Boston High School: Bob Gilligan

D2 state final: Beverly 2, Medfield 1

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17

BOSTON – After years of coming up short, Beverly won its first state hockey title with an intense, physical 2-1 win over Medfield in the Division 2 boys final last night at TD Garden.

The game-winner came just more than two minutes into the third period as legs and sticks hacked at the puck before Connor Irving eventually put the puck in the back of the net.

“I have no idea what happened on my goal,” Irving said. “It wasn't intended to be a shot. I think it went off a kid's skate and went in.”

No title comes easy and Medfield played as close to flawless as it could. Beverly, which had averaged 30 shots in it's previous three playoff games, was held to just 16 by a Warrior defense that showed no fear and took the body when it could.

The unit, led by Matt Crowell and Will Murphy, collapsed in between the circles on the defensive end and forced Beverly to the outside.

“They stepped up at the blue line because they're defensemen didn't back up on us,” Irving said. “A couple of times I wanted to get going and I looked up and both their defensemen were stepped up. I couldn't go wide on them, and they back-checked really well.”

Beverly's speed, which torched Tewksbury for nine goals in the North final, was neutralized by a full-on defensive lockdown by the Warriors who made the Panthers work for every inch.

“It was a matter of our forwards doing a good job of back-checking,” Medfield coach Toby Carlow said. “A good team like them if you let them skate they're going to make you pay so we stayed up high in the neutral zone and slow them down before they can get moving.”

Eventually the Panthers broke through when Matt Hamor deflected home a shot to put Beverly ahead early in the second. While the largely pro-Beverly crowd celebrated the Warriors responded on the next shift when Justin Hirschfeld shoved home the equalizer less than 30 seconds later.

Hirschfeld buzzed around the sheet for the Warriors for all 45 minutes and made life difficult for the Beverly defense. For Beverly though, its ultimate defense was Tim Birarelli.

The junior goaltender turned aside 16 shots in the win and captained a defense that was able to contain and curtail the Warriors just enough.

“I have a really good communication with my defense where they can force them wide and force them to shoot too,” Birarelli said. “When they forced them to shoot from the outside it was easy for me.”

The loss marks the end of Hirschfeld's Medfield career that saw him help pilot the team in its first season in Division 2 to the brink of a state title.

“I just want to thank every one on my team for making my best year,” Hirschfeld said. “I'll never forget this season.”

In the moment, Carlow was disappointed, but he said that he could not have asked for a better year for the Warriors.

“Our goal is always to be here but you've got to work to get here,” Carlow said. “These guys did that and that is why it is a successful season. Sure, we came up short today, but it's a successful season because we got here and they did the work and they committed themselves to getting here.”

PLAYING FOR PETE: Under their cream and cocoa colored jerseys, and underneath their pads, the Beverly players wore red undershirts with the name “Frates” on the back. The shirts were a gift from, and to honor, Peter Frates.

Frates, a Beverly native and former captain of the Boston College baseball team, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago and helped to motivate the Panthers this season.

“Last year Pete came to talk to us and he's such an inspiration,” Irving said. “Pete's such a good guy and he's going through such a tough thing. I have the utmost respect for Pete. It was so cool to see him here.

“I wear the same Under Armour [undershirt] and it's really hot in this building so I threw [Pete's shirt] on in the third. So I'm going to give Pete all the credit on the third-period goal.”

The Panthers have felt and dealt with their share of adversity off the ice in recent years. Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan recently battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Birarelli's father is engaged in a battle with liver cancer.

For Birarelli to wear the ribbon-clad shirt given to the team by Frates had an extra personal meaning.

“It's definitely special with everything going in the community -- my dad, Mr. Frates, Coach Gilligan himself,” Birarelli said. “It's good to win it for them. All this hard work paid off.

“I think it's so special that we can play for these guys and we got the desired result that they wanted. Obviously, wearing Pete's shirt under my stuff tonight was special. When I knew putting it on that it would be a special night.”

Gilligan, who lives a few houses down from Frates said he and the team admired him for how he has battled the disease..

“Peter is fighting it really hard,” Gilligan said. “They really admire his courage and the strength to go forward.”

