By Ed Niser

GROTON — Allowing a first-period goal inside of two minutes can be demoralizing for any team — regardless of its skill. Groton-Dunstable (11-3-2) allowed an early Longmeadow goal Saturday night and found itself behind the eight-ball for the duration of the game.

The Crusaders narrowly tied the game midway through the second period on a breakaway wrister from Chris Lattini but the potential goal was disallowed by the head official.

Mike McDonough scored the lone Crusader goal at 10:45 of the third period but it was too little too late as Groton-Dunstable fell 2-1.

The puck was directly on frame and fluttered above the shoulder of the Longmeadow netminder and fell in front of the crease.

“One thing that I thought was weird was that it would’ve made a little bit of a ping if it hit the crossbar,” First-year Groton-Dunstable head coach Brendan McCann said. “I talked to the refs and they both were 50-50 on if it went in or not. I told them that it is regular season — it is a bigger deal in the playoffs. It is a good opportunity for us to learn how to play one goal down.”

Jack Barron netted the first goal of the night for the Lancers at 1:21 of the opening period. Forward Matt Pierson skated to the back post and chipped the puck in front to the waiting Barron. Barron kept his stick level to the ice and flicked the puck inside the left pipe out of the reach of Nevin Tardif to give the Lancers the 1-0 advantage.

The Lancers added an insurance goal at 11:19 of the second period. Nick Santianello beat Tardif on a rebound chance that tucked under the blocker pad from Spencer Robbins and Michael Tabb.

“The thing that stinks is that both of their goals were in transition,” McCann said. “There were a couple plays we could not defend well enough and that was the game. Longmeadow is a good team.”

Groton-Dunstable had its chances to equalize in the second period but it simply could not slip the puck past Longmeadow’s Max Loyuk.

Loyuk came up big on consecutive shots inside of the final five minutes.

Lattini ripped a shot from the point that was snared in the glove of Loyuk. Then, his rebound chance was sticked away by the Longmeadow netminder.

Groton-Dunstable shifted into desperation-mode in the third period trailing by two goals. The Crusaders carried the pace and were eventually rewarded after seeing a pair of chances clang off the post.

Joe Zinkann intercepted an errant pass at neutral ice and skated the puck down the right wing. Pierson briefly knocked the puck away from Zinkmann, but the Crusader wing kept pressing forward. Zinkman skimmed the puck over to Kam Strong whose initial shot was knocked away by Loyuk. But, McDonough was there to gobble up the rebound and flip it past Loyuk at 10:49 of the third.

“The effort was certainly there tonight,” McCann said. “First periods have been an issue for a lot of the season. Longmedow is a good fast-paced team. It was nice to see us keep going despite being down.”