FITCHBURG- North Middlesex (2-2, 1-2 Coughlin Conference) faced their toughest challenge of the young season, when they hosted undefeated Nashoba (5-0, 4-0 Coughlin Conference), in a Wednesday afternoon matinee.
The Patriots kept up with the hard-hitting Chieftains skaters for the majority of the game.
North Middlesex's Danny McNamara brought his hardhat and lunch pail in the loss, and attempted to bring the Patriots back from a two-goal deficit with his tally at 12:27 of the third period.
Nashoba glided past North Middlesex 2-1 in Coughlin Conference action. Patriots' junior net-minder, Ryan Twomey had a solid day between the iron, stopping 26 shots in the loss.
"Being a goaltender myself, I think I am overly critical of our goaltenders play most of the time," said North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy. "He played as good as I could ask a goaltender to play. He was our best player on our ice tonight."
Nashoba's wings were successful in moving pucks off the boards and into the North Middlesex offensive zone. 29 seconds into the first period, Nashoba registered their first quality chance of the afternoon, on a Mike Charbonneau wrister from the right side, but Twomey was able to slide to his left and stack his pads for the save.
North Middlesex had a chance at 2:30 of the first period. Estrella skated in from the right side, and attempted to lift the puck high left side, but Chieftains goalkeeper Devyn Levesque was able to make the blocker save.
The Patriots went on the powerplay when Charbonneau was sent to the sin bin for holding at 10:45 of the first period. North Middlesex crashed the net, and McNamara rang off a quality shot with two minutes in traffic, but Levesque was able to snare the puck with 2:00 remaining in the period.
Nashoba owned the shots-on-goal edge leading the Patriots 8-5 at the first intermission.
The game was a 0-0 stalemate after one period of play. The Chieftains accrued 4:30 in penalty minutes, but the Patriots were unable to capitalize on Nashoba's miscues.
Nashoba wasted no time trying their luck at goal, when Charbonneau cranked a wrister from the right side just 50 seconds into the period, which was steered clear by Twomey.
Brett Estrella skated into the offensive zone, and sounded off a slapper that was smothered by Levesque at 6:39 of the second period.
Neither team could muster much offense in the second, as the Chieftains outshot North Middlesex 6-3.
North Middlesex and Nashoba developed a sense of urgency in the third period, with the Cheiftains controlling much of the offense.
Charbonneau broke the stalemate at 4:19 of the second period.
Senior defenseman, Drew Foster connected with Charbonneau on a centering pass, which he lifted from the point past Twomey to give the Chieftains a 1-0 lead.
The Chieftains continued to keep the Patriots defensemen on the edge of their skates by controlling the puck in their offensive zone.
Nashoba's Mike Lengieza hammered home the eventual game winner at 9:16 of the final period, extending the Chieftain's lead to 2-0.
North Middlesex battled valiantly down the homestretch, and refused to be blanked on their home ice. Estrella unleashed a slap shot from the top of the point, off the chest of Levesque.
McNamara gathered the rebound, and flicked the puck top-shelf left side, to cut the Chieftains' lead to 2-1 with 4:52 remaining in regulation.
McCarthy noted that he was impressed with how his team performed against the conference's top team, but added there are a few things that need to be fine-tuned going forward.
"The nicest thing about today's game is that Nashoba is the best team in our conference," said McCarthy. "We're right with everybody if we play our game for 45 minutes. We didn't do that tonight. We had a couple mental lapses, and allowed Nashoba to successfully move pucks off the boards, if we can clean that up we're a much better team."
North Middlesex squares off with Nashoba Valley foe, Groton-Dunstable Saturday at the Wallace Civic Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.