By Phil Stacey
---- — BEVERLY — A season for the ages officially ended last night with a memorable evening of laughs, remembrance and revelry.
The Division 2 state champion Beverly High School hockey team was feted last night at their annual season-ending banquet at the Italian Community Center.
The two-time Northeastern Conference North champions finished the season at 22-1-1 on the season, setting a program record for most victories in a season. The Panthers capped off their magical run through the playoffs by defeating Medfield, 2-1, in the state title game at the TD Garden in Boston 10 days ago.
“It’s been an amazing show of support from the people of the city and beyond,” said head coach Bob Gilligan. “I’m getting letters upon letters every day from all over, and it’s amazing to see the people have been so invested in this team and this program. It’s a great thing for the city.”
Senior captain Connor Irving, who led the team in goals (24) and scoring (55 points) in both the regular season and postseason, captured the Thomas Nelson Cockfield Award as team MVP. He will leave Beverly High as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 196 points and also holds the record for most career assists (122).
Irving was also honored with the Benjamin T. Bradley Memorial Scholarship, given out in memory of the former Beverly High hockey standout from the Class of 1999.
Junior netminder Tim Birarelli, who also set a plethora of season and career records between the Panther pipes this winter including most wins (20), took home the Defensive MVP honors. Fellow junior Nick Albano, who was among the state’s leading scorers among defensemen with 37 assists and 45 total points, was named Offensive MVP.
The Herbert A. Colby Award for Dedication went to four-year starting defenseman and two-year captain Matt Hamor.
The Richard A. Preston Unsung Hero Award was presented to a pair of seniors: left winger Ryan Santo and defenseman Sean Munzing. Two other seniors took home the Most Improved Award: linemates J.J. Bachini and Jake Straw, a left and right wing, respectively.
The Coaches Award was also given to a pair of worthy seniors: defenseman Jack Morency and center Kevin Lally. In addition, senior center Graham Doherty was recognized with the team’s Student-Athlete Award for having the highest grade-point average among players on the squad.
At the end of the evening, team captains Hamor, Munzing and Irving presented both the Beverly High Hockey Boosters and their coaches with gifts of thanks.