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GROTON — They call it a penalty box for a reason.

On Wednesday night, the Groton-Dunstable hockey team paid the price against Auburn. The Crusaders held their own throughout most of the game, but four power-play goals by the Rockets doomed them to a 4-2 defeat.

“I thought our effort was outstanding in system play and while we were at even strength,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Paul Palmer. “But four power-play goals killed us. We didn’t do a good job killing penalties because we just weren’t aggressive enough with our box.”

Twice the Crusaders took one goal leads in the game, but Auburn came back to tie the game after two periods, before pulling away with two unanswered goals in the third period.

“We had the lead twice, but we must learn to maintain our discipline,” said Palmer. “We had a lot of scoring chances that we didn’t bury. We hung tough with a good team but we are still a work in progress.”

The Crusaders got off to a quick start, taking the lead just 1:54 into the game. Sophomore forward Jim McLean took a pass from Will Fedyk and netted a backhander from close range to make it 1-0.

After an even first ten minutes, Auburn picked up the pressure and controlled the final five minutes of the first period. Groton-Dunstable goaltender Kyle Strong stopped all 11 shots he faced, including a super stop with five seconds left on a deflected shot.

Groton-Dunstable had six shots on goal in the first period.

Auburn goaltender Matthew Drapeau came up with a pair of big stops in the second period to keep the Rockets within a goal.

At 2:15, McLean stole a pass near the blue line and skated in, but Drapeau turned aside his 20-foot wrist shot.

At 8:30, Tom Semeraro broke in alone, but his point blank backhander was stopped by the Auburn netminder.

The Rockets netted the equalizer at 10:07 on the power play when Cody Pearson picked up a loose puck in front and netted a shot from close range.

Mike Flewelling regained the lead for the Crusaders just over a minute later, picking the pocket of an Auburn defenseman, breaking in toward the net and snapping a low wrist shot past Drapeau.

The Rockets tied the game at 13:37 when Evan Pluff scored, and the teams went to the second intermission tied at 2-2. Auburn owned a 10-8 edge in shots on goal in the second period.

Auburn owned an edge in play in the third period, getting nine of the 16 shots on goal, including two more power play goals.

At 1:18, Pluff put the Rockets on top for good when he ripped a slap shot from the right post through a screen of players, sneaking it inside the left post.

The Rockets threatened to extend the lead twice in the next three minutes.

At 2:00, Sean O’Connor’s wrist shot clanged off the right goal post and bounced away.

At 4:40, Pluff stole the puck and fired a shot from point blank range that was denied by Strong.

With just 2:38 left in the game, Max Zussman iced the game with netting a slap shot from the left point.

Strong made 26 saves in the game for the Crusaders.

Groton-Dunstable is now 1-2-1 overall, including 1-1 in conference play.