FITCHBURG — Any similarities between the first half and the second half of North Middlesex’s 4-1 win over Algonquin on Wednesday were purely coincidental. The Patriots were badly outplayed over the first period and a half, before totally turning the tables and pulling away to the victory.
North Middlesex goaltender Terrence Dineen personally kept the Patriots in the game for the first half of the game, stopping 20 of the 21 shots he faced. Over the same period of time, the North Middlesex offense tested Alqonquin goaltender Peter Kenyon just eight times.
But after giving up a power-play goal in the second period to fall behind, the Patriots turned the faucet on and good play flowed. They held the Tomahawks without a shot on goal for more than 15 minutes, while pouring 16 consecutive shots at Kenyon as they took control of the game.
“Maybe falling behind got us going,” said North Middlesex coach Billy Graves. “We started skating, stayed out of the penalty box and played well. Terrence Dineen played his best game of the season. He kept us in it until we got things going.”
Algonquin owned an 11-7 edge in shots on goal in the first period, but both goalies were up to the task and kept the game on scoreless terms.
Dineen stopped a pair of quality opportunities by dangerous Justin Logan of the Tomahawks, denying a stuff attempt at the post at 5:15, and stopping a hard shot after a strong rush three minutes later.
The Patriots’ best offensive pressure came on a power play in the middle of the period, with Mike Cunha and Ryan Baldinelli getting testing shots off against Kenyon.
After North Middlesex got the first shot on goal in the second period, Algonquin took over play with the next nine as they kept the Patriots pinned in their own end.
The Tomahawks took the lead at 6:21 with a power-play goal when Logan cut in from the right corner and made a quick pass in front to Jeremy Richard, whose one-timer from close range found the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Strangely, that goal seemed to take the air out of Algonquin’s balloon and by the end of the period the Patriots had taken the lead.
At 9:53, Cunha netted the equalizer, blowing past a defender at the blue line with a great move before firing a hard, low shot into the net.
The Patriots kept pressuring and it paid off with the eventual game-winning goal at 11:58 when Ryan Malette pounced on a rebound and beat Kenyon from close range to make it 2-1. Cunha and Baldinelli assisted on the tally, which sent the Patriots to the second intermission with a one goal lead.
The intermission did little to change the flow of the play as it took the Patriots just 15 seconds to score an insurance goal when Baldinelli took a pass from Malette and beat Kenyon with a 30-foot wrist shot.
Algonquin survived a two-man disadvantage and mounted a threat when Evan Morrison broke in from left wing, but North Middlesex’s Declan McCann hustled back, dove and broke the play up.
The Patriots had a golden opportunity to add to the lead at 8:45 when a penalty shot was called, but Kenyon came up with the save.
The Patriots wrapped up the scoring on the power play with just 27 seconds left, Leo LeBlanc netting a hard, 30-foot wrist shot. Richard LaFlamme and David Wholey earned assists.
Dineen made 23 saves in the game for the Patriots, while Kenyon stopped 26 shots.
“When you keep your sticks on the ice you score,” said Graves. “The line of Malette, Baldinelli and Cunha played well and created a lot of chances. We didn’t play well early, but came back strong late in the second period and in the third period.”