D2 North final: Beverly 9, Tewksbury 1

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10

LOWELL, Mass. – After accepting the Division 2 North champions trophy, Beverly's Connor Irving, still in his full gear, sprinted to the Panther locker room with an ear-to-ear grin.

“We're going to the Garden,” Irving screamed as he beat all of his teammates to the locker room.

It was that kind of night as Irving netted four goals, and added an assist, to drive Beverly to a 9-1 thrashing of Tewksbury at Tsongas Center.

Tewksbury scored first on a goal by Jack Cash, but the Panthers tied the game 58 seconds later and it was all orange and black from there. Irving's first goal came with three seconds left in the period. Linemate Jesse Maclaughlin launched the puck into the air before it was batted down by Ryan Santo right onto Irving's stick.

Irving split the Tewksbury defense and finessed the puck home to put Beverly ahead 3-1 after one.

“Connor senses when these guys are going to throw it out,” Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan said. “He's got good instincts. His transition game is so quick; you can see how well he skates. His edges are as good as anybody's.”

Irving's goal ignited Beverly. The Panthers erupted in the second period for five goals, including Irving's fourth, a short-handed goal, with 21 seconds left.

“These kids were working hard and fore-checking hard,” Gilligan said. “You could see in the second period, that first two shifts set the tone. They got tired; they got real tired. We kept pressuring them like that. The kids played smart; we didn't get caught down low. We got some skilled players,[and] when they get some open ice you see what they can do.”

Beverly's offense is well-established, but it was the Panther defense that locked the game down. Beverly held Tewksbury to 13 total shots and none in the second period. Tewksbury was held under three goals for the first time since Jan. 15.

[+] EnlargeConnor Irving
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comConnor Irving scored five goals as Beverly cruised past Tewksbury, 9-1, in the Division 2 North final Tuesday at Tsongas Center.
Nick Albano had a goal and an assist from the blue line, but all three pairs stuffed Tewksbury from the opening draw.

“Jack [Morency] and Sean [Munzing] have been playing together for four years now,” Irving said. “Nick's unbelievable back on D. He's been playing some unreal games. Matt Hamor is a stalwart back there. I think it's just the chemistry. We've kept the same pairs for a long time and they work good together. They shut it down.”

Santo chipped in numerous times. The senior assisted on four goals, including the primary assist on three of Irving's goals. Santo said he didn't expect his point output to be so high.

“I know if I get the puck to Connor he's going to do something good with it,” Santo said. “Moving the puck, cycling, working hard on the forecheck, I didn't expect it either. I'm just trying to play my best.”

GETTING OVER THE HUMP: After two years of early exits from the tournament, last night's win propelled Beverly to the state final and a date with Medfield on Sunday.

Last year, the Panthers were bounced out by rival Danvers in the opening round on a goal with 11 seconds left. Gilligan said that game still tastes sour in his mouth.

“Danvers was a test; that was a thorn in our side,” Gilligan said. “These kids sat on that; they still didn't digest that. I didn't. I told them we've got to keep going. The Northeastern Conference is our main goal, and after that we've got to chip away at each game.”

The Panthers beat Danvers, 2-1, in a shootout in the North quarterfinal and have outscored their last two foes, Tewksbury and Lincoln-Sudbury, by a combined 14-2. Unlike Danvers, Beverly hadn't played L-S, Tewksbury, and now Medfield before the state tournament.

“I wasn't hoping for Medfield, but if you know a team and you think you can beat them, we thought we could beat Danvers,” Irving said. “I like having a team that we haven't played yet. I think we come out a lot harder when we don't know what we're going to get and we only hear what we're going to get.”

Irving starred on the last two Beverly teams alongside his cousin Andrew, and he said to make to Causeway Street was like a dream.

“We were so far but so close the past two years, lost in overtime as a sophomore, lost to Danvers with 11 seconds left [last year],” Irving said. “It seemed like anything we did just wasn't good enough. This year we're getting the bounces so far

“Any way we can score to win; that's all we really want right now. I've had 58 points in a season and lose in the first round. Just to be here is the best feeling.”

