Lavery propels Patriots past Lexington – Sentinel and Enterprise

FITCHBURG — Connor Lavery scored two power-play goals in the third period and Aaron Scarelli stopped 29 shots as North Middlesex Regional beat Lexington, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at the Wallace Civic Center.
The win marked a return to form for North Middlesex (8-2-1), who had just lost 4-2 to Groton-Dunstable. The loss not only ended the Patriots’ six-game unbeaten streak, but marked only the second time this season they allowed more than two goals in a game.
North Middlesex are now a perfect 4-0-0 against opponents Eastern Mass., a great sign considering the new statewide tournament structure.
“I think given this new system that we’re playing in, Central Mass. needs to go out and play with Eastern Mass teams. It’s another brand of hockey,” said North Middlesex coach Steve Trundle. “We have to go out and find other teams beyond Central Mass. I think over time that has to change.”
So far North Middlesex have had little trouble matching skills with opponents Eastern Mass., picking up victories over Bedford, Dracut and Ashland, ahead of Saturday’s victory over Lexington.
North Middlesex slowly came out of the gates, managing just four shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes, despite having two power play advantages.
Lexington (4-6-1) took advantage, taking a 1-0 lead at 6:38 on an unassisted goal by John Donaghy.
That lead held throughout the second period, despite the Patriots improving focus and intensity. NM’s forwards, led by Jimmy O’Keefe and Lavery, stepped up their forecheck and kept the Minutemen from generating much of the breakout.
Yet North Middlesex only managed nine shots on goal in the first two periods.
“We did a much better job on the forecheck but still couldn’t get to the net,” Trundle said. “In the third period, I think we did a better job. We tweaked some lines a bit to see if we could create more offense, which I think we did overall. I think our “green line”, which is our third line, they’ve played very good hockey for two games in a row. »
North Middlesex finally broke through, early in the third period, thanks to some good old-fashioned hustle. Connor Lavery made a one-on-one flight at the blue line and broke the right boards hard. This led directly to a brutal penalty on Eric Couette of Lexington, pitting the Patriots on the power play.
This time North Middlesex didn’t waste the chance, smashing Lexington keeper Luke Dinsmore (17 saves) with shots before Lavery finally hit home a rebound to tie the game with 12:50 remaining.
Later in the period, another turmoil play led to an interference penalty on Lexington’s Nolan Kingsbury.
Once again, it was Lavery who did the dirty work in net to give the Patriots the lead. Dinsmore was able to make a pad save on a shot from O’Keefe’s left circle. Dinsmore also stopped Lavery’s first rebound offer, but the Patriots co-captain kept working and slammed home to give the Patriots a 2-1 lead with 8:33 left.
“Go to the net. We talked about that between periods, about us not going to the net and having to start playing in the ‘dirty areas’, if you will,” Trundle said. “And Connor did it and he scored two goals. He was rewarded. »
The rest was left up to Scarelli and the Patriots defense. Lexington, playing with a sense of urgency, invaded the attacking zone but was repeatedly blocked by a defense that obstructed the front of the net and blocked the passing lanes.
Scarelli made a handful of excellent saves during the period, using his pads, glove, stick and, on one particularly vicious shot, his facemask.
Lexington pulled their goaltender out for the extra skater with 1:29 left, but couldn’t get a shot on net.0