North Middlesex qualified for the playoffs with last Wednesday night's win over Nashoba, and the team remained hot when it traveled to Groton to take on the Littleton/Bromfield Tigers.
The second period has been kind to North Middlesex all season long when it comes to scoring goals, and the trend continued Saturday. North Middlesex scored four goals in the second to glide past the Tigers in a tough grinder of a game, 5-1.
"The second period has been our best period. Why? I don't know," chuckled North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy following the win. "We tried a little different warm-up tonight to see if we could start a little better. We started okay today, but we had three goals called back. Not all maybe should've counted, but the first one was in, no doubt. The kids battled through it and in the second period we were executing on our fore-check."
Junior forward Devon Blanchard led the Patriots' with two goals, both of which came in the second period.
"Tonight, we were just looking to get the two points and get as high as we can in the standings," Blanchard said. "We are hoping to get as better placement for the districts as we can. The idea tonight was to come out skating hard and get as many goals as we could against a nonoffensive team. We played really good defense."
Littleton/Bromfield played an aggressive physical brand of hockey, but North Middlesex weathered the storm. North Middlesex narrowly netted the first goal of the game at 7:49 of the first period, when Matthew McCarthy pushed the puck across the goal line as he and a host of Patriots were pushed into the mouth of the goal and the net was jarred off its moorings. The goal was disallowed and Littleton/Bromfield capitalized on the opening three minutes later. Freshman forward Griffin Shoemaker netted the first goal of the night off a shovel pass from the left wing by Fabi Weissenberger. Shoemaker deked to his right and caught North Middlesex net-minder Ryan Twomey out of position and wristed it five-hole to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
That is where the score would stand as the two teams went into the locker rooms for the first intermission.
Freshman forward Donnie Frederick hammed home the equalizer. Frederick corralled a Josh Miller pass from the right-wing and slipped it behind the right skate of Littleton/Bromfield goalie Tommy Angell at 2:42 of the second period to make it 1-1. Twenty-nine seconds later, Ryan McCarthy slipped a wrist-shot inside the left pipe to give the Pats their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Blanchard netted two more goals late in the period, including a howitzer from the point to push the Patriots advantage out to 4-1. North Middlesex capped off the scoring at 7:27 of the third period on a goal from sophomore forward Brian Walter. Senior forward Dylan Conner shot a pass around the dashers and Walter crashed in from the right wing and dumped the puck over the left shoulder of Angell to make it 5-1.
"In the beginning our scoring was two or three kids," the coach said. "Now it is spread out across three lines. We are a much more dangerous team because they can't just focus on one or two kids.
"It has been a good season so far," he said. "The kids are working hard. We are trying to position ourselves for a good seed and go into the playoffs with the right state of mind."