By Ed Niser
GROTON — Groton-Dunstable (6-2-1, 4-1-1 Roy Conf.) carried play for much of Saturday night’s Roy Conference rivalry game with North Middlesex (5-2-3, 2-1-1 Roy Conf.) — outshooting the Patriots, 46-17.
The Patriots, despite their less than stellar performance in the early stages of the game, dug deep trailing 3-1 with under three minutes remaining in the game. North Middlesex head coach Michael McCarthy used his timeout with 3:33 remaining in the game.
“The attitude on our bench was nothing but positive,” said coach McCarthy. “Every kid on the bench was ultra positive and cheering each other on — encouraging everyone that we got this. I can’t tell you how far that positivity goes. We were pulling the rope in the right direction for the last 10 minutes tonight.”
Michael Amari and Matthew McCarthy scored 1:34 apart to help the Patriots pick up a 3-3 tie at the Groton School.
“Forty-five minutes of hockey and they (Groton-Dunstable) beat us up for 37 minutes,” said North Middlesex head coach Michael McCarthy. “Our goaltender (Joe Sheridan) kept us close enough to steal a point.”
Matthew McCarthy scored both of his goals in the third period and Nick White added a pair of helpers to lead the Patriots.
The flashy play of Sheridan between the pipes is something that coach McCarthy and the Patriots have been waiting for from their senior captain.
“That’s what we need from him,” said coach McCarthy. “That’s a big game for him to boost his confidence to where it should be. He played the way he should. The goals that they were able to get on him were defensive lapses and rebound chances. Hopefully, we can clean that up a bit, so that the next time we play them, we can play them competitively for the full 45.”
Groton-Dunstable senior Connor Hannemann led the Crusaders with a goal and an assist, while Joey Zinkann and Keegan Penney also scored.
“We let one slip away a little bit there,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Brendan McCann. “It is unfortunate, but it seems to be a reoccurring trend. We have had some struggles late in games and it really kind of came back to bite us today. Hopefully, it is a learning point going forward. Otherwise, we played well for 40-42 minutes — we gave up a goal 30 seconds into the third period and we didn’t back down.”
Groton-Dunstable put the pressure on Sheridan throughout the first period, but time and time again the senior captain came up big.
Six-minutes into the second, Penney blasted a shot in the slot that started towards the top-corner of the net, but Sheridan ranged to his right and shucked the puck aside. Sheridan faced 11 shots and he managed to keep the game scoreless through one period.
In the second, Groton-Dunstable’s persistence paid off, when senior forward Benjamin Strauss carried the puck across the blue line with Hannemann in tow. Strauss’s shot deflected off the leg pad of Sheridan and Hannemann glided in and swiftly snapped the puck past Sheridan to put the Crusaders up 1-0 at 9:55 of the second period.
North Middlesex was outshot 29-6 in the second period, but the Patriots did not let that demoralize them. Matthew McCarthy slipped one past Groton-Dunstable goaltender Ben McEvoy (13 saves) just 26 seconds into the period off a pass from Matt DeVito to knot the game at 1-1.
Groton-Dunstable returns to action Monday morning at 10 a.m., when it travels to Longmeadow, while the Patriots host Nashoba at 2:30 p.m. at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro.
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