GROTON - Prior to the start of Saturday night's Roy Conference tilt between North Middlesex (10-3-4, 6-1-1 Roy Conference) and Groton-Dunstable, both teams gathered together at center ice to unveil a large American flag during the national anthem
But once the puck dropped on the sixth-annual military night game, which is played in the honor of U.S. Marine Corps. Sgt. Billy Woitowicz, a 2009 Groton-Dunstable Regional High School graduate, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Woitowicz was awarded the Silver Star after his death.
North Middlesex senior defenseman Ryan Archibald tucked the eventual game-winning goal past Groton-Dunstable senior goaltender Ben McEvoy (19 saves) midway through the third period to lift the Patriots to a 3-2 victory over Groton-Dunstable.
When the two teams last met at the Groton School, North Middlesex rallied from two goals down to salvage a tie. Senior defenseman Jack Rivet tried to provide the Crusaders with a little spark, when he scored on a wrist shot late in the third period, but the Crusaders could not equalize. "Groton is our next town rival and it is always a tough game," said North Middlesex head coach Michael McCarthy. "It doesn't matter who is at the top of the standings. It is always a one goal game. I think all of these military nights have been a phenomenal battle. They (Groton) are a classy group and they are well-coached. Our team responded well after not getting the result we wanted against Algonquin." Groton-Dunstable outshot North Middlesex, 25-23.
"We need at least a win and a tie to get in," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Brendan McCann. "It was very similar to the game we played early on this season. We were right in there, but there was no puck luck for us at the end of that game."
After a scoreless up-and-down first-period, the Patriots drew first blood at 7:20 of the second period, when senior captain Matthew McCarthy poked home a rebound.
It did not take Groton-Dunstable long to equalize, when Charlie Sebastyn shuffled a pass in the slot to Chris Lattini, who one-timed it past North Middlesex senior goaltender Joey Sheridan (23 saves) at 11:35 of the period to make it 1-1.
Junior forward Cameron Stairs tapped in a goal at 14:20 of the second period to give the Patriots a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
North Middlesex returns to action next Saturday at Marlboro (5:15 p.m.).
"This was such an evenly matched game," said McCarthy. "It was nice to see my team respond to a team that came at us hard and physical like Groton did. We took some hits and made some plays - we also gave our share of hits. Groton really brought out the best in us tonight. It is probably the best three period game we have had so far this year, where we battled for all three periods. I am really proud of the group. The kids played hard tonight and they deserved this win - it's a big win for us."
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