TOWNSEND — On paper, Saturday’s matchup for the North Middlesex boys lacrosse team appeared to be a tough one as a 6-1 Littleton team was coming to town. The Patriots entered the game struggling, especially after a disappointing loss to Shrewsbury when the Patriots accomplished little on both ends of the field.
But as they say, that is why they play the games.
The game wasn’t played on paper and North Middlesex came out with an aggressive mindset, one that set the Tigers back. North Middlesex featured a stingy defense and turned things around, doing an outstanding job of not allowing the Tigers to get untracked offensively. The result was a convincing and satisfying 7-2 win.
“We were so focused today,” said North Middlesex coach Keith Stone. “We played a complete, four quarter game. We played outstanding defense and did a great job of getting ground balls.”
Backboning the victory was goaltender Mark Willis, who was called upon in the opening minutes of the game and came up with a tremendous effort. He stepped in and stonewalled the Littleton defense, making some big saves and totally frustrating the Tigers’ offensive threats.
“Mark played in goal for the first time in two years,” said Stone. “He switched to attackman and hasn’t practiced in goal at all. The defense set the tone with its intensity and effort, and Mark was a large part of it and came up with some strong saves. We know that Littleton has the ability to score but we did a good job of taking that away.”
The first quarter was played close to the vest by both teams and at the end of the first 12 minutes, the game remained scoreless with each team getting only two shots on goal. North Middlesex did a solid job of controlling the ball and enjoyed a large territorial edge, but that advantage didn’t translate into shots on goal in the first quarter.
Both teams opened play up in the second quarter when the Patriots took control of the game. In the opening minute, North Middlesex’s Wil Faulkner fired a testing shot from outside the left post, but Littleton goaltender Zach Taylor (eight saves) made the stop.
The Patriots drew first blood at 1:18 when Faulkner took a pass outside the left post from Mike Beliveau and netted a low shot to make it 1-0.
Before the ink had dried on that goal, the Patriots doubled the lead just 22 seconds later when Jake Trickett sliced in from right wing and bounced a shot past Taylor.
As in the first period, the Patriots did a great job of controlling the ball, but they used that control to continue to mount offensive threats. They had the first six shots on goal in the quarter, continuing to pressure, and Trickett struck again at 4:23 to extend the lead, cutting across the field and netting a hard, bouncing shot.
“Jake scored a pair of important goals,” said Stone. “We had been outplaying Littleton but those goals gave us some breathing room.”
At that point, Littleton started to mount some offense and the Tigers just missed getting on the board a minute later when Kevin Dargin rang a shot off the post. The Tigers were able to get on the board at 7:18, when Dan Johnson took a pass outside the right post from Jerry Fermanian and scored from close range.
Willis (10 saves) came up with a pair of outstanding saves over the remainder of the quarter, stopping low shots by Fermanian and Dargin, and the Patriots added to the lead with just less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Beliveau took a pass outside the left post from Brian Bourgeois, stepped past a Littleton defender and bounced a shot into the net.
North Middlesex took a 4-1 lead to intermission, holding a 10-7 edge in shots on goal.
The Patriots defensive corps of Chris Paul, Austin Heller and Desmond Pinkham did an outstanding job of keeping Littleton’s defense on the perimeter and limited Littleton’s go-to player, Dargin, with tight marking.
The teams split four shots on goal in the third quarter, but the only one that counted came from North Middlesex. At 5:28, Bourgeois took a pass from J.P Dineen and fired a hard shot under the cross bar to make it 5-1.
Any thoughts of a comeback by Littleton were quickly dashed in the fourth quarter. Just 29 seconds in, Bourgeois circled the net and sent a shot under the cross bar to make it 6-1.
The North Middlesex defense continued to stymie Littleton as there was no letdown, and at 8:52 Bougeois (three goals, assist) finished off his hat trick, scoring from close range after circling the net.
Littleton was able to net one final goal, ending a scoring drought of more than 27 minutes.
Trickett finished with two goals for the Patriots while Beliveau added a goal and an assist.
“Jake and Brian are our goal scorers and they came up big,” said Stone. “We were struggling coming in and this is a much-needed win. We want to build off this game.”