Boston High School: Northeast Conference

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.”

Video: Thanksgiving football preview

November, 20, 2012
With hours remaining until kickoff to Thanksgiving rivalries across Massachusetts, we're taking a look at the action in our weekly preview with editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall.

Aside from the historical rivalries, such as Malden vs. Medford and Needham vs. Wellesley which both celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, there's plenty on the line this Thursday with several playoff spots decided. We took a look at some of those CAL/NEC, Bay State, Merrimack Valley, and Catholic Conference games and more:

(Video produced by Greg Story)

Peabody's Rocha an unassuming star

September, 25, 2012
Catarina Rocha’s philosophy about her craft just may come as somewhat of a shock to the people dialed into the Massachusetts high school running community.

The Peabody senior and defending Div. 1 state cross country champion has never yearned for the limelight that comes with being the best distance runner in the state and arguably one of the top five all-time. When all is said and done and Rocha moves on to college after graduation, she would rather Peabody High's teachers, students and her friends look back and recall her as a well-rounded person who just happened to be a runner.

Running doesn’t define who Rocha is. It’s just a part that makes up the whole person.

“I don’t want people to remember me as just a runner,” Rocha said. “I want to be thought of as someone who did a lot for the school and was a good person. I think I can bring those together and be a good person, overall. Running comes second. Being a good person is first. I just try to be myself.”

[+] EnlargeCatarina Rocha
Peter RufoPeabody's Catarina Rocha finished seventh at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in December. She eyes a return in 2012.
Rocha believes that wholeheartedly, but it doesn’t make her any less tough when the gun goes off. She is still the enormously competitive runner she was her sophomore year when she gave Lincoln-Sudbury’s Andrea Keklak all she could handle in placing second, dogging the Warrior great the entire way in the Div. 1 state title race on the grassy Gardner Golf Course layout.

That superb performance was just an inkling of things to come for the soccer transplant.

And then, last year, running as the overwhelming favorite, Rocha proved that the pressure of being the harrier everyone wanted a piece of didn’t bother her one iota. Racing over the Franklin Park course in perfect conditions, Rocha crushed a strong field and wound up with the fastest time of the day in 18:12. Longmeadow standout Camille Blackman had a great day in finishing second, but was never able to challenge Rocha, crossing the finish line in 18:42.

Not done yet, Rocha capped her season with a seventh place at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships in December after taking third at the Northeast qualifier.

The chances of a Massachusetts runner bumping Rocha down to the No. 2 position this season is pretty much slim to none. Rocha took a solid month off after winning the 2-mile state title and recording a scalding 10:39 personal best at the Nike Nationals in June. She started back in earnest in August with the team Northeast Conference title first on the list of autumn goals. “I needed it,” she said of her time off in the summer. “I think everyone does.”

What’s more, Rocha looks physically stronger. Courtesy of a summer’s worth of core exercises that included pushups, crunches and sit-ups, Rocha’s shoulders, biceps and legs have a define, sculpted look. That added strength will be especially advantageous in the final half mile when she is driving for the finish line.

“I definitely feel a lot stronger and that can only help,” said Rocha.

The new season does offer challenges for Rocha. Unlike the Franklin Park course, she has limited to no racing experience on the Wrentham Developmental Center and Northfield Mountain courses, sites of the EMass and state championships, respectively.

Rocha, though, is confident the mix of fitness and experience will see her through. “Hopefully the (Northfield Mountain) hill won’t be a big deal,” shrugged Rocha. “We’ve all been training on hills and training well. Things are good. I’m running a little faster and doing a little more mileage but not that much more.”

If for some reason (i.e. sickness, injury) Rocha doesn’t capture a second state title she’ll simply move on. There are too many races to be run, Rocha believes, to dwell on the occasional off day. “If it happens, it happens,” she said of winning at Northfield. “If it doesn’t, you just move on to the next race and try to run well there There’s going to be a lot of competition. There are a lot of great runners out there.

“I take the dual meets one at a time and want to help the team win the NEC [Northeast Conference[. Hopefully, we can qualify for all-states. If I win there, great. If I don’t, I’ll move on to Foot Locker and try to run well there. It’s a big deal [repeating], but if I lose it’s not like anything bad is going to happen.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a dual meet or state meet, it’s all the same. I just go out and try to win. Sophomore year I wasn’t experienced. A little more experience now helps a lot. I’m not fully experienced yet, though. I have to wait until college for that.”