SALEM — The Beverly High hockey team has loftier goals this winter than a conference win in December. Nevertheless, the Panthers will take some time to enjoy a 7-0 victory over Saugus at the Rockett Arena.
Junior Connor Irving went over 100 points for his career with a goal and three assists and Beverly (2-0) won for the 12th time in its last 13 outings dating back to last season.
That one loss, of course, was to Saugus in overtime in the first round of the Division 2 North tournament last year. Coming out on the right side of a seven-goal game against the Sachems certainly helps scab over that wound.
“We’re still a young team, but people know about us now,” said Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan. “We have to bring it every night.”
The Panthers did that last night, and like an ace pitcher who gets important outs sophomore goaltender Tim Birarelli made the clutch saves when he needed to. With Beverly ahead 2-0 in the first and 3-0 after two, the netminder was called on to make several game-changing stops, including a mini-breakaway on Saugus’ Steve Kay.
“He made three or four spectacular saves. Had Saugus (0-1) scored on any of those, they would’ve had a taste and who knows how the game goes,” Gilligan said of his goalie, who had 16 saves for his first shutout of the year. “I don’t think Tim felt he was at his sharpest in that playoff game last year, so he really wanted to play well in this one.”
Beverly scored four times in the final 7:22 of the third, including three goals in the last 4:21, to blow the game wide open.
Senior Andrew Irving (goal, three assists) opened the scoring in the first, fed by cousin Connor, shortly after Birarelli made a nice save on a Saugus 3-on-1 rush. Captain Matt Hamor then potted a rebound of a low Nick Albano shot on the power play to make it 2-0 after one.