D2 North: Beverly 5, Lincoln-Sudbury 1

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
BILLERICA, Mass. – Beverly means business.

After giving up a goal less than a minute in the Panthers rolled for the final 44 and beat Lincoln-Sudbury, 5-1, at the Chelmsford Forum in the second Division 2 North semifinal.

The win moves the Panthers into Monday's sectional final against Tewksbury at Tsongas Center.

“We talked about kids keeping their composure,” Beverly coach Bob Gilligan said. “You got plenty of hockey, you can the way these kids can skate, and once you hem them in forechecking-wise they were getting tired. You keep that kind of pressure on you start to wear these kids down.”

Myles Cohen roofed one over Beverly's Tim Birarelli to give the Warriors the first lead but that was as positive as the night would be for the MVC/DCL 2 champions.

Brendan Boyle answered four minutes later to tie the game for Beverly. Fifteen seconds later Kevin Lally knuckled a shot between the legs of Lincoln goalie Derek Ashe to put the Panthers ahead.

“We didn't panic at all,” Lally said. “We just kept playing our game and it worked out good for us.”

Despite not scoring a goal, junior defenseman Nick Albano stole the show offensively for the Panthers. Albano assisted on all five Beverly goals, including three primary assists, and played a key role in his own zone as well.

“I didn't think I had five,” Albano said. “Just trying to get the puck to the net and win this game [and] go play Tewksbury.”

Connor Irving netted Beverly's third and fourth goals as the Panthers' depth showed itself and worked the Warrior defense hard. Irving epitomized Beverly's speed as he pressed forward on the forecheck and backcheked with speed as well.

“He works, he angles well, he's got that stick on the ice,” Gilligan said. “He's tough to play against because that kid, transition wise, burns you. He takes away areas of the ice just with his skating ability and [keeping his] stick down. He knows how to angle and cut the center of the ice out.”

For L-S, the result was the end of a quality season that included a game at Fenway Park and winning its first outright league title in 22 years.

The future though is bright for coach Tom Pare and Co. The Warriors return Ashe as well as the entire top two lines.

“I couldn't be happier for the seniors,” Pare said. “I think they had a great career; they had a lot of success here. I wish we could have gone out in a more competitive game as far as the scoreboard is concerned. I couldn't thank the guys enough in my first year here.”

IN A PINCH, CALL LEATHERSICH: Midway through the first period Beverly's Jesse MacLaughlin lost a skate blade. The resulting fiasco in fixing the skate meant someone had to fill on the top line with Ryan Santo and Connor Irving.

Insert Ted Leathersich.

The junior stepped up the moment with a two-point game. Leathersich assisted on Irving's first goal and iced the game with a foal in the third period.

“We play a lot together in practice, we mix up lines a lot,” Leathersich said. “It's pretty easy to play with Connor and [Ryan] Santo because they tend to get the puck to you and get open. I guess it was little luck too and they were in the right spot.”

Gilligan said he was proud of Leathersich for stepping into the opportunity.

“Teddy filled a big void,” Gilligan said. “It's huge coming off the bench like that. He played a good game.”

FORECHECK & DEFENSE: The Panthers outshot L-S, 35-19, and gummed up the Warriors with a suffocating forecheck. Beverly's speed across all lines allowed the Panthers to drive the net hard, and with regularity.

“It's a large zone so we had Timmy direct the puck into the corner, and then we had our breakouts setup,” Albano said. “They were only doing a one-man [forecheck] so we're pretty good with that. Go d-to-d and go right up. It worked well for us.”

On the other end, Beverly made it a chore for the Warriors to push the puck up and establish a cycle on offense. When L-S was able to gain the blue line they were kept outside the dots and above the circles for the bulk of the game.

“I think our forecheck is definitely one of our biggest assets,” Leathersich said. “Teams can't keep up with it because defenses have no time to react.”

Pare said he's team poor performance on the offensive end was a combination of a lack of confidence and Beverly's never ending pressure.

“Against Winthrop, we had two goals that were just basically in the blue paint, being hungry,” Pare said. “Tonight it was a combination of them not letting us get to that area and us not crashing the net when we needed to.”

