FITCHBURG — Division 3A state champion North Middlesex, who has since made the jump to Division 3, paid a visit to its old Coughlin Conference rival Lunenburg-Ayer Shirley Saturday afternoon at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg.
Sometimes after winning a state title, teams tend to develop some rink rust, that was not the case for the Patriots, who exploded for seven goals in the second period to top the Blue Knights, 9-0, in the season opener for both teams.
Since winning the state title 12-0 over Wahconah, NM has outscored its opponents to the tune of 21-0 in its last two games.
NM outshot Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley 38-6.
“Once we got our spacing after the first period, we started to get clearer looks at the net,” Third-year head coach Mike McCarthy said. “It was a matter of time early in the second, where if a couple bounces went one way, it could’ve been a 1-1 game.”
North Middlesex freshman right wing Matt DeVito scored a natural hatrick with three goals in succession, separated by less than three minutes.
It was a feat that the freshman had been dreaming of.
“I knew I wanted to bury one,” DeVito said. “I was dreaming about what I would do when I got the puck. I never thought that I’d score three. I have to thank my linemates Brendan Barry and Tyler Riel — I love playing with them.”
The future is bright for DeVito and the North Middlesex Patriots.
“Matt is a very skilled kid with the puck,” McCarthy said. “He is only a freshman, but he is a fantastic player. We have an excellent class of incoming freshmen this year with good numbers and good talent. We try our best to incorporate kids early, if they are willing and able to contribute.”
Justin Estrella broke the 0-0 deadlock 2:36 into the first period. Josh Miller unleashed a shot from the point, which was shucked aside by Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley goalkeeper Nathan Bourdelais (29 saves). The puck squirted out in front, and Estrella came from behind the cage and tucked it inside the left post to put NM up 1-0.
That is where the score would stand at the end of the first period.
“We got outplayed,” Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley head coach Eric Short said. “I have eighth-and-ninth graders — we are a very young team. I think we can even compete in our league and conference, but we were overmatched today. We are just going to do our best and move on.”
Lunenburg/Ayer Shirley senior captain Danny Baldino put a puck on net at the start of the second period, but North Middlesex senior goalie Marc Fredericks (6 saves) was up for the challenge.
North Middlesex took the game by the horns in the second period, netting seven straight markers.
Devito’s third goal was the best of the bunch, as he went one-on-one with the goalie and lifted it top-shelf at 12:01 of the second.
Other notable offensive stars for North Middlesex includes Matthew McCarthy (2 goals) and Josh Miller (1 goal, 1 assist).
North Middlesex gets its first sniff of Roy Conference action Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m., when it hosts Leominster at the Civic Center.
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout:@EdNiser