FITCHBURG -- So far, the Crusaders' step up to Division three has been just as successful as they were in 3-A. Groton-Dunstable avenged a mid-season loss to Marlboro with a 5-2 semifinal win Wednesday night.
Marlboro handed the Crusaders their only loss in two seasons, and senior captain Adam Kmetz felt that Wednesday's win was sweet revenge.
"(Marlboro) is the only team that has beaten us in two years," said Kmetz. "We got embarrassed at their place, and we were going to show them who the better team was tonight. Every close game is because we get too many penalties, and they get those power play goals."
The Crusaders had trouble staying out of the box as they committed 13 penalties. Groton-Dunstable head coach Phil Rowley was understandably displeased with his team's lack of discipline.
"We put ourselves in a terrible position by taking stupid penalties," said Rowley. "We had eight penalties in the second period. That's just unacceptable. I think the kids got a little too complacent, and they lost focus, thinking it was a walk, and it wasn't."
Bradley Zadrozny tipped in a power play goal at 6:07 of the first period off the faceoff, with the assists credited to Anthony Resca and Connor Maguire. The Crusaders kept the Panthers in the pressure cooker throughout the period and were rewarded four minutes later with an insurance goal.
Two minutes later, Marlboro's Steve Lampedecchio uncorked a beautiful wrister that was snared by Crusaders goaltender Jason Robes with 9:07 remaining in the first.
Senior defenseman Allan Haynes swept home a wrist shot from the blue line to give the Crusaders a 2-0 cushion at 10:20 of the first period.
Groton-Dunstable went to the dressing room with a 16-10 shot advantage and a 2-0 lead. Spending too much time in the penalty box is often the death knell for most teams. The Crusaders racked up 12 minutes of sin-bin time in the second period, and the Panthers made them pay. Erik Bastarache took advantage of a Crusaders' slashing penalty with a power play goal at 3:36 of the period.
Bastarache camped out in front of the crease off the faceoff and nudged the puck into the back of the cage to cut the Crusaders' lead in half, 2-1.
The Crusaders controlled the puck in their offensive zone for much of the second period. Groton-Dunstable senior Allan Haynes boomed a slapper from the blue line to the stick of Adam Kmetz, but Marlboro goalie Ben Wickleman made a spectacular diving safe with 5:55 remaining.
Zadrozny had a nose for the goal with less than four minutes remaining in the second. Zadrozny put back to back quality opportunities on goal, but Wickleman impressed with his stellar display of goaltending in the sequence.
A minute later, Marlboro punished the Crusaders with their second power play goal of the period when Jake Chiasson launched a wrist shot past Robes, who misjudged the puck's trajectory. Chiasson's goal at 12:14 of the second knotted the game up at 2-2.
Something changed for the Crusaders in the third period. A killer instinct and a semblance of discipline only high caliber teams possess consumed them. C.J. Kenny utilized some fancy stick work in front of the crease and lofted the puck top-shelf past Wickleman to put the Crusaders back on top for good at 1:34 into the period.
The Crusaders would tack on two more goals in the period with a solid chip in off a rebound by Michael Keating at 6:49 of the third and a late demoralizing unassisted elevated wrister from Nathan Rabbitt to lay the Panthers to rest.
"We showed grit in the last period, and the kids played real well," said Rowley. "It was the team that beat us, and put the one (loss) on our record. We came to play today."
Robes finished with 19 saves, while Wickleman corralled 35 in a losing effort.