FITCHBURG -- When the North Middlesex Patriots eliminated its Wallace Civic Center at Fitchburg State University rink-mate, Lunenburg/ Ayer Shirley, Monday night for the Division 3A Central Mass., head coach Mike McCarthy posed a question to his team in the dressing room: McCarthy asked who the team's player of the night was -- they all answered senior goalkeeper Ryan Twomey.
"Win, lose or draw, play or no play, they just want to be a part of it," the coach said. "I truly believe that when you have kids who are not happy, it brings other kids down. Everyone was happy for the guy next to him in that room, whether they were playing or not. Twomey can't do what he does if the guy next to him is whining and pouting and causing disturbances between periods. Some of the kids who didn't play last night were some of the vocal leaders in our locker room. They were just being true teammates."
Twomey, a senior goalkeeper who has a goals against average of 2.14 per-game and his fellow classmate and net-minder, Brandon Donohoe. However, it all starts at his blue-line with his veteran teammates, captain PJ Dupre, Miles Massidda and Mike Carson.
"Defensively, we have been pretty solid on our breakouts and working the puck out of our zone," Carson said. "We have improved a lot from the start of the season with bringing the puck out of our defensive end and getting good scoring opportunities. I saw a big improvement in getting bench and leg strength up after we did that preseason program.
Forwards Daigan Robichaud and Dylan Conner have been integral role players for the Patriots and have helped their team get to its first state final in the last decade. While the Patriots are piling up goals this season as a unit with 83 goals through 23 games. But, North Middlesex cannot do it without the trench.
"Our first-line of Danny McNamara and Ryan McCarthy is finding the back of the net constantly -- it's working out," Robichaud said. "I have never seen anything like that (Monday), let alone play in front of a crowd like that."
From the very first days of practice at the start of the season to the team bonding events, the North Middlesex Patriots hockey team has been able to count on one another according to Conner.
"There is nobody on this team that we don't like -- we all have a great chemistry together," Conner said. "We are all friends. Since the beginning of the year, we all bonded together at spags (spaghetti dinners) and stuff. We have changed since we were freshmen -- it's been awesome."
The Patriots have the ability to run three lines deep without much of a drop-off, but don't call them stacked. North Middlesex would rather get its hands dirty and scrap for goals. Much like the towns the North Middlesex School District is comprised of, the Patriots are a blue collar bunch.
"It's been fun for us as coaches to be spectators to have a front-row seat to it," the coach said. "We are a deep team. Against Lunenburg, our depth proved to be the winner. I don't think we are more talented up front, but we roll out three lines consistently. In our semifinals game with Nashoba, we couldn't wear them down like we can wear other teams down because they too roll out three lines. I am very happy with the players we have, and how versatile they are."