GROTON — There are few sports around that invite players to be as physical as they want and get away with it. Lacrosse is one of those sports and the fine line between physical play and mayhem was on display Tuesday morning. In a game that featured almost 20 penalties, taunting warnings and a second half that resembled a tough game of backyard football, Groton-Dunstable improved to 2-1 on the season with an 9-6 win over visiting Tyngsboro.
”I thought we did a nice job as a team in passing the ball around and finding the opening man on offense,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Rick Arena. “We took some bad penalties in the first half and got a little passive as the game moved on because of how close they were calling the game. But, it is a win and you can’t be upset about that.”
The Crusaders grabbed an early lead, scoring a pair of goals within a minute and a half to open the scoring. Chuck Stewart was the key, setting up both tallies, one by Stephen Espinola and the other by Mark Enwright as Groton-Dunstable held a 2-0 advantage four minutes into the game.
Behind the play of Sam Lovell, the Tigers drew even. The attacker picked up goals at 7:13 and 11:23, with assists going to Mike Greenleaf and Steve Manning respectively, to draw Tyngsboro even at 2-2.
It took the Crusaders only 54 seconds to regain the lead. Andrew Keaveny took possession of the ball behind the net and found Dave O’Brien who bounced in a shot from six yards out to make it 3-2 after a quarter of play.
After four minutes of scoreless play in the second quarter, both teams had offensive revivals, combining for seven goals over the final eight minutes. Stewart got things going with a power play goal off a Jon Carver assist to push the Groton-Dunstable lead back to two.
The following six goals were scored in alternating order as the Crusaders lead stayed between one and two goals. Lovell, Greenleaf and Manning had tallies for the Tigers while Groton-Dunstable got goals from Andrew Herald, Caleb Bachelor and Carver to take a 7-5 lead into the intermission.
In the second half, the Crusaders wasted little time adding to the advantage. Espinola won the opening face-off back to Tim Wholey who drove down the right side before finding Keaveny, who slid a shot inside the right post from eight yards out to make it an 8-5 game.
With the quick start, it appeared the second half would be as fast paced as the first, but things quickly changed as the game grew more physical and the defenses took over.
Tyngsboro was held without a shot until just over eight minutes had passed in the third quarter. That shot did find the net as Manning sneaked a shot inside the left post to cut the lead to two at 8-6. That would be the last Tigers goal as Groton-Dunstable turned it up on defense.
While the scoring had stopped, the physical play picked up as the hits got louder and more frequent. Several violent collisions and a number of penalties filled up the remainder of the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter as neither team tallied a goal for over 14 and a half minutes.
Looking to cap off the win with an insurance goal, the Crusaders got it with just over a minute left. Herald led a breakaway and found an open Stewart who put home a shot from point blank range to close out the scoring and seal the Groton-Dunstable victory.
”I thought Wholey did a great job in the penalty killing area and kept them (Tyngsboro) from capitalizing,” said Arena. “Mark O’Brien (eight saves) came up with some big stops and was a key. We just need to build off this game and keep the momentum going.”