FITCHBURG -- North Middlesex Regional had a lot riding on Wednesday's matinee matchup with Worcester/Leicester, and the Patriots put forth a playoff-like performance on the ice.
North Middlesex scored early and often in a convincing,9-1,victory at Fitchburg State University's Wallace Civic Center.
The Patriots (14-3-2) secured the second-overall seed in the upcoming Division 3A playoffs, but couldn't get the top seed due to Lunenburg's 1-1 tie with Grafton on Wednesday.
Worcester/Leicester (14-4-2) lost possession of the second seed with the defeat, falling to third.
With such a high-scoring game, a handful of Patriots padded their regular-season stats.
Center Danny McNamara had the biggest impact and also the earliest, scoring a hat trick in the first period alone.
Dylan Conner posted two first period goals and finished the game by adding on two assists, while Josh Miller recorded three assists.
"We came out to play," North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy said. "The winner of this game was guaranteed the two seed. It meant a lot to us after a very emotional and competitive game on Monday night against Groton-Dunstable. I was hoping not to have a letdown of energy and emotion, and we didn't, with a great first period and second period."
North Middlesex jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the blink of an eye, but the scene turned frightening as Worcester's Cameron Beisshel attempted to check a North Middlesex player and went head first into the boards.
He laid motionless on the ice for several moments, but was alert before being taken off the ice on a stretcher and sent to a local hospital for precautionary measures.
It is standard policy at North Middlesex events that any athlete with a potential head or neck injury must be checked out at a hospital.
"It was a good, clean game before that injury and after that, but you never want to see a kid go down like that," McCarthy said. "You never want to see a head or neck injury. Our thoughts and prayers are with him that it is nothing serious and (we) hope for him a speedy recovery."
With 39 seconds gone by, McNamara punched in his first marker on the very first shot of the contest.
With 11:50 on the clock in the opening period, a wraparound shot attempt got turned away, but Conner was there to push the rebound home.
Following the injury delay, McNamara's wrist shot from the right circle found the net, which made it 3-0.
The scoring continued, as Conner took his turn on a feed from the right circle, lifting the backhander home with 9:39 left in the frame.
With only 3:19 left in the first, McNamara got his hat trick on a feed into the high slot.
Just 11 seconds later, Justin Estrella connected on a rebound to make it,6-0.
By the period's end North Middlesex held a commanding 18-4 advantage in shots on goal.
"We didn't show up to play," Worcester head coach Mike Vaughan said. "We had an awful day at practice yesterday and it just carried into today. We didn't show up, but that's not taking anything away from North Middlesex. They are a fantastic hockey team."
North Middlesex extended the lead to seven just 5:45 in to the second, and less than a minute later the Wildcats got their lone marker.
The Patriots tacked on two more goals late in the period to take a 9-1 lead after two periods.
At that point, the hosts held a 30-10 advantage in shots.
"We're playing well right now, which is always the goal toward the end
of the season," McCarthy said. "I've been confident in these guys
since the day we took the ice in December. They're a hard-working team
and a tough bunch of kids, and when we show up to play like we did
today, we're a tough team to beat."