GROTON -- Phil Rowley's Groton-Dunstable Crusaders is riding high after defeating Western Mass. foe, Longmeadow, 3-1, Saturday afternoon at the Groton School rink.
Groton-Dunstable is sitting pretty with an 11-game winning streak under its belt. The Crusaders survived a 12-shot onset by the Lancers in the second period to sneak out the win.
"We didn't play that well in the second period," coach Rowley said. "We did what we had to do and came out with a W. It is hard for the kids to come back every game because they have a streak going and they want to keep it at a high level, like we have been telling them all the time. After the first period, I think they kind of let down a little in the second. Third period, we came out strong. We out-shot them only a little bit in the second and third periods."
Longmeadow came into Saturday's game with a 7-5-2 record that featured losses to perennial Central Mass. powerhouses, Shrewsbury and Wachusett. Groton-Dunstable broke the scoreless tie at 3:10 of the opening period. Senior defenseman Anthony Resca sent a blistering puck across the point to freshman forward Chris Lattini, who whisked the puck under the stick of Longmeadow senior goalkeeper Omar Natour.
Five minutes later, it was senior captain Justin Cole who rippled the twine at 8:10 of the first period. Junior Derek March set up Cole, who was camped out in the slot. Cole uncorked a meandering wrist-shot that crept through the five-hole of Natour to put the Crusaders up, 2-0.
Groton-Dunstable could not stay out of the penalty box in the second period. Longmeadow failed to capitalize on the Crusaders' defense on the 5 v. 3.
Groton-Dunstable's defense, led by senior captain Connor Maguire, did a stalwart job keeping the Lancers at bay. Senior goalkeeper Jason Robes stole the show for the Crusaders in the second period. Longmeadow had a pair of quality opportunities at net early on in the second frame. Lancer senior Drew Quirk blasted a shot blocker side at Robes. Robes was unable to squander the rebound as it deflected off his blocker to Michael Tabb, who lured the senior goalie of his line. However, Robes recovered and made the diving blocker save to nullify the Lancers' scoring chance.
The Crusaders staved off a spell of just over four minutes when the Lancers were on the power play. Groton-Dunstable's penalty kill unit kept Longmeadow scoreless in the second period. The Lancers had another chance on a slap-shot from the blue line by sophomore defenseman Trevor Joyce, but Robes gobbled it up with the glove. Robes finished with 20 saves for Groton-Dunstable.
"Robes played a great game, again," Rowley said. "Our defense was strong. We are missing Bermingham, he is out with a knee injury. John Langan stepped up and filled in for him, he is doing a great job. We had six penalties against us in that second period, and they didn't score -- That's probably the biggest thing."
Longmeadow avoided being blanked at 7:11 of the third period, when senior captain Drew Kelleher connected on a wrist-shot from the wing. Maguire took the pressure of the Crusaders' defense in the final seconds after cashing in on the empty-netter to lock up the win.
With the victory, Groton-Dunstable moves to 13-3 overall on the season. The Crusaders out-shot Longmeadow, 32-21 in the game.