By Phil Stacey
---- — SALEM — Giving the explosive Beverly High hockey team multiple opportunities on the power play is like leaving the door open to a butchery when a pack of starving dogs live next door.
“They’re too good to be giving them man up chances like that,” said Peabody head coach Mark Leonard, whose team surrendered three power play tallies in a 6-0 loss to the unbeaten Panthers Saturday at the Rockett Arena.
Off to a torrid start this winter, Beverly (now 3-0) cruised to its third blowout win in as many games. The Panthers have scored 19 goals (coming off the sticks of 12 different players) while giving up just one goal, and have worn down their opponents, but physically and in spirit, with their relentless skating, depth and forechecking.
“We’re always looking to get better somehow,” said second line center Graham Doherty, 16, who scored his second and third goals of the young season Saturday, both with the man advantage. “Angling an opponent off, getting more shots on net ... whatever it is, we want to be better at it.”
If not for the acrobatics of senior captain Joe Powers (38 saves) in the Peabody goal, this would have been a rout much earlier. The Tanners’ big defensemen did a good job of keeping the Panthers outside of prime scoring areas for the first period, but the home team’s relentlessness and wave after wave of attackers eventually wore them down.
The Irving cousins, captains Andrew (1 goal, 3 assists) and Connor (2 goals, 2 assists) had their usual explosive games up front and have combined for seven goals and 15 assists in three games. Both of Connor Irving’s tallies were special teamers; the first on a 5-on-3 convert out front; the second on a beautiful shorthanded breakaway.
In addition to Doherty’s two tallies and one assist, freshman Hunter Spencer notched his first varsity goal and defenseman Nick Albano contributed a helper. Junior Bryce Mitchell, in his first start this winter, stopped all 19 shots he saw for the shutout.
“On my first goal Connor gave me a nice feed and I went up high (over Powers’ left shoulder) with a backhand,” said Doherty. “On the second Nick slid the puck to me and I just turned and shot. I got lucky.”
Peabody (0-2) has gone six periods without a goal this season; finding a way to generate offensive chances and capitalize on them will be paramount for the Tanners moving forward.
“We need to keep working on going to the net,” said Leonard. “We’re getting initial chances, but not second chances. We need to make those for ourselves. Two games and no goals ... that’s a big thing. We’ve got to fix that.”
Having won 13 straight regular season games dating back to last season,
“We know whoever we face, we need to stay physical and keep grinding,” said Beverly High sophomore Ryan Lally, a fixture up front who also forms a potent 1-2 punch with Doherty on the Panthers’ penalty kill. “We’re going to get every team’s best effort, so we need to always be grinding and cycling the puck.
“(Powers) really played well; he made a great high glove side on me in the first period that I thought was in. But we just kept at it. We have to stay composed, keep shooting ... and cause a lot of damage when we get power plays.”