TOWNSEND -- Goal scoring was at a premium for the North Middlesex Patriots hockey team -- and that is expected to remain the same in the 2013-2014 season.

"It will continue to be our Achilles heel," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We are not going to be a potent offense. I don't envision us piling up a lot of goals on teams that show up. If someone doesn't show up to play against us -- maybe we can get a few. I expect a lot of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 games decided either way."

The Patriots qualified on the final day of the regular season in fitting fashion, with a 0-0 draw against Oakmont Regional.

North Middlesex returns eight seniors this season, including its three senior tri-captains, goalkeeper Ryan Twomey, defenseman P.J. Dupre and forward/center Danny McNamara.

"I feel that Ryan Twomey is as solid of a goaltender as there is in 3-A," McCarthy said. "I think Danny Mac is probably the hardest working kid in 3-A. PJ Dupre is a good, intelligent puck-moving defenseman. Through my senior captains and eight seniors, I have great on-ice leadership. We have some juniors, sophomores and freshmen who are going to contribute."

The Patriots will play a gritty, physical game with a large emphasis on its strong defensive prowess. McCarthy has a message for the rest of the Coughlin Conference in regard to the toughness of his club.

"We are going to be a tough team to play against," he said. "I would think we would do a little bit better than we did last year, based on some of the losses some of the other teams have had. I think we are sort of moving up. I think that every game is going to be a dogfight."

McNamara will likely be the one North Middlesex will look to for its scoring this season. McNamara is a scrappy forward who netted nine goals for the Patriots last season. McNamara is also an assist machine, tallying 19 dimes during the 2012-2013 season.

"I think it should be a great year," McNamara said. "The forward lines have some great chemistry and there should be some really good passing. I think we have a lot more offensive defensemen this year."

Junior Josh Miller is expected to improve upon his performance last year. McCarthy expects Miller to experience a significant jump in his goal production.

Returning blue liners for the Patriots include Miles Massida, TJ Melanson, Jay Cobleigh and Michael Carson.

"We should be pretty strong defensively," he said. "Besides the kids I mentioned, we return Dylan Connor, Ryan McCarthy and Justin Estrella. Last year, being a first-year coach, I had two senior captains in Brett Estrella and Will Faulkner, who had a lot of offensive production. We are going to miss that line. Hopefully, we move right along and not skip a beat. Because of the road they paved for these kids to follow -- it is a nice flat surface to drive on."

Rich Klahre, North Middlesex Class of 1990, joins McCarthy as his assistant coach this season.

"Klahre played for coach Jamison and coach Ruggles like I did," he said. "Rich brings a vast knowledge of coaching with him. He sees the game very similar to the way I do. Coach Jamison is back again helping out on the bench or in the stands, whatever he sees fit for that particular game."

The Patriots practice the way they play -- fast and furious for 60 minutes.

"We are pretty demanding of our players," McCarthy said. "Really, it is just going out and playing hard, clean, smart hockey. Have some fun. We have eight seniors here, and they need to enjoy their experience at North Middlesex and being with their buddies in the locker room. They are grade-A people -- they are fantastic kids. This is going to be a tough group to replace."