EXORCISING THE DEMON: After being bounced from the tournament in the first round the last two years this year's Beverly has put together two victorious, but very different performances to put themselves a game away from Causeway Street.

For several players, Friday's hair-raising shootout win over Danvers — the squad that eliminated them last year — was like getting the proverbial monkey off their back.

“After two years straight after losing in the first round I think we can now just play our game and put that stuff behind us, and just keep our fans on our side and keep playing the way we're playing,” Albano said. “I don't think any team can skate with us or shut us down offensively, and I know we have the goaltending and defense to shut any team down as well.”

The last time Beverly won a playoff game was in 2011, when the Panthers advanced to the North semifinals.

Who eliminated them? Tewksbury.

D2 North: Beverly 2, Danvers 1 (SO)

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1

STONEHAM, Mass. -- It seemed half of the North Shore was at Stoneham Arena for last night's Division 2 North quarterfinal between Beverly and Danvers.

They got their money's worth as both goalies stole the show and Beverly squeaked out a 2-1 victory in a shootout to advance to the semifinals Monday against Lincoln-Sudbury.

The Panthers got goals from Nick Albano and Connor Irving in the shootout. Irving also had Beverly's goal in regulation. Danvers' Kyle Cahill scored the Falcons' lone goal in regulation and its only goal in the shootout.

“I never thought it'd end like this,” Beverly coach Bob Gilligan said. “We got some talented kids that can make some plays. We do the shootout at the end of practice the last few weeks, [and] there's a slew of them that can make some pretty good moves.”

The shootout ended the game, but it was the goalies who stepped into the spotlight and thrived. Danvers' Alex Taylor turned aside 41 shots, including 18 in the third period alone. Beverly's Tim Birarelli stopped 20 Danvers shots.

Taylor's third period was spectacular as Beverly's offense clicked on every cylinder but was unable to solve the junior.

“Obviously in the third period he was immense,” Danvers coach Kevin Brown said of Taylor. “In the second period he didn't see as many shots but third period he was there. I said last year the kid's a gamer. When there's a big game on the line the kid responds.”

Taylor was aided by a Danvers defense that played smart for the entire game. The Falcons kept their sticks low and forced Beverly into numerous low-percentage shots that Taylor was able to gobble up. When Taylor did have to stop one for the highlight reel he was able to.

Taylor stopped the last 39 shots he faced, excluding the shootout.

“No one gave us a shot coming into this, but we all knew we had a shot,” Taylor said. “I just didn't want to lose the game. There's such a huge rivalry, and I knew my team deserved more than that. It was just heartbreaking to go down like that.”

Gilligan said that the Falcons played his team smart on the defensive end.

“They're goaltending came up big,” Gilligan said. “They had a lot of blocks, we weren't getting the pucks through, but give them credit; they played well. I thought Taylor stood on his head at times. He had a lot of saves.”

Birarelli backstopped the Panthers and gave the offense the security it needed to press deeper into Danvers' zone throughout the game. Danvers used their offensive opportunities effectively but Birarelli was ready at every turn.

Birarelli was at his best during the shootout when he seemed to blanket the entire net. He turned aside four Danvers shooters who all threw something different at him but never made him commit first. His pad save on Kevin Hodgkins ended the game.

“Even in practice you can tell he locks down,” Irving said. “It's so hard to beat him side to side. He's such a good goalie; he's a big kid, he covers most of the net. He did an amazing job especially with all that pressure. He held the fort. He's the reason we won today. I love the kid.”

DEFENSE STALLS OFFENSE: Having already played each other twice this season very little was unknown between the two teams. The biggest battle going in was how the Falcon defense would gum up Beverly's high-octane attack that averaged 4.55 goals a game.

Danvers did it with an aggressive forecheck and funneling the Panthers to the boards through the neutral zone. It took Beverly a while to adjust and the Panthers never seemed to fully adjust.

“In the beginning they were sending a two-man, and then a one-man, forecheck to try to cut down the center of the ice,” Gilligan said. “Give Kevin credit; they played us pretty well. Our speed got sort of shut down.”

