North Middlesex fends off charge by Bulldogs – Lowell Sun

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The Monty Tech and North Middlesex boys soccer teams will be headed to their respective Central Mass. tournaments later this month and Wednesday’s game had all the intensity of a playoff clash.

The Patriots (8-3-1) built a 2-0 lead in the first half and withstood a pair of penalty kick goals by the Bulldogs in the second half to pull out a 3-2 win.

North Middelsex got goals from Jake Richard, Tyler Jastrab and Max Patenaude to run its win streak to four straight.

Monty Tech (8-4-1) has dropped three of its last four games. But each of those losses have come by one goal against non-Colonial League opponents.

“Definitely, North Middlesex is a very good team but I thought we played hard and played them tough,” said Monty Tech coach Brad Pelletier.

The game was a contrast in styles. North Middlesex showed superior speed and ball control, moving well without the ball and using the full width of the field in their attacks. Monty Tech countered with a physical style of play designed to try and slow down the Patriots.

For large stretches of the game, the strategy worked. North Middlesex managed to pepper Bulldog keeper Deegan Berry (16 saves) with shots, but often they weren’t able to get much power behind their strikes or missed the net altogether.

“Our goal was to frustrate them at their feet,” said Pelletier, who also dropped an extra midfielder back to help clog the area in front of keeper Berry.  “With a team like North Middlesex, a team that’s bigger and faster than us, we needed to commit the extra midfielder to try and contain them.”

North Middlesex drew first blood in the 8th minute. Richard took a run down the right side and took a shot from a difficult angle. But Berry had left just a bit of the far side of the net exposed and Richard’s shot nestled just inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

The Patriots dominated play for much of the first half but weren’t able to add to their lead until Patenaude beat Berry with a blast from 15 yards out in the final two minutes. In between those goals, Berry kept his team in the game with some outstanding net play, including brilliant stops on Patenaude and Jastrab, 30 seconds apart.

North Middlesex coach Jeff Waldron said the biggest challenge for his team was to remain focused and disciplined.

“It’s tough, you can get frustrated when you’re not converting (scoring bids),” he said. “It’s easy to start rushing, lose your focus and stop playing our brand of possession soccer.”

Unable to match the speed and ball-handling skills of the Patriots, Monty Tech used a “chip-and-chase” style of attack, looking to simply clear the ball deep into the North Middlesex end of the pitch and count on the speed of their forwards to get to the ball ahead of the Patriots’ defenders.

The strategy led to 10 corner kicks for the Bulldogs, including six in the second half. Forwards Sam Piazza, Isiac Paulino and midfielder Colin Wilbur combined to keep the Patriots back on their heels and maintain pressure on keeper Eliot Panacione (12 saves).

Monty Tech was able to cut the North Middlesex lead in half with 18:45 left to play on a penalty kick by Paulino. The senior chased down a long clear by Wilbur and was looking to cut in toward the net from the left side when he was taken down in the penalty area by a North Middlesex defender. Paulino beat Panacione to his right on the penalty kick to make it 2-1.

The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game minutes later but Panacione came up with a huge save on Austin Girouard.

North Middlesex grabbed an insurance goal with 9:42 remaining on a bomb from 40 yards out by Jastrab. Berry seemed to have the save made but the ball took a freak hop on the choppy, grass field at Monty Tech and slipped past him.

It turned out the insurance was needed. Off a corner kick by Piazza with just over two minutes left, Paulino headed the ball toward the far corner of the net, only to have it illegally stopped with his hands by a North Middlesex defender. Piazza scored on the ensuing penalty kick to make it 3-2, but that was as close as the Bulldogs could get.

North Middlesex will close out its regular season on Saturday, when it travels to Dudley to take on Shepherd Hill. Monty Tech will close out its season at home on Friday against Quaboag Regional.



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