By Matt Williams
---- — WOBURN — They came to earn a spot in the Division 1 state semifinals. The respect the Beverly girls hockey team earned by sticking with defending state champion Arlington Catholic last night is a consolation prize, as the Panthers saw the best season in the program’s brief history end with a 4-0 loss in the Division 1 quarters at O’Brien Rink.
The Cougars (16-4-2) were too deep, too fast and too disciplined in the defensive zone. They limited Beverly to 13 shots as the Panthers were shutout for just the second time all season.
“The loss doesn’t define us, and getting to this stage will make our program better. We’ll grow,” said Panthers coach Brian Seabury. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the girls as a whole, to win the league championship and win 17 games, we’re going in the right direction.”
Beverly (17-3-2) came in as the No. 2 seed, but had something to prove against the defending champs and a team from the vaunted Catholic Central League. The Black-and-Orange equated themselves well in the opening period, but fell behind when Jackie Sindoris buried a rebound at 8:06.
The backbreaker came in the second, when Jessica Piracini got behind the Beverly defense and scored on a breakaway to make it 2-0.
“That second goal is always important. When you’re down 1-0, you’re usually feeling like you have some life, and when you go down 2-0, there tends to be a let down,” said AC coach Maggie Taverna, whose team faces Westford Academy in the semis on Sunday.
That let down hit Beverly throughout the second, a period in which they were outshot 10-1. The Cougars cashed in on their third power play chance of the frame when Duggan Delano lifted a rebound over the outstretched glove of Panther goalie Ami Thompson.
The 3-0 hole proved far too much for Beverly to overcome.
“We played fairly well but we kind of ran into a buzzsaw,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “They were quick and they beat us to a lot of pucks. We really put ourselves behind the 8-ball by taking all those penalties in the second.”
After a successful penalty kill to begin the third, junior Nicole Woods got behind the AC defense for one of Beverly’s best scoring chances. Her shot was saved by AC goalie Meghan Messuri, who is now 7-0 in state tournament games.
Woods’ bid was one of precious few clean shots for the Panthers. Too many were deflected by AC defenders, who used strong backchecking and precise stick work to take away odd-man rushes even as Beverly left a skater high in the neutral zone in the second half of the game.
“We teach the girls to play the person instead of the puck. Shots are going to get through, but if you lift the stick and there’s no second chance, we’ll cover the rebound,” said Taverna. “They came in ranked No. 2 (in the seedings) and we knew we had to play well. They have some very good players.”
Freshman Anna O’Neill had a few good scoring chances for Beverly, including a backhander that squirted wide when it was still 1-0. Senior Livvy Konaxis used her speed to create a couple of opportunities that were snuffed out by AC’s defense.
“That’s a team that’s very strong on the inside, very strong defensively and on their checks,” said Seabury.
Delano popped in AC’s fourth goal with 1:02 remaining as the Panthers couldn’t clear the crease with heavy legs.
The Panthers return three of their four defenseman and five of the top six forwards, but say bittersweet goodbyes to captains Konaxis and defenseman Katie Szela, as well as goaltender Thompson (21 saves) and forward Jess Fanning.
“I haven’t been around for all four of their years, but I know the program owes the seniors a lot of gratitude,” said Seabury. “They’re the main reasons we’ve had this kind of positive progress and we’re going to miss them.”
agateHed:Arlington Catholic 4, Beverly 0
Division 1 quarterfinals
agate_boldCentered:at O’Brien Rink, Woburn
agate_lineQuarters:Arlington Catholic@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: 1 2 1 — 4
agate_lineQuarters:Beverly@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: .....................0 0 0 — 0
agate_lineQuarters:First period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: AC, Jackie Sindoris (Duggan Delano, Kathleen McLaughlin), 8:06
agate_lineQuarters:Second Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: AC, Jessica Piracini (un), 5:05; AC, Delano (Adrieanna Rossini), ppg, 12:19
agate_lineQuarters:Third Period@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: AC, Delano (Rossini, McLaughlin), 13:58
agate_lineQuarters:Saves@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: AC, Megan Messuri 13; B, Ami Thompson 21
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: AC, 16-4-2; B, 17-3-2