By Matt Williams
---- — SALEM — The first three times Beverly took the lead Sunday morning, Marblehead junior captain Brittany Smith scored to even things up.
At the end of the game, the Panthers made sure she didn’t have time to do it again.
Beverly junior Nicole Woods scored twice in the final minute, netting the winner with 31 seconds to go and another with 10 seconds left as the Panthers remained unbeaten on the season with a 5-3 win over Marblehead at Salem State’s Rockett Arena.
Woods had a hat trick plus an assist for the game, with linemates Anna O’Neill (two goals, assist) and Livvy Konaxis (three assists) doing all the scoring for the Panthers (6-0).
“It’s easy to see that they’re our go-to line. They cycle the puck well and they’re dangerous offensively,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “When we went to them in that last minute, they did the job.”
Marblehead (3-4) trailed 2-1 to start the third period. Junior captains Rachel McKay and Smith connected as McKay’s outlet pass went through two Beverly skaters and Smith turned it into a breakaway and the equalizer with 10:36 to play.
The Panthers re-took the lead on an unassisted backhand by O’Neill with 4:35 to go. Marblehead went on the power play 17 seconds later, however, and Smith made them pay again with a wrist shot from the top of the umbrella that made it 3-3 with just 3:28 left in the game.
“We’ve been a third period team all year and it was within our grasp heading into the third,” said Marblehead coach Emily Hudak, whose team had a flurry after the tying goal that was snuffed out by Beverly goalie Ami Thompson (13 saves).
“We worked to get it to 3-3 and I’m thinking we’ll be able to bang one home, but we didn’t and then Beverly got the goal, which was a deflation.”
Lady Header goalie Sabrina Doughman (19 saves) made a toe-save on O’Neill that kept it 3-3 with a minute to go. Konaxis tracked the puck down behind the net, though, and found Woods uncovered in the slot. Beverly’s top wing didn’t miss with the winning goal.
“We didn’t play our best and it would’ve been easy to say it wasn’t our day after they tied it,” said Seabury. “But the bottom line is we won and it’s a good learning experience to show us we need to compete each day.”
Both teams were crisp at times and disciplined within their systems in an entertaining contest that went nearly 10 minutes without a whistle in the first. O’Neill got the scoring started with 6:10 to go in the first and Beverly led 1-0 after one.
Smith then tied it midway through the second when she wheeled around the cage until Thompson was screened, then shot the puck into the net.
“Brittany’s a huge asset and you can tell when she’s out there she dictates the play,” Hudak said. “She always has her head up and if she has a lane she’s going to take it. We’re trying to use her in all areas.”
Beverly generally controlled the first two periods with solid play from defensemen Katie Szela and Caitlin McBride. Doughman robbed Kristen McCarthy for one of her better saves and defenseman Annie DeConto saved a goal with an alert play in the first.
The Lady Headers took over in the third with eight of their 16 shots coming in the final 15 minutes. Rachel McKay and Halle McKay each earned one assist on Smith’s goals. Beverly got the better of the last shift, however, winning their sixth straight while Marblehead dropped its third game in a row.
“We have to make sure we’re playing the first and second periods like we played in the third,” said Hudak.