FITCHBURG -- During the preseason, first-year head coach Michael McCarthy presaged that the Patriots were not an offensive powerhouse, and that putting pucks on net was going to be key. North Middlesex won their Coughlin Conference opener 2-0 over a scrappy, undermanned Gardner-Murdock. The Patriots controlled every facet of the game, including time of possession, shots and faceoffs.
"I told my seniors it was their last first game ever," said McCarthy. "We fought hard. We don't have that prototypical goal-scorer. We have to score as a team. I thought we did a very good job creating our chances off good passing and cycling the puck down low."
North Middlesex found themselves up against a stud goaltender in Nate Mailett. Mailett stood on his head throughout the game at the mercy of the North Middlesex attack. Mailett was the lone bright spot for the Wildcats in the loss, stymying 47 shots.
"Nate played the puck well tonight," said Gardner-Murdock head coach John Meany. "He is the story of this game. Without him, we are in a world of hurt. His play was absolutely massive for us tonight. Nate showed toughness all night long."
North Middlesex looked primed for success the moment they took to the ice. According to McCarthy, the Patriots had about 15-20 solid scoring chances.
"When you get a win in-conference against a very tough opponent, it's a nice thing," said McCarthy. "We had our chances. Their goalkeeper is and played phenomenal.
North Middlesex outshot the Wildcats 49-12, choking the clock by keeping the puck inside the Gardner defensive zone.
Sophomore Wildcats' forward Shawn Doherty had a solid chance on net, but junior netminder Ryan Twomey ranged stick side and booted it away with 10:38 left in the period. Gardner tried to dictate the pace for much of the first period. Senior Gardner forward Mitch Doody sounded off a wrister blocker side, but Twomey was able to make the save.
The first period was a back-and-forth battle, but North Middlesex wore down the depleted Gardner team. The Wildcats have just 13 men on the roster, and the Patriots skated three lines against the two of Gardner, which wore them down gradually throughout the game.
Gardner had another chance with 3:50 left in the first when Doherty unleashed a slapper from the point. Twomey ranged to his right and kicked the puck out of the crease.
North Middlesex continued to pour attempts on goal, outshooting the Wildcats 9-3 in the first period of play. The Patriots would break through at 7:14 in the second period on an unassisted goal by senior captain Will Faulkner. Faulkner skated downhill from the left side of the neutral zone on the breakaway, cut across to his right and fired a baffling wrist-shot from the left to beat Maillett glove side.
North Middlesex's Matt McRae tacked on a late goal in the third period to ice the home opener.