By Ed Niser
HOLDEN — Poor field conditions kept North Middlesex indoors for the start of the spring season, like most other local teams.
The Patriots got their first action of the regular season Tuesday afternoon at Wachusett’s Harold Lane Memorial Field.
North Middlesex overcame a four goal deficit in the first quarter by shutting out Wachusett in the second. The Patriots tied the game at 4-4 heading into the half, but it was not enough.
The Mountaineers quickly regrouped to hand North Middlesex a 13-8 loss in the first game for both teams.
“Those guys really rose to the occasion and they rallied back,” first-year North Middlesex head coach Sean McCaffrey said of his team’s fight. “This is a pretty serious group and they want to do well this year. It’s tough to lose, but they played well.”
McCaffrey comes to the Patriots from the North Middlesex youth lacrosse program.
“We have known a lot of these kids since the second or third grade,” McCaffrey said. “We have been a part of the youth program for many years, so we kind of came up with a lot of these guys. I think it goes both ways — the coaches and players all have a mutual respect and trust for each other.”
North Middlesex goalie Jake Baron kept the Patriots close for much of the afternoon with 15 saves.
“Jake made some unreal saves for us today,” said McCaffrey. “He has been doing that a lot to us in practice, so kudos to him. He really had a great game.”
North Middlesex seniors Corey DaSilva (3 goals, 2 assists), Justin Estrella (2 goals, assist) and Ryan MacDonald (2 goals, assist) led the Patriots’ offense in the loss.
Wachusett got on the board first with a quick strike from Ben Handrahan in traffic.
Handrahan scooped up a ground ball in front of the North Middlesex cage and beat Baron low left to make it 1-0 with 8:48 remaining.
The North Middlesex defense gave the Mountaineers fits for much of the first quarter and it capitalized on a turnover. DaSilva waltzed through traffic and beat Wachusett goalie Will Wiegand low right to equalize at 1-1 with 2:34 remaining.
Wachusett then sounded off three straight goals to end the quarter with a 4-1 advantage. North Middlesex regrouped and settled down in the second.
Baron kept the Patriots within striking distance on a couple of point blank-saves on blistering shots from Griffin LaPosta and Dan Turgeron (goal, 4 assists). MacDonald scored behind a pick from DiPano with 8:16 remaining in the quarter.
With 1:11 remaining in the second quarter, MacDonald zipped a pass to the streaking Estrella in the middle, who whipped it past the Wachusett goalie to knot the game at 4-4, which is where the score would stand at the half.
The Patriots picked up right where they left off in the third quarter as they struck first on a quick pass from senior TJ Melanson to Estrella, who let loose a low whip shot to make it 5-5, 46 seconds in.
Wachusett answered with a 3-1 run to end the third quarter up 8-6 behind goals from Andrew Gaffney and Mike Fritschy (6 goals, assist).
The Mountaineers used a 5-2 fourth-quarter flurry to finish off North Middlesex.
The Patriots are scheduled to open Saturday at 10 a.m. against Oakmont Regional.
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