FITCHBURG- During the preseason, first-year head coach Michael McCarthy highlighted that the Patriots were not an offensive powerhouse, and that putting pucks on net was going to be key.
North Middlesex won their Coughlin Conference opener 2-0 over a scrappy, undermanned Gardner-Murdock side. The Patriots controlled every facet of the game including time of possession, shots, and faceoffs.
"I told my seniors it was their last first game ever," Said McCarthy. "We fought hard. We don't have that prototypical goal scorer. We have to score as a team. I thought we did a very good job creating our chances off good passing and cycling the puck down low."
North Middlesex found themselves up against a stud goaltender in Nate Mailett.
Mailett stood on his head throughout the game at the mercy of the North Middlesex attack. Mailett was the lone bright spot for the Wildcats in the loss, stymieing 47 shots.
"Nate played the puck well tonight," said Gardner-Murdock head coach John Meany. "He is the story of this game without him we are in a world of hurt. His play was absolutely massive for us tonight. Nate showed toughness all night long." North Middlesex looked primed for success the moment they took to the ice. According to McCarthy, the Patriots had about 15-20 solid scoring chances.
"When you get a win in conference against a very tough opponent is a nice thing," said McCarthy. "We had our chances. Their goalkeeper is, and played phenomenal. There will be games like this where easy goals are hard to come by. Gardner is a strong, scrappy and clean team."
North Middlesex outshot the Wildcats 49-12, choking the clock by keeping the puck inside the Gardner defensive zone.
Sophomore Wildcats' forward Shawn Doherty had a solid chance on net, but junior netminder Ryan Twomey ranged stick side and booted it away with 10:38 left in the period. Gardner tried to dictate the pace for much of the first period. Senior Gardner forward Mitch Doody, sounded off a wrister blocker side but Twomey was able to make the save. The first period was a back and forth battle, but North Middlesex just wore down the depleted Gardner team.
The Wildcats have just 13 men on the roster, and the Patriots skated three lines against the two of Gardner, which wore them down gradually throughout the game.
Gardner had another chance with 3:50 left in the first glove side, when Doherty unleashed a slapper from the point. Twomey ranged to his right and kicked the puck out of the crease.
North Middlesex continued to pour attempts on goal, outshooting the Wildcats 9-3 in the first period of play. The Patriots would break through at 7:14 in the second period on an unassisted goal by senior captain Will Faulkner.
Faulkner skated downhill from the left side of the neutral zone on the breakaway and cut across to his right, and fired a baffling wrist-shot from the left to beat Maillett glove side.
"Faulker cut across the ice from the left side back to his right and shot from where he came from," said McCarthy on the difficulty of Faulkner's goal. "Once you get the goalie moving it is a tough play for him to make. I thought Willie was going to get him again with the same move, but the goalie adjusted nicely and got a glove on it."
North Middlesex's Matt McRae tacked on a late goal in the third period to ice the home opener.