HUDSON - North Middlesex senior goaltender Michael Niemi stopped 14 shots, but it was not enough as the Patriots fell to Hudson 2-0. Hawks' forward Brandyn Greeno struck the game-winner with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
"Mike really played well," North Middlesex head coach Pen Burnham said of his goalkeeper. "He seemed to be right on the ball. I would like to attribute it to skill. He was fearless. He went out there and blocked stuff. "Unfortunately, that one out in front was our mistake. They got that first one at 40 minutes in. Both goals weren't his fault. He made some really big saves, and I am very proud of him."
North Middlesex's defensive unit led by its senior captain Michael Spagnolo at sweeper and senior back Alex Darabaris, helped keep the Hudson offense in check for the better part of the opening half.
Hudson forward Lucas Medeiros had a quality opportunity to cash in during the seventh minute,as he secured a loose ball in front of the North Middlesex goal. Medeiros settled the ball, but his shot sliced wide right.
North Middlesex played on its heels for much of the first half. Offensive chances for the Patriots were at a minimum, but the defense continued to shine. North Middlesex's lone quality shot-at-goal in the half came from midfielder Leo LeClair. LeClair put a bit too much pace on the ball, and the wind directed the ball wide left of its mark.
Marc Deleppo found Greeno with a well-timed pass at the right of the cage in the 19th minute. Greeno connected on a nifty back-heel shot, but Niemi climbed the ladder and made an impressive save.
Greeno had another chance in stoppage time to break the stalemate, but his blast from outside the 18-yard box clanged off the crossbar. The North Middlesex defense quickly snuffed out the Hawks' chance at a rebound opportunity. It would not take long before Greeno had another opportunity with 10 seconds remaining, and he made the most of it.
Deleppo placed a precise through ball at the feet of the cutting Greeno, who chipped home the game's first goal to give Hudson a 1-nil at advantage at the half.
North Middlesex had a quality chance midway through the second half when the ball was misplayed by Hudson goalie Andrew Hatch. Fitzgerald closed in on the ball but he was unable to settle it. The trend would continue for the Patriots as the half waged on.
North Middlesex got another chance in the 20th minute when forward David Resmini drew Hatch off his line. Resmini put too strong of a touch on the ball, and it skirted wide right..
North Middlesex would have three more chances at goal as the minutes ticked away, but none were bigger than the opportunity it had with less than two minutes remaining.
LeClair was fouled at the top of the 18-yard-box and was given a prime time chance to equalize with a free kick from 20-yards. Kicking into the wind posed too difficult for the Patriots' specialist.
"During practice he makes that shot all day long," laughed Burnham. "It was windy and it's the first game jitters. We don't have any easy games in Div. 1. After last year, I said let's go in there and be respectable. I think it made a difference."