Last night was only the fifth time this season that Beverly failed to score three or more goals.

“We put ourselves in good spots on the ice,” Brown said. “Neutral zone, in the d zone shut down their speed early. We've seen them enough where we know what they do well; it comes down to effort. Our guys generally had the effort out there defensively.”

Recap: No. 18 Beverly 4, Marblehead 3

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
SALEM, Mass. -- Twice this season Marblehead had scored three or more times against Beverly, the only team to do so, and lost.

On Wednesday, with the game tied at three and less than four minutes to go, it looked as if the Magicians would finally steal a point from the Panthers.


Beverly senior Ryan Santo wristed a shot over the glove of Myles Barry with 3:18 to go to cap the Panthers' comeback and seal a 4-3 win at Rockett Arena to keep the Panthers undefeated. Beverly rallied from a two-goal first period deficit.

“The kid's got ice in his veins,” Beverly senior Graham Doherty said of Santo. “He got stoned like seven times earlier in the game; he was snake-bit for a while. He just kept his nose to the grindstone and he popped it in over his shoulder. That was amazing.”

Down by a pair early Doherty took the game by the scruff and asserted himself. Doherty solved Barry on Beverly's 16th shot to put the Panthers on the board with 30 seconds left in the first. He added another goal early in the second when he wristed home a shot from the right circle to tie the game.

“Graham's a sniper, he can shoot,” Beverly coach Bob Gilligan said. “ He's got that pro-type shot.”

Marblehead, held to only 12 shots during the game, made the most of their opportunities early. The Headers scored on two of their first three shots to open a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. Tom Koopman buried a shot to the short side of Beverly goalie Tim Birarelli to open the scoring. Erik Powers bowled past a defenseman and slid the puck between Briarelli's legs to double the lead.

After that Beverly's defense closed down and made it extremely difficult for the Magicians to get many more solid opportunities.

“That's probably the fewest shots we've had on anyone in a long time,” Marblehead coach Bob Jackson said. “I don't know if it was us not generating offense or they just did a good job of picking us up. Except for Beverly we outshoot guys. We make goalies look good.”

As the game progressed Beverly's conditioning and speed became apparent and gradually took over. The Panthers pressed hard on the forecheck throughout and it paid dividends in the end. Marblehead was unable to pull Barry for the extra attacker late in the game until there was less than 40 seconds left because the Headers could not move the puck through the neutral zone.

“We credit that to our coaches; they skate us hard every day in practice, and it pays off in the third period,” Doherty said. “We play our best hockey in the third period. We work all the time 3-on-3 forward line against forward line from the tops of the circles in in the defensive zone cycling the puck and just trying to keep it moving.”

Braden Haley gave Marblehead it's second lead with a late goal in the second period. Jesse MacLaughlin floated home a shot from the side boards to tie the game at three and set up the chaotic finish.

“It's a really good test of our character to come from behind,” Doherty said. “We were able to battle back little by little. We just stayed positive on the bench and chipped away at the lead. We never lost our confidence. We just had to keep working our game.”

SHOTS & SAVES: Beverly was able to throw 43 shots at Barry during the game and attempted dozens more. Marblehead's defense made some of those shots easier than others, but Barry was asked to do a lot between the pipes and, even in defeat, he stepped up to the moment.

“If it wasn't for Myles it could have been 10-3,” Jackson said. “It wouldn't have even been close.”

Barry dealt with wave after wave of Panther attacks early. He turned aside 15 shots in the first and 12 in the second period. Both Gilligan and Doherty were also complimentary of Barry and his talents.

“He was great,” Gilligan said. “There were a lot of shots that he came up big.”

“That was the best goalie performance we've played against all year,” Doherty said.

Recap: No. 10 Beverly 0, No. 19 Newburyport 0

January, 16, 2013
NEWBURYPORT, Mass. -- It’s not often that both teams can be satisfied by not winning a game, but last night’s tilt between Newburyport and Beverly wasn’t a typical game.

The two Division 2 heavyweights played a spirited, physical game that ended in a scoreless tie in front of a large crowd at Graf Rink.

