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Crusaders stave off late Nashoba rally to keep postseason dreams alive


BOLTON – Sophomore goaltender P.J. Kendall stonewalled 17 shots in the Crusaders’ 7-6 win over Nashoba, none were bigger than the shot he stopped with less than six-seconds left.

Junior attacker Quintin Forbes carried the Crusaders’ offense netting a hat-trick.

Groton-Dunstable owned a three-goal lead with a 1:30 left, but the host Chieftains were determined to make it a memorable final home game for their 12 seniors.

With the win, Groton-Dunstable’s postseason hopes remain alive, as they now sit above sea-level with a record of 9-8.

“We continue to not make it easy on ourselves,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Rick Arena. “Give Nashoba credit, they kept coming. Thankfully we were able to hold them off. They (G-D) scared me at the end there. P.J. made the game-winning save.”

Both teams had trouble getting the offense to click in the early going. Nashoba broke the scoreless stalemate at 7:40 of the first quarter, when Trevor Pilkington fed Kevin Czekanski for the quick-snap shot from the right-side to put the Chieftains up 1-0.

Groton-Dunstable returned fire with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter. Matt Manning coaxed a precision pass to Forbes, who tucked it into the right-side of the cage to level the score at 1-1.

The score remained tied until midway through the second. Manning collected his second assist of the night, when he linked up with Ryan Dodge from about 16-yards out to give the Crusaders a 2-1 advantage at 6:22 of the second quarter.

On the play, Dodge did a nice job bulling his way into the attacking zone, and Manning’s pass was timed with peak precision. A.J. Dufrense and the rest of the Crusaders’ defenders held their ground for the remainder of the half, and secured the 2-1 lead.

Nashoba came out of halftime looking to net the tying goal, and they did. Pilkington picked up his second assist when he found Mike Charbonneau at 1:58 of the second-half.

Charbonneau spun off a Crusaders’ defender and whirled the ball into the low-right corner to tie the game at 2-2.

Groton-Dunstable reclaimed the lead less than two minutes later on a goal by junior attacker Justin Cole. Austin Hourani cycled the ball behind the Nashoba cage and found Cole, who slammed the ball off the field turf to put the Crusaders out in front 3-2.

Nashoba continued to give the Crusaders’ defense fits late in the third quarter, and they were rewarded when Mike Lengieza deposited an unassisted running-dart with 4:25 remaining.

The back-and-forth battle waged on for much of the third quarter. Tristan Lynch found Hourani with 3:57 remaining. Hourani catapulted the ball by Nashoba goaltender Matt Rixon to seize a 4-3 Crusaders’ lead.

As time wound down on the third quarter, Forbes slammed home his second goal of the evening from behind the cage to give Groton-Dunstable a two-goal cushion after three.

Nashoba capitalized on a Groton-Dunstable penalty when Czekanski netted a deep-goal on the man-advantage to bring the Chieftains back within one, 5-4. Manning screamed home his first goal of the night off a pin-point feed from Cole to put the Crusaders up by a pair for the second time.

Forbes stretched the Crusaders’ lead to three when he tucked the ball inside the near-post with 4:47 remaining in the game. Having played in a five-overtime loss with Shrewsbury two days prior, there was no telling how the Crusaders’ legs would hold up in the fourth.

Nashoba took advantage of the weary Crusaders’ defense, and narrowed the gap to 7-6 with goals by Mike d’Entremont and Kyle Elkins in the final two-minutes.

The Chieftains had one final chance to tie with 5.7 seconds left, but Kendall reacted swiftly to a quality attempt by Elkins to secure the win.

“We came off a heartbreaking loss on Tuesday,” said Forbes. “We came out firing and played a good 47 minutes and almost lost it at the end. It was a big win for us. One more and we are in the postseason.”

Groton-Dunstable can secure a berth in the district playoffs with a win at North Middlesex today at 3:30 p.m.