, Salem, MA


March 2, 2013

Couto's last-second tally helps Danvers oust top-seeded Beverly (With Photo Slideshow)

WOBURN — Thirty-eight times over the last 59 years has the Danvers High hockey team tasted victory in the postseason.

Few, if any, of those wins ever felt as satisfying, well-earned and utterly remarkable as last night’s historic triumph.

Huge underdogs against a Beverly team it had not defeated in almost four years, the Falcons got a goal from senior left wing A.J. Couto with 11 seconds to play last night to stun the top-seeded Panthers, 4-3, before a jam-packed house at the O’Brien Rink.

Couto, who finished with a hat trick for the second straight playoff game, grabbed the puck off the back boards after a Kevin Anderson shot attempt, fired a shot of his own at a bad angle and watched as it went off the back skate of Beverly goaltender Tim Biarelli and into the net.

When the final buzzer sounded and the Blue-and-White pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the North Shore winter sports season, the Falcons piled onto sophomore goaltender Alex Taylor (22 saves) as celebrated along the far boards near their fan base as if they had won the state championship.

“It’s just an amazing feeling,” said Couto, who bagged his 22nd, 23rd and 24th goals of the season last night. He has eight points in two playoff games thus far for the eighth-seeded Falcons (12-6-4).

“I saw go off (Biarelli’s) skate ... I didn’t have much of an angle, but I just threw it on net to see what would happen.”

Danvers, which was shut out for five straight periods by the Panthers this season before netting two third period goals in their last meeting, scored within the first minute of both the first and second periods (with Couto scoring both). The Falcons led 2-1 after one period and never buckled after watching a 3-1 advantage in the second period disappear, thanks to a pair of pretty goals from Beverly third liner Nate MacLaughlin.

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