WORCESTER, Mass. – Second seed Grafton/BVT will advance to the Central Division 3A tournament semifinals after beating North Middlesex, 5-3, at Buffone Arena in a close game that was tied twice before Grafton/BVT pulled away in the second period.
The highlight reel was filled with two goals each from Grafton seniors Pat Lorden and Mike Palmer, who also was credited with three assists.
“It has been consistently our front line – Pat Lorden, Mike Palmer, Mike Moran – plus great defensive coverage,” said Coach Brian Lehtinen.
Both sides were nervous in the first period, with few shots on goal, but Grafton/BVT took an early lead when Palmer scored an unassisted goal four minutes into the game.
North Middlesex goalie Ryan Twomey held his ground, saving four shots while his defense broke up a series of plays from Grafton/BVT, including a breakaway by Lorden, who couldn't get the shot off with one minute left in the first period.
In the second period, a sense of urgency crept in after Lehtinen told his players in the locker room they needed to come out strong if they really want to win this game.
Both sides fired more shots on net, and North Middlesex tied the game when forward Josh Miller scored, assisted by Danny McNamara and Brett Estrella.
Almost a minute later, Lorden scored with an assist from “Mike and Mike,” the pair who have been a big part of the Grafton/BVT success: Palmer and Moran.
That gave Grafton/BVT a 2-1 lead, but it didn't last long. North Middlesex came right back on the power play. With Grafton defenseman Stephen Kelly in the penalty box for elbowing, North Middlesex forward Josh Miller drilled one past goalie Sean Pratt to tie it with 6:49 left in the middle period.
That's when Grafton/BVT dug in its heels and showed why it is the No. 2, scoring two unanswered goals within a minute. The first was came from Lordan thanks to a well-placed feed from Palmer, followed by an a score from Blackstone Valley Tech senior Cory Hetu.
North Middlesex scored one more time early in the third period, but the Grafton/BVT defense kept the game in check, finishing it off with an empty net goal with 5 seconds left.
Grafton/BVT will play either Nashoba or Lunenburg in the semifinals March 6. Lehtinen said it will be a tough match. They played each twice and split both times.