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.