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.”
A BRUISING AFFAIR
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.”
A GOOD MEASURING STICK
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.”