GROTON -- Groton-Dunstable plays a Division-1 regular season schedule, but come playoff time, it steps down into Division-3 waters. The No. 6 Division-3 Central Mass/East bracket Crusaders pummeled No. 11 seed Bellingham 13-1 Tuesday afternoon in Groton. Four Crusaders recorded multiple goal games.
"We went into this game knowing (Bellingham) is a playoff team, and it's do-or-die," Groton-Dunstable head coach Rick Arena said. "We had to come out pretty aggressive. I was glad that our guys were able to play at a decent level to get up on them early."
Groton-Dunstable broke the scoreless stalemate 4:30 into the first quarter. Senior captain Quentin Forbes whipped a pass in from the right side of the crease to a jumping Nick Irby, who made the swift jumping finish in the crease. The Crusaders scored again two minutes later, when Ryan Dodge blasted the top left corner of the goal off a feed from Forbes. Groton-Dunstable potted two additional goals in the first quarter, utilizing crisp, precision passing. In the final minute of the quarter, Forbes scored following a snappy chain of passes by Dodge to Hourani, who ultimately hit Forbes, who slung the ball past Bellingham goalie Eri Cote (7 saves) to make it 4-0 after one. Bellingham ended its scoring drought with 8:10 remaining in the second quarter. Bellingham midfielder Paul Dwelly corralled a pass from teammate Austin Nann. Dwelley connected on a leaping shot from deep inside the Crusader zone. Groton-Dunstable potted four more goals in the second quarter to take an 8-1 lead into the half time.
"It is important that we as coaches, seniors and leaders continue to press as if it is a 0-0 game," Arena said. "We talked about that at half time and in between the quarters. We have to play each quarter as if it is 0-0. It does get difficult, but our guys do a good job keeping their foot on the gas pedal."
The Crusaders put the game out of reach in the second half with three goals in the third and two in the fourth quarter. Groton-Dunstable center Ryan Heinser controlled the face off circle with a winning percentage of 92 percent.
"Ryan Heinser did a great job for us today," Arena said. "I think he only lost one faceoff. That has been an area where he has been improving. Ryan has done an excellent job for us the last few games. It just makes a big difference because those are possessions -- anytime we have the ball and they don't, it's a good thing."
Dodge, Lynch and Forbes (3 goals, 3 assists) all notched hat tricks in the win. Irby (2 goals) and Zach Cotoni (1 goal) rounded out the scoring for Groton-Dunstable. Groton-Dunstable advances to Saturday's 2 p.m. quarterfinal at No. 3 Ashland (12-8).
"They're very good," Arena said of Ashland. "We are up against a big challenge here, and it is the day after our graduation. We are going down there, and we have to come out and be mentally prepared for those guys."