MARLBOROUGH -- North Middlesex overcame a Nashoba goal just 16 seconds in to defeat Nashoba, 3-2, Monday afternoon at the New England Sports Center.
The Patriots netted three unanswered goals in the second period to earn their first win over the Chieftains in recent history.
"We've gotten down early before and came back," said second-year North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy. "We have had some experience with this, and had three goal leads where we were able to hold on. It was nice to hold onto that one. That Nashoba team is relentless with their forecheck. They keep coming at you, and it showed at the end of the game.
Nashoba is a team we haven't beat in three or four years. It is not a team you can overlook, that's for sure."
North Middlesex out-shot the Chieftains 18-17. Nashoba captain Kevin Gilchrist stunned back-up senior goaltender Brendan Donohoe 16 seconds into the opening frame with a blistering wrist-shot that snuck under his stick. The North Middlesex defense continued to scrap and gather puck down deep in the corners to mitigate the damage at one after the first intermission.
The Patriots made some offensive adjustments during the break, and they worked to perfection. North Middlesex's first line has proven to be the go-to scoring line for McCarthy's Patriots, and on Monday, it was no different.
Josh Miller sent a low-lying puck from the left-wing across the crease to Danny McNamara who deposited the equalizer top-shelf at 3:39 of the second period. Two minutes later, it was junior forward Devon Blanchard who was on the receiving end of a brilliant pass from behind the cage by McNamara.
McNamara's pass was ice-level and Blanchard buried the puck under the stick-shaft of Nashoba goalie Devyn Levesque to make it 2-1. Later in the period, McNamara picked up his second assist of the game on a pass from behind the net to Ryan McCarthy who placed the puck under the crossbar from the point to extend the Patriots' lead to 3-1.
Nashoba got one back at 3:37 of the third period. Chieftains captain Nick Travis skated over the blue-line following an outlet pass from Gilchrist and sniped it past Donohoe from in front of the North Middlesex bench. That is as close as Nashoba would get. North Middlesex tried to net an insurance goal, but the Nashoba defense held the Patriots to just two shots in the final period.
"With a lot of teams in this league, it's period-to-period or shift-to-shift," the coach said. "I thought we had an excellent first period, but in the third period, eh, not so much. We let them right back into the game, but there are some simple things to clean up. I thought we were sleepwalking in the first a little bit -- that's not why they had a 1-0 lead. We have them in another week-or-so at our place. Hopefully, we can put together three solid periods of hockey or it is going to be another excruciatingly tight contest."
North Middlesex and Nashoba will meet again Jan. 29 at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg.