The Patriots didn’t get a shot on net until 5:27 of the first period, but they converted nonetheless, as Josh Miller and Dan McNamara got past all five Crusader skaters for a 2-on-1 with goaltender Jason Robes. McNamara drew Robes to one side, then went to the other to find Miller to put it in the wide-open net to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
The Crusaders outshot the Patriots 18-3 in the first period, but could only get one goal. That came at 10:41, when Justin Cole, Josh Rabbitt, and Pat Keating all had opportunities right in front of North Middlesex goalie Ryan Twomey. The third effort saw Rabbitt attempt a wraparound denied by Twomey, but Rabbitt put home the ensuing rebound to tie the game.The Patriots would regain the lead on a power play at 7:42 of the second period, when Matthew McCarthy took a shot from up close in the left faceoff circle and beat Robes over his left shoulder to make it 2-1.
The game started to get chippy in the second period. The game had been incredibly physical throughout, but the simple checks turned into open-ice hits, which in turn led to scuffles after the whistle. With the teams already called for a combined seven penalties, Rabbitt and North Middlesex’s Todd Melanson nearly came to blows after a save by Twomey, earning them both unsportsmanlike conduct minors.
The Patriots extended their advantage at 3:42 of the third period when Ryan Dodge intercepted a pass in his own zone and raced up ice past the Crusader defense for an unassisted goal that made the score 3-1.
Twenty-six seconds later, the Crusaders took a death blow as Rabbitt took a shot at the head of a Patriot player, earning him a four-minute major and a game misconduct.
The Crusaders would cut the deficit to one during a 4-on-3 power play when Eric Niemoller batted in a long rebound out of the air at 7:08. But that would be as close as the Crusaders would get, as a late tripping penalty only allowed them five skaters to attack in the last minute with Robes pulled. Moreover, the North Middlesex defense held its ground, not allowing a shot in that span.
“There was no sense of urgency tonight,” G-D head coach Phil Rowley said. “I guess it’s a good wake-up call for them. We didn’t play well, we didn’t do the things that got us here. Hopefully we’ll learn something for the long run and into states.”
The Crusaders (15-4) outshot the Patriots 40-12, but according to Rowley, “That doesn’t mean anything. We didn’t have great shots, [Twomey] was seeing everything, their defensemen probably blocked more shots than [he] did.”
The Crusaders will wrap up the regular season Wednesday at the Groton School vs. Algonquin.
The game took place as part of G-D’s third annual Military Night. All proceeds from concessions, tickets, t-shirt sales, a 50/50 raffle (which saw the winner take home $400), and a raffle for one of the Crusaders’ special camouflage uniforms went to the Sgt. William Woitowicz Memorial Fund. After graduating from G-DRHS in 2007, Wotiowicz joined the Marines and served during Operation Enduring Freedom before being killed in Afghanistan in 2011.