FITCHBURG — It couldn’t get any more even if they tried.
Level on the scoreboard after two periods of play, and in a case of anything you can do I can do just as well, both the North Middlesex Regional and Groton-Dunstable Regional boys’ ice hockey teams needed a tremendous spark in the final period if they wanted to take both crucial Roy Conference points instead of sharing them.
With just under nine minutes remaining, North Middlesex got the spark in a big way.
Matt Metras’ wristing rocket to the top shelf put the Patriots ahead for good, and Kyle Templeton added much-needed insurance with 2:46 left to give North Middlesex a well-deserved 4-2 win over the Crusaders at the Wallace Civic Center Saturday night.
The win improved North Middlesex to 2-0 overall on the season.
“Whenever you play Groton-Dunstable, your heart rate always goes up,” seventh-year North Middlesex coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s always very competitive, and it’s always a benchmark for us, as it is for them. This game could have gone either way, no doubt about it, and it’s nice to see when we play the way we’re supposed to play, we can compete with the best in Central Mass.”
Metras’ magic trick of a goal came at an opportune time. With the Crusaders in the midst of a line change six minutes into the third period, Michael Amari’s neutral zone pass from behind the red line went right to the senior, who skated hard up the left side with no one in front of him.
Ripping his shot from the dot, he made it disappear over Groton-Dunstable goalie Aidan Ferrara’s (27 saves) left shoulder, tucking it up and under the crossbar to give North Middlesex a 3-2 lead.
“It was a phenomenal goal,” McCarthy said. “Matt’s an offensively gifted player who we’ve moved from forward to (defense). He really controls the defense with his speed, but his shot is like a forward.”
Six minutes later, as a too-many-men-on-the-ice bench minor expired, Templeton — who served the penalty — found himself waved on to play with the first line and met the puck just inside the blue line in the Patriots’ defensive end.
Templeton fought off the Crusader winger and raced up ice with the wing on his heels, nearly tripping him up entering the circle. He crossed through the slot, bringing it across Ferrara’s front and deking it in at the long side, wrapping the win in a nice little bow.
“The thing with Kyle is you never have to question his motor. He goes 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. We got him out there in crucial situations and subbing when guys on the first two lines needed a blow, and he did phenomenal when he was on the ice,” McCarthy said.
The game was incredibly even through the first 15 minutes of play: North Middlesex had scored first thanks to Matt Devito’s fourth goal of the season, a shorthanded job, before G-D equalized four minutes later, with Brendan Ferrari doing the honors of putting the biscuit beyond North Middlesex freshman goalie Thomas Kelly’s (20 saves) reach.
North Middlesex managed to get a burst of acceleration toward taking a 2-1 lead only 5:12 into the second, as Groton-Dunstable found itself a man down for two minutes.
Cam Stairs gave North Middlesex the 2-1 lead, scoring off Nick White’s won faceoff in the offensive zone.
The lead lasted four minutes, as Blake Lacombe scored a vicious one-timer on Ian Maguire’s centering pass from the corner.