“I enjoy this type of hockey,” Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan said. “It should be played like this. Give them credit, they are a very good team. You hate to tie, but that team played hard.”

The Panthers (9-0-1) controlled much of the early going and the host Clippers (5-1-4) collapsed in on defense and clogged up lanes to keep Beverly unbalanced. As the period wore on play opened up and allowed each team a couple of quality scoring chances.

The game quickly turned into a goaltender’s duel between Beverly’s Tim Birarelli and Newburyport’s Andrew Buckley.

Buckley stopped more shots than Birarelli (21-14), but each came up huge for their squad. Birarelli stoned Tyler Cusack from point-blank range in the opening minute of the second period to keep it scoreless. Buckley turned aside four quality shots during the first few shifts of the third to keep the game scoreless and pump up the home crowd.

“They were shooting a lot between legs and between people,” Buckley said. “We practice that stuff almost every other day with tip [drills]. It was different to see a team use that type of style, but it wasn’t anything that was really that new.”

At times, the Clippers were their own worst enemy. Costly turnovers in the offensive zone stalled the attack throughout the game.

“We turned the puck over out there a few too many times trying to toe drag it or drop pass it where we should get hungry and get the puck to the net,” Newburyport head coach Paul Yameen said. “I think we’re a better team when we do that. We’re working on it.”

Midway through the third period, Beverly’s Graham Doherty brought the puck over the blue line and slashed to the net. Before he could get there he was met by Newburyport’s Nick Mombello who hit Doherty so hard that he was separated from his stick.

Doherty popped back up and skated off, but it was emblematic of how physical last night’s game was.

“There’s going to be physical contact; that’s what the game’s all about, Gilligan said. “These kids played with a little bit of heart.”

Despite all the hitting, the teams were able to control their aggression, and neither team earned a power play.

“Those guys are big guys,” Beverly’s Connor Irving said. “We’ve just got to take those hits and keep fighting through them.”

As the two of highest-ranked teams in Division 2, last night’s game was a good way for both squads to see how well they measure up against solid competition. Despite not getting the win, Irving said it was a plus to earn the tie so that he, and the Panthers, would stay hungry.

“It’s good to have games like this,” Irving said. “You kind of want to go [undefeated] into the tournament, but you want to know what it feels like to lose. It’s good to be in a game like this; it’s only going to help us in the tournament.”

Yameen said that, despite the tie, the result showed that his team could compete with the top teams in the state.

“I think if we play our game we can play with anybody,” Yameen said. “We’ve played some quality teams this year, D1 and D2, and that’s as good a team as we’ve played this year.”

Recap: No. 10 Beverly 3, Danvers 0

January, 6, 2013
SALEM, Mass. -- Midway through the second period Danvers junior Matt Flynn skated up through the neutral zone. He was met at the blue line by Beverly’s Jack Morency and planted Flynn with a huge hit.

That was yesterday’s game in microcosm as the No. 10 Panthers were able to take Danvers’ best shot and return it twice over in a 3-0 win at Salem State.

“Danvers is a tough to play and they played us real tough,” Beverly head coach Bob Gilligan said. “We didn’t give them a lot, but what we gave them our goalie Timmy Birarelli shut them down.”

Birarelli stole the show for the Panthers. The sophomore turned aside all 24 Falcon shots, including 14 in a chaotic second period.

“I train myself to go the full 45,” Birarelli said. “I knew they were going to come at us strong the whole 45.”

The early part of the game belonged to Danvers, who forced the tempo with its physicality and pressure. Beverly senior Andrew Irving broke the tension six minutes into the game. Irving, who had the poked away moments before, flung it towards goal from behind the goal line and it bounced off of Danvers’ Alex Taylor and in.

Irving was the offensive star of the game, adding a pair of assists to his goal.

“Worked hard, really came out all three periods playing,” Irving said. “We knew we had to beat Danvers. It was a big game.”

The Falcons put on a flurry in the final minute of the first period, peppering Birarelli with half a dozen shots, but they were unable to light the lamp. The Falcons continued the pressure with a sustained, multi-minute attack but it was all for naught.

