Matt Hamor, Beverly Sr. D: Bearded blue liner was a defensive rock but found his offensive game in Panthers’ run to state title.

Mitch Nekoroski, Masconomet Sr. G: Came virtually out of nowhere to backbone an excellent Chieftains’ defense and share of Cape Ann League title.

Matty Flynn, Danvers: Used every ounce of ability God gave him whenever you put his blades on the ice. All heart and tough as a Chara slapshot.

Brett Harring, Salem: No one deserved a taste of the postseason more than this four-year starter for the Witches (which thankfully, he received).

Owen Piccariello, Marblehead Soph. C: After a fine 10th grade season, could see his numbers as a junior take a huge leap forward.

Reed Foster, Peabody: Seems to thrive taking punishment in front of other team’s net in order to jam home another goal.

Mark Etherington, St. John’s Prep Sr. C: Bided his time with Eagles — and when it came this winter, he delivered big time.

Jared Brann, Masconomet Sr. C: Loved his game in all three zones, particularly neutral ice and how dogged he was in his own end.

Ryan Santo, Beverly Sr. LW: Not flashy or explosive, but steady as they come. Perfect fit on Beverly’s first line with the mercurial Irving.

Alex Taylor, Danvers Jr. G: The definition of a goaltender who plays big in the biggest games, ‘AT’ constantly proves detractors wrong.

Sam Petri, Salem Jr. F: Sneaky good at many offensive aspects of the game had a penchant for coming up big when Salem needed him most.

Nick Finan, Bishop Fenwick Sr. RW: Skilled player saddled on a very green team who played with poise and maturity, never once complaining.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Braden Haley, Marblehead Fr. RW: Playing with two ultra-gifted talents like brothers Tom and Matt Koopman certainly helped, but Haley earned his spot on the Headers’ top line early on with his nose for the net (11 goals, 15 assists) and terrific skating. Great up playing with Matt Koopman and their on-ice chemistry was obvious.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

J.J. Bachini, Beverly Sr. LW. Entered his final season of high school hockey with three career points and sextupled that in his final 24 games by scoring 18 points, including a half-dozen goals. Terrific forechecker was always defensively responsible and added a goal and two helpers in the playoffs.

BREAKOUT STARS FOR 2014-15

Aaron McDonnell, Peabody G

Jake Giacchino, Masconomet D

P.J. Roy, Marblehead D

Teddy McNamara, St. John’s Prep LW

Vitaly Knowles, Masconomet LW

Ross Wahl, Beverly LW

J.T. Eason, Peabody LW

Tyler Cloutman, Beverly C

Sean Lundergan, Danvers C

Bobby Caproni, Peabody C

Kyle Lynch, St. John’s Prep RW

Robert Tibbetts, Danvers RW

FIVE PREDICTIONS FOR NEXT SEASON

1. St. John’s Prep returns to the Super 8 next winter.

2. Swampscott not only returns to the playoffs, but is one of the top seeds in Division 3 North.

3. Alex Taylor makes a run at Player of the Year honors in the Northeastern Conference.

4. Beverly’s Brenden Boyle blasts at least three ‘how did he score from that angle?’ goals while nearly putting the puck through the netting.

5. Donny Shaw has a healthy — and monster — season on Peabody’s defense.

---

The Blue Line Report, a column on North Shore high school hockey, appears each Wednesday during the winter sports season. Contact sports editor Phil Stacey at pstacey@salemnews.com or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.