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.
CROWD SPURS ON GOALTENDERS
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.”
IRVING, TOP LINE DOMINATE FOR BEVERLY
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.”
PENALTIES SLOW DOWN FALCONS
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.”