By Phil Stacey
---- — SALEM — State tournament games can run the gamut of emotions, ranging from unpredictable upsets to spectacular last-second finishes.
But rarely, if ever, are they lacking in suspense or intrigue.
Last night proved to be the exception.
Leaving little doubt as to what the final outcome would be, the Danvers High hockey team scored twice on its first four shots and completely dominated in every facet of the contest, rolling to a 9-1 victory over Somerville in a Division 2 North first round playoff game at Rockett Arena.
“We had a good win over Triton (in their last regular season game) and some really good practices leading up to this game,” said senior left wing A.J. Couto, who finished with a team-high three goals and five points last night. He also had a plus-minus of a staggering plus-6 for the game, and now leads the team in both goals (21) and total points (30).
Finishing with 47 shots on goal while allowing just eight, eighth-seeded Danvers (11-6-4) scored four times in the first period and added their fifth goal just 17 seconds into the second period, chasing Somerville goalie Sergey Markelov from the game. They added two more goals in the middle frame and two more over the final 15 minutes to set team records for most goals in a postseason game and largest margin of victory in the playoffs.
Now, the Falcons get what they hoped for when the playoff seedings were released: a third matchup this season with top-seeded Beverly (18-1-1) Friday at O’Brien Rink in Woburn (6 p.m.). Danvers, which lost a pair of games to their NEC North rivals in the regular season (3-0 and 4-2), have never met the Panthers before in the postseason.
In addition to Couto’s monster night, fellow Black Line members Rob Buchanan (2 goals, 2 assists) and captain Joe Strangie (4 assists) both finished plus-5 on the night, as did sophomore defenseman Mike Disciullo.
Captain Kevin Hodgkins bagged his first goal of the season with what proved to be the game-winning goal, snapping a shot from the near circle that seemed to catch Markelov by surprise as it sailed over his glove 2:10 into the first period.
Sophomore Sean Lundergan added his first career goal for the Falcons — and it was a beauty. A shorthanded tally, he broke in 2-on-1 with teammate Kyle Cahill on Highlanders’ backup goalie Tim Megnia, took a pass from Cahill in the right slot and ripped a high backhand in the opposite corner of the net, giving Danvers a 7-1 lead late in the second period.
“Our focus leading up to the game was important. Credit the kids for being ready,” said Danvers head coach Kevin Brown.
Center Adam Merry, a senior, added two goals for the winners while Matt Flynn had two assists and Kevin Anderson, Jon Milne, Trevor Daly, Jay Calcagno and Cahill each had one. Alex Taylor stopped seven shots for his 11th win in goal.
Now it’s a Friday night matchup with their biggest hockey rivals from neighboring Beverly.
“We’ll be ready,” said Buchanan, whose traditional playoff mohawk was done by teammate Alec Littlefield (Couto’s, which had an arrow shaved into the top of it, was done by Strangie). “We like playing as the underdogs.”
“We’ve never beaten Beverly since I’ve been here,” noted Couto, “so to do it in the tourney would be even better.”
“Beverly’s the favorites and they deserve to be. They’ve dominated all season long,” added Brown. “But it’s a chance for our guys to step up. When you face the top dog, it’s a great opportunity.”
agateHed:Danvers 9, Somerville 1
agateText:Division 2 North first round
at Rockett Arena, Salem State
agate_line3Periods:Somerville@SportsLocalAgate:agate_line3Periods:: 1 0 0 — 1
agate_line3Periods:Danvers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_line3Periods:: 4 3 2 — 9
agateText:First period@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: D, A.J. Couto (un), :53; D, Kevin Hodgkins (Kevin Anderson, Jon Milne), 2:10; D, Couto (Trevor Daly, Joe Strangie), 9:04; S, Dan Matthews (un), 9:51; D, Rob Buchanan (Strangie, Couto), 10:42.
agateText:Second Period@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: D, Couto (Strangie, Buchanan), :17; D, Adam Merry (Matt Flynn, Buchanan), 2:53; D, Sean Lundergan (Kyle Cahill), shg, 5:48.
agateText:Third Period@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: D, Buchanan (Strangie, Couto), 2:39; D, Merry (Flynn, Jay Calcagno), 5:50.
agateText:Saves@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: S, Sergey Markelov 18, Tim Megnia 16, Taylor Sutherland-West 4; D, Alex Taylor 7.
agateText:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agateText:: D, 11-6-4; S, 10-7-4.