FITCHBURG-As vehicles were slipping and sliding outside of the Wallace Civic Center Saturday night, the action was heating up between Groton-Dunstable and North Middlesex.
Senior defenseman, Allan Haynes provided the only offense in the game, with a bullet from the blue-line late in the first period, that deflected off a Patriots' defenseman into the goal.
"When you play a team that has more talent than you from top-to-bottom,you need that one bounce to go your way," said North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy.
"The shots on net won't indicate how hard we played. We don't' have the talent they have, but we outcompeted them on loose pucks and we battled for 45 minutes. It was a fluke play, it wasn't a lapse on our kids' part."
Groton-Dunstable came into Saturday's game with a goal for average of just over five per game. North Middlesex did a fantastic job jamming the passing lanes, making the Crusaders work hard for scoring chances.
Looking at the final shot tally, Groton-Dunstable dominated in shots with an edge of 37-8.
North Middlesex came out of the dressing room at the start of the game and played their hearts out.
The Patriots controlled the tempo of the game for much of the two opening periods, and caused a lot of frustration on the Crusaders' side of the rink.
"At the intermission I told the guys keep shooting the pucks on net and get the rebounds," said Groton-Dunstable head coach Phil Rowley. "I told them, they (North Middlesex) are beating us to the puck.
North Middlesex junior net-minder Ryan Twomey did a solid job in the crease, making an astounding 36 saves in the loss The Patriots played a very physical brand of hockey, pressuring the puck and disrupting the Crusaders offense in the slot.
The Patriots had a quality chance on goal off a Groton-Dunstable turnover near their own goal with 11:43 left in regulation.
North Middlesex senior captain, Brett Estrella took the puck off the stick of Groton-Dunstable's Michael Keating and fired a wrister that was knocked down,and cleared away by Jason Robes.
Michael McDonough laced a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Haynes, who was camped out at the top of the point.
Haynes channeled his inner Wayne Gretzky, and sent the puck howling towards the net off a Patriots' defender and in for the eventual game winner at 14:37 of the first period.
Michael Cole was also credited with an assist on the goal.
"I like to see shots from the point," said Rowley on Haynes' first period goal. "We have scorers who come in looking for rebounds. We practiced tip-in shots from the point. He just happened to hit one of their kids, and the puck went in the net. That's just one of those things that happens when you put the puck on net."
After two periods, Haynes first period goal remained the difference maker.
Groton-Dunstable tried to put another one past Twomey in the third, but C.J. Kenny. was stonewalled. T.J. Melanson and Mike Carson did a tremendous job pressuring Kenny,causing him to put too much lift on his shot.
Middlesex had an opportune chance to cash in when Estrella lofted the puck into the slot from behind the cage into traffic that was smothered by Groton-Dunstable goalkeeper, Jack Niemoler. Niemoler took over for Robes in goal midway through the second period.
"I am very proud of the kids' effort," said McCarthy. "As I told the boys, I try not to make a habit out of moral victories when you lose a game. We needed a bounce to go our way, but It went their way. That's just how the puck bounces sometimes."