SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 9, 2013

The Blue Line Report: History Repeating Itself

Can the Panthers hockey team follow in football squad's footsteps?

By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

---- — Jack Morency is the answer to a terrific North Shore sports trivia question.

Q: Who is the only two sport student-athlete on the North Shore to have NOT lost a game in any varsity sport during the 2012-13 school year?

An integral part of the club as a junior defenseman, Morency and the Beverly High hockey team take a perfect 7-0 record into tonight’s game at Gloucester. He was also part of the historic Panther football squad that went 13-0 this past fall en route to the school’s second Super Bowl championship in the last three years. Twenty 20 games played, 20 wins thus far.

That got us to thinking about another question:

Can we accurately make any comparisons between what the BHS footballers were able to do — and what the BHS pucksters might do?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

Look at some of the similarities:

* The football team started the season off with a bang by destroying their opponents right out of the gate. The hockey team has been on a similar path of destruction, outscoring its foes through seven games, 33-5.

* The football team had amazing depth, with the ability to plug players into various roles with virtually no dropoff. The hockey team is also blessed with terrific depth; there are players who aren’t skating among the top nine forwards who would likely earn big minutes as top six guys elsewhere.

* The offensive machine that was the Beverly football team was scary good with Brendan Flaherty, Kenny Pierce, Dom Abate, Isiah White, et. al. The firewagon offense that is the Beverly hockey team is equally potent, with the likes of Andrew Irving, Connor Irving, Graham Doherty, Jake Straw, Ryan Santo, Teddy Leathersich, Tom Lindgren, Brendan Boyle, Nick and Jesse McLaughlin, and so on.

* What Flaherty and Pierce were to running and catching the ball out of the Beverly backfield, the Irving cousins are to ripping the twine for the Beverly forward corps. All great teams need a standout player or two to produce offensively when the time dictates it, and both clubs are blessed in that regard.

* As strong as it was on offense, the football team’s defense may have been even stronger; continually coming up with turnovers, tipped passes, batted down balls and big stops when they were most needed. For all of its scoring wizardry the hockey team is also strongest in its own zone, committed to playing team defense and shackling opponents as soon as they venture over the blue line.

* Much as the football team detested seeing opponents cross their goal line, their ice brethren simply don’t allow their foes to get one goaltenders Tim Biarelli or Bryce Mitchell. Defensemen Sean Munzing, Nick Albano, captain Matt Hamor, Morency and even freshman Sean Hanlon make sure their netminders get clear lanes to see the puck, get horizontal to block shots frequently and keep most that do make it through coming from the perimeter and beyond.

The one difference, of course, is that the Beverly football team had already won a state title two years ago.

The Beverly hockey team has never claimed any state hardware; it’s never even made it to a championship game. The Panthers have gone as far as the state semifinals twice at the old Boston Garden (both as a Division 1 entry), falling to Arlington in 1972 (3-2) and mighty Matignon in 1977 (10-2).

We still haven’t hit the halfway point of the season, so there’s a lot of hockey still to be played. All kinds of things can happen between now and the final Sunday of the season in mid-March on the Garden ice.

Still, with the start that the Panthers are off to ... it makes you think.

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The Marblehead boys and girls hockey teams will take part in a special doubleheader this Saturday night at the Larsen Rink in Winthrop when they celebrate ‘Pink the Rink.’

The two games that night — the Marblehead girls meeting Winthrop/Lynn at 5 p.m., followed by the Header boys against Winthrop at 7 p.m. — will take part in fundraisers in support of Leanne Silverman, an amazing woman, wife and hockey mom in her courageous battle against breast cancer. All proceeds from the two games will benefit the Marie C. Petrilli Cancer Research and Treatment Memorial Fund.

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Many of the Danvers hockey team’s players have decided to go the ‘Boardwalk Empire’ route this season, wearing scalley caps (long a staple of The Blue Line Report’s wardrobe) and top coats over their shirts and ties to and from games.

Dan McKenna has taken it a step further.

As the team’s student manager, McKenna wanted to make an impression on the defending Northeastern Conference North champions this season. So from the first day of practice, the senior and all-star golfer has dressed to the nines, even showing up in a suit on game days.

“He’s a great kid who’s really into it,” Danvers head coach Kevin Brown said of ‘Dapper Dan’. “He grew up playing hockey in town and is friends with a lot of our guys, and he wanted to be part of it all. He lugs the sticks, the pucks, the water ... all of it wearing a suit. It’s a different way of doing things, but it’s great.”

McKenna is one of three managers for the Falcons, joining Corey O’Keefe (who was recently seen riding the Zamboni while posing and waving to fans during a recent intermission at Salem State) and of course, the unofficial Mayor of Danvers, long-time sports manager Eddie Moore.

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Two huge games on the docket for St. John’s Prep this week, starting tonight at UMass Boston against host B.C. High (5-0-2). Saturday night, it’s back into city when the Eagles meet Catholic Memorial (8-1) at Walter Brown Arena on the BU campus.

Not only are these two Catholic Conference clashes big in terms of league standings for St. John’s (5-1), but they also offer a stark contrast in styles and will challenge coach Kristian Hanson’s club in very different ways.

Tonight’s foes from B.C. High have the state’s best goaltender in Peter Cronin and like to play defensive minded games; it’s what allowed the Dorchester school to defeat the Prep (3-2) in last year’s Super 8 semifinals, and a tactic they’ll no doubt employ again tonight. B.C. High has only surrendered six goals in seven games, have three shutouts and haven’t given up more than two goals to an opponent as of yet.

Catholic Memorial, on the other hand, has been going gangbusters offensively all season, including a 7-4 defeat of Malden Catholic last night (SJP beat MC, 3-2, last Saturday). The Knights have scored 51 times in just nine goals, led by the prolific Liam Coughlin and his 20 goals so far.

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If you want to get an early jump on the Swampscott hockey team, you better do so in the first period. The Big Blue have scored just three times over the first 15 minutes of play in their first seven games, but have exploded for 18 goals during the second period of games and another 19 in the final stanza.

Their foes have managed just 5 and 4 tallies, respectively, during the final two periods — a big reason why Gino Faia’s team is off to a 6-1 start.

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The Blue Line Report, a column on North Shore high school hockey, appears each Wednesday during the winter sports season. Contact sports editor Phil Stacey at pstacey@salemnews.com or 978-338-23650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.