By Phil Stacey
---- — SALEM — A lot of his teammates call him ‘Dort’. His goaltender, sophomore Tim Biarelli, prefers the moniker ‘Lorty.’
Whatever you prefer, make sure you also call Graham Doherty a sniper with a hockey stick in his hands.
“I had been hitting a lot of posts and missing the net lately. But tonight it felt like everything fell my way,” said Doherty, a junior center who scored a career high four goals as he and his Beverly High Panthers downed Marblehead, 5-1, in the regular season finale for both teams before a large crowd at the Rockett Arena.
In a battle of 17-win teams, Doherty and the Panthers made the most of the chances they were presented with. He scored the first of his four tallies just 28 seconds into the game; then, with just 1.2 seconds to go in the first period, he crammed home a pass from Andrew Irving to give the Orange-and-Black a 2-0 advantage.
“Two cardinal sins in hockey are to give up a goal in the first minute of a period, and to give up a goal in the last minute of a period,” said Marblehead coach Bobby Jackson.
Doherty completed his trick just 2:35 into the second period, re-directing a Connor Irving touch pass past Headers goaltender Harrison Young (20 saves) near side and a 3-0 Beverly lead.
“Graham’s got good hands and sense around the net. He gets the puck out of our end well, dishes it off and can bury it when he has the chance,” said Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan. “He’s a talented kid.”
Even when Marblehead (which outshot Beverly, 26-25) sliced its deficit on an Erik Powers strike 56 seconds into the final stanza, Doherty again came up with a huge goal. His 21st of the season came after two Header defensemen collided in their own zone, causing the puck to squirt free. Doherty pounced and fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Young cleanly up top.
“A lot of things didn’t go our way,” Headers first line center Ian Maag said. “Beverly’s fast, they’ve got the depth and are one of the best teams we play.”
As important as those four scores from Doherty were, the work of Biarelli in the Beverly goal was just as vital to the win. He was under heavy pressure for most of the first period, turning aside great bids from the speedy Trip Franzese as well as scoring force Tom Koopman crashing the net. Never flustered, Biarelli made a multitude of big saves; of the Headers’ 26 shots, 16 were prime scoring opportunities out front or in the slot.
“It gives you a sense of comfort when you’ve got a guy like this scoring four goals for you,” Biarelli said, nodding to Doherty next to him.
“We said before we headed out of the locker room before the game began that we were going to play this like it was a playoff game. We weren’t going to let up.”
Ryan Santo scored Beverly’s final goal; the junior right wing tipped defenseman Nick Albano’s shot from the left point inside the far post for his 7th goal of the season with 6:14 to play.
After losing their first game of the season Monday in Peabody, the Panthers (18-1-1) rebounded with three straight wins and will be the No. 1 seed when the Division 2 North playoff pairings are released today.
“It would’ve been nice to go undefeated,” said Doherty, “but that (loss) put things in perspective for us. The second season starts now; we’ve been expecting to do well in the playoffs ever since last summer’s workouts.”
Always looking for areas in which his team can improve, Gilligan wants to see his team play with more urgency as far as the physical side of the game; it took Beverly a period or so to get adjusted to Marblehead’s bodychecking.
“This was a good wakeup call for us,” said Gilligan. “It’s been a long week for us, tiring both mentally and physically for the boys. But now it’s (playoff time); we’ve got to be ready from the get-go every time out.”
Much like the Panthers learned a few things about themselves after their loss to Peabody, Maag feels his Headers could benefit the same way from last night’s contest as they head into the Division 3 North state tournament as the No. 2 seed, looking for their second state championship in three seasons.
“How we react is huge,” said the senior captain. “It cleanses things for us; gets the loss out of our system. You’ve got to have a short term memory about these things and just come back a better team because of it.”
Jackson talked about his team staying focused on what was happening on the ice at all times, for his players to be more cognizant of staying square to the puck in a shooting position when the opportunity presents itself, and to play with confidence no matter who their opponent is.
“We’ll find out how we bounce back,” he said. “The last time we lost to Beverly (4-1 on Dec. 27), we won (7) games in a row (and 11 of 12). So we’ll see.”