By Matt Williams
---- — GLOUCESTER — The only goal the Beverly girls needed to extend the longest winning streak in the program’s eight-year history may have looked easy. It was anything but.
Kristen McCarthy’s artful tip off a Caitlin McBride bomb with 3:29 left in the first stood up as the game-winner as the Panthers shut down Masconomet, 2-0, Saturday evening at Talbot Rink.
The win leaves Beverly (8-0) as the lone unbeaten team in GEIMHL Northeast Division action and in sole possession of first place. The Chieftains (4-3) lost their first league game and second straight overall.
Beverly’s execution on that first power play was the difference. Captain Livvy Konaxis cycled the puck to McBride, a junior defenseman with a wicked slapshot, at the top of the Panthers’ formation.
McBride hesitated just long enough for a shooting lane to open, slapping the puck through traffic where McCarthy could redirect it high into the net.
“It’s something we’ve worked on in practice, to not bury our heads when we’re shooting from out there,” said Beverly coach Brian Seabury. “Caitlin kept her head up on that one, saw what was in front of her and put it right where she needed to.”
The game remained tight for the next 27 minutes of play thanks largely to Masco’s senior goalie, Alex Jones. She made 27 saves in all and kept it a 1-0 game despite a heavy advantage for the Panthers in possession and shots on goal (8-1 in the first, 10-2 in the third and 29-10 for the game).
“Alex keeps us in every game,” Masco coach Nicole Twomey said. “We always have a shot, every time we’re on the ice, because of the way she plays.”
The Chieftains’ best period was the second, in which they hit seven of their 10 shots on goal. Defenseman Nancy Palermo had a shot to tie it up on the power play late in the period, but Ami Thompson made the save. She also held strong on a scrum at the top of her crease in the second, saving a point-blank bid from Kylie Currier, and earned her third shutout of the season.
“It was a pretty solid game for us. That was probably as well as we’ve played defensively,” Seabury said. “The way the game went, Ami could’ve lost concentration, but she was there and she came up big on that power play.”
Beverly could’ve put the game away with a 5-on-3 advantage in the third. Masco called on Palermo and freshmen Lily Dow and Currier on the kill, and along with Jones they got the job done.
“All the credit goes to the girls on that,” Twomey said. “We have high expectations of them, regardless of their age. We called on them and they delivered.”
Anna O’Neill gave the Panthers some breathing room by slamming a loose puck home at the post with 5:52 to play. Konaxis earned her second assist of the game on the goal, and McBride picked up her second point.
Try as they might, Masco simply couldn’t generate shots or quality scoring chances, even when they had possession in the offensive zone.
“The offense was really nonexistent for us,” Twomey said. “There were things we can take out of the game. We were hungry for the puck, and we were aggressive, but we have to be more aggressive in front of the net and in those quality scoring areas.”
Beverly’s defense was certainly part of the problem for Masco. Senior captain Katie Szela was excellent, breaking up two rushes in the third period, and freshmen Anna Hayden and Rachel Spencer continued to play well.
Jones’ best save was a kick stop on O’Neill in the second that highlighted her lateral mobility. She made a similar stop in the first after three Panthers converged on Dana Valletti in the slot and that led to a 2-on-1 between Konaxis and O’Neill. On that one, however, O’Neill was hauled down, leading to Beverly’s first power play and McCarthy’s winning goal.