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FITCHBURG — The undefeated Patriots welcomed a desperate Westboro squad to the Wallace Civic Center at Fitchburg State University Tuesday afternoon.

North Middlesex emerged victorious, but it was not easy, as it crept past the Rangers 2-1 to move to 13-0-2 on the season.

“In our league the team that plays its best is usually the team that wins,” North Middlesex head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We need to play our best to win games. Every team in this league has to play its best hockey. Over the course of the season we have found ways to win, and that’s contagious.”

North Middlesex needed some last minute heroics to pull out the win, and it received it from senior captain Jay Cobleigh.

With the score knotted at 1-1 with under two minutes remaining in the game, Justin Estrella swung a pass along the boards to Josh Miller, who found Cobleigh in the left slot. Cobleigh, then zipped a one-timer wrist-shot screaming under the stick of the Westboro netminder for the eventual game-winner.

“I work on that shot every day in practice just for fun when we get on the ice,” a smiling Cobleigh said. “(Estrella) won the battle in the corner and got the puck out of there and found Miller. Miller fed me a nice pass and I just put the puck in the empty net.”

North Middlesex owned a 31-25 shot advantage, but that number is a little inflated according to McCarthy.

“I thought that Westboro had more quality chances than we had,” McCarthy said. “Their quality chances were better than ours tonight, but Marc Frederick was there every time but a 2-on-0 and there is not much you can do. Marc is a good goalie, but he isn’t perfect, he needs a little help from that back line.”

In what was a bruising first period, the Patriots had nothing to show for it until 13:27 when Justin Estrella jammed a rebound chance past the Westboro goaltender off a feed from Matt DeVito.

With a 1-0 lead heading into the second period, it was evident by the way Westboro was pressing that the lead would not be enough. Rangers forward Stephen Falvey netted the equalizer with 9.9 seconds remaining in the frame on a 2-v-1. Falvey beat NM goaltender Marc Frederick to his right to tie the game at 1-1.

North Middlesex had chances to take the lead early in the period on chances from Estrella and Devon Blanchard in traffic, but the pair simply could not get it past Westboro goaltender Jared Ward, who stood on his head for much of the third. Ward stopped 31 shots in a losing effort.

“We definitely didn’t play our best game tonight, but we found a way to win,” Cobleigh said. “

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