Photo Gallery: Wahconah vs. North Middlesex
SPRINGFIELD - It took all of 19 seconds for Wahconah Regional High School's hockey team to get a rude welcome to the state's biggest stage.
Things didn't get much better from there, either.
North Middlesex scored four goals in the first 4:10 of the game and controlled play throughout, routing the Warriors 12-0 in the MIAA Division III-A state championship game on Thursday night at the MassMutual Center.
The loss snapped the Western Mass. champion Warriors' 13-game win streak, and stretched Berkshire County's state hockey championship drought to 24 years. The 1990 Pittsfield High School team was the last one in the county to claim a state title. Wahconah (16-7-1) was the first state finalist from the Berkshires since the 1992 St. Joseph team and was making its first-ever appearance in a state final.
North Middlesex (19-3-2), meanwhile, won its first state title since 1998, in the program's sixth appearance in a championship game.
"We kind of came out slow and didn't move our feet quick enough," Wahconah coach Don Disbrow said. "But it is what it is. They're a good team."
The Patriots, representing Central Mass., scored 19 and 39 seconds into the game, the first coming right off the opening face-off when Ryan McCarthy popped a shot past Warrior goalie Roger Stedman. Danny McNamara scored his first of four goals 20 seconds later for a 2-0 Patriot lead. They'd score two more goals in the next 3:31 before Wahconah benched Stedman in favor of Nico Romano, but the damage was already done. The Patriots didn't even allow a Warrior shot on goal until 5:30 left in the first, and added a fifth goal before the first period ended.
Patriots coach Mike McCarthy said his team couldn't have played any better in the game's pivotal first 3 minutes.
"We just jumped on them and that was it," he said.
North Middlesex tacked on three more goals in the second period, and add four more in the third to put an end to a game that was, for all intents and purposes, over less than 20 seconds after its start.
"Just like during the Chicopee game, we tried to see what we were doing wrong and what we needed to fix," Wahconah defenseman and co-captain Lance McColgan said. "We just weren't able to pull it off this night."
The Patriots' forecheck was relentless -- McCarthy said it was the best he's ever seen from his squad -- and its defense clamped down on the Warriors' often-potent offense for 60 minutes. Only once did Wahconah get a good look on an odd-man rush, with center Hjalmar Gustafsson and wing Dan Flynn missing on a centering pass late in the second period.
"They had a lot of speed; probably a lot more speed than we anticipated," Disbrow said. "I think they were probably one of the fastest teams we played, particularly their first line."
The Warriors got just 14 shots on goal to North Middlesex's 38. Romano made 17 saves, with Stedman stopping 10 shots, having come in to spell Romano late in the game.
Eight different Patriots scored in the game. Ryan McCarthy scored twice, and Josh Miller and Miles Massidda had three assists each.
Mike McCarthy said the only exposure he had to Wahconah before Thursday night's game was seeing the Warriors rally with a four-goal third period to beat Chicopee last week for the Western Mass. crown.
"They had three top-end players that were really legit, fantastic high school hockey players," McCarthy said. "Two on their front line and one on their second, so they spread out their talent a little bit. What we saw is that, and it's cliche, but when we focus on us and play the way we play, we're usually OK."
The Patriots hit double digits on the scoreboard - well, on the score sheet, anyway; the scoreboard couldn't list a number after nine - with 6:42 left. They tacked on two more goals in the next 2 minutes.
Wahconah co-captain Patrick Jamross said that, despite making school history with the Warriors' first sectional championship and state title game appearance, the sting of this loss won't fade for a little while.
"I think a couple of weeks. This one will still be sour for a while," he said. "Once baseball starts, I'll look back on that Chicopee game more than North Middlesex."