FITCHBURG -- Simply sizzling.
The North Middlesex Regional ice hockey team just keeps rolling along.
The Patriots added another win to their total -- their third straight and sixth in the past seven games -- after a convincing 4-1 victory over Leominster Saturday evening at Fitchburg State University's Wallace Civic Center.
"Any time that we can come to Fitchburg and beat Leominster, it's a positive," North Middlesex coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's a huge win for North Middlesex and a huge win for the guys in the room."
North Middlesex, which improved to 6-2 overall, was fueled by talented forward Dan McNamara, who had two goals and one assist.
"Dan McNamara may end up being the hardest-working kid I'll ever coach," McCarthy said. "I could stay here for 30 years and still say that. He's tireless, a bundle of positive energy and a great captain and leader."
But North Middlesex's overall defensive play was the No. 1 reason why it dropped Leominster to 3-2-2 on the season.
Goalie Ryan Twomey made 15 saves, while his defense -- led by P.J. Dupre, Jay Cobleigh, T.J. Melanson, Dagan Robichaud and Miles Massidda -- continually bottled up the Leominster offense, which was missing star Cam Cordio, who was serving a one-game suspension from the Marlboro loss on Wednesday.
"Our total team defense tonight, as it always should, starts with our goaltender, who made timely saves, calmed us down, relaxed everything," McCarthy said. "Our play from our D-men, clearing out in front, not leaving any rebounds to chance. ... Just a total team defense."
In a penalty-filled first period, which featured nine minors and four misconducts combined between the teams, the Patriots earned a 2-1 lead after the first 15 minutes.
"I don't know if I would agree with you that we were a little undisciplined," said Leominster first-year coach Steve King, whose team surrendered two power-play goals and also played without starting goalie Logan Bergeron. "It was a good little game. They gave us a good game. They pushed us as hard as we pushed."
Leominster -- 0-2-1 in its last three games -- got on the scoreboard first only 50 seconds into the contest. Matt LaVanaway ripped a shot off Twomey and the puck trickled past the goal line, giving the Devils a quick 1-0 lead. Ryan Leger assisted on the game's opening tally.
North Middlesex, however, responded 2:17 in. On the power play, Ryan McCarthy fed McNamara, who rifled a shot past Leominster netminder Nick Kearney (19 saves).
Leominster's Matt Williams was robbed on a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Twomey, which would have given the Blue Devils a 2-1 advantage.
Special teams factored in again late in the period as North Middlesex capitalized on a two-man advantage.
"The penalties definitely affected us," King said.
The Patriots cycled the puck around and Cobleigh blasted a slapshot from the top of the right circle and into the back of the net at 14:03.
Both teams kept their cool in a penalty-free second period, but the Patriots did all the scoring with two more tallies and a comfortable 4-1 edge.
North Middlesex went up 3-1 at 10:55 on a Justin Estrella goal, assisted by McNamara.
McNamara came calling for his second goal of the evening at 13:17. The smooth forward picked up a loose puck and went top shelf to light the lamp. The helper was credited to McCarthy (2 assists).
"It's hard work, dedication, and the one thing we don't have is any egos on this team," said coach McCarthy on why the Pats are winning so much lately. "Every single kid put the team and their teammates first."
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