“I’ve got to give them credit; they came to play,” Danvers coach Kevin Brown said. “We need to learn some lessons from this game. Like I told the guys, it’s early in the year so we need to move on. We’ll be ready next time.”

The Panthers were able to tack on a pair of goals in a three-minute span midway through the second to put the game out of reach.

Brown said that his team will have to play more consistent hockey if it wants to succeed but there is enough time left in the season to learn.

“If you want to be a top-level team you’ve got to be consistent for 45 minutes,” Brown said. “We had a little spurt there, but they were pretty consistent all night.”

The Falcons and the Panthers will meet again at Rockett Arena on Feb. 13.

Thanks to a closed balcony there were hockey fans wedged into every corner of Rockett Arena. There were people behind the glass, next to the bench, and even on top of the ticket booth.

With thousands of eyes on them, both Birarelli and Taylor stood out and shined.

“It gives me a lot of energy,” Birarelli said of playing in front of the crowd. “It’s fun playing in front of a big crowd especially when your crowd is bigger than the other team.”

Taylor, who turned aside 25 shots, several of them spectacularly, earned the praise from his coach.

“Obviously I think it was a huge game for him and confidence-wise too,” Brown said. “I hope he learns that he can play at the top level and it takes a game like this to get there.”

Every coach in the Northeast Conference should be worried about Beverly’s top line of Irving, his cousin Connor Irving, and Ryan Santo. The trio racked up five of Beverly’s seven points and added even more scoring chances.

Irving’s three points stood out, especially because he’s only been playing forward for just under a year.

“I switched him from D to forward midway through last year and I told him he was going to play up this year, and you can see what he can do,” Gilligan said of his captain. “He’s going to be the dominant player in the league.”

As a line the unit showed an ability to generate plays out of nowhere and constantly keep the Falcons blue liners out of sorts whether its even strength or on special teams.

“Going around a guy they’re losing us,” Irving said. “They don’t know what to do.”

“Man up or man down you’ve got to keep an eye on all of those guys,” Gilligan said. “They got great skills and they’re great team players.”

Danvers set the tone early with big hits, and wound up paying for it in the penalty box. The Falcons racked up eight penalties, the Panthers were tagged with eight as well, and they were unable to get a solid rhythm going.

“It wasn’t an ideal situation for us to get into a special teams battle, but it is what it is,” Brown said. “They did a good job killing and we did, too.”

Brown said he was looking for ways to improve and staying in even-strength situations, which the Falcons excelled at for stretches of the game, should be high on his list.

“The good, bad is that you don’t want to sugarcoat a loss and you want to talk about ways you can improve,” Brown said. “We’ll focus on Winthrop on Wednesday and take the good out of what we can.”

Breaking down updated boys' hockey Top 25

December, 19, 2012
Before we drop the puck on a busy night of MIAA hockey across local barns tonight, let's take a quick look at the movement in our latest boys' hockey Top 25 poll.

Our Top 8 teams remained virtually unchanged, minus the flip-flop between Central Catholic and Austin Prep, but Beverly snuck into the Top 10 this week after Wlimington fell 10 spots to No. 19, following an opening night loss to Woburn.

The Panthers are the top-ranked Division 2 team in our poll, and make no mistake about it, expect Beverly to hang with the big boys all year long. In fact, we might even go as far as saying the Panthers should get a long and hard look from the Super 8 committee when things are all said and done.

Yet, the greatest victory for Beverly last week came with the return of head coach Bob Gilligan behind the bench. Gilligan's been battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma for the last two years.

As previously mentioned, the biggest upset of Week 1 might have come with Woburn's 3-1 win over Wilmington on opening night. The previously unranked Tanners jumped all the way to No. 14, but face a large task at home when No. 16 Burlington invaded for the "Battle of Winn Street."

Also cracking the poll for the first time since the middle of the 2011-12 season, Danvers slides into the 25th spot. The Falcons looked strong while picking up four points last week against Lynnfield and Marblehead, while beating their opponents by a combined 8-2 margin.

Falling out of the poll from our preseason poll were Framingham (No. 15 previously) and Natick (No. 25).