By Ed Niser
FITCHBURG — Fourth-seeded Algonquin won its second-straight shootout this postseason with a 2-1 decision over No. 2 Groton-Dunstable in the Division 3 Central Mass. final at the Wallace Civic Center at Fitchburg State University Monday night.
Algonquin 2, G-D 1
Groton-Dunstable sophomore defenseman Liam McDonough tied the second shootout session at 1-1 on a top-shelf finish.
But it was Algonquin sophomore forward Sean Pendergast that would skate off with the game-winner. The Tomahawks advance to Thursday’s state semifinal against Westfield at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Groton-Dunstable’s chance to answer soared wide right. It was a battle of nerves from both goaltenders. Groton-Dunstable’s Nevin Tardif turned aside 27 shots in regulation.
Having the game tied after 57 minutes came as no surprise to Groton-Dunstable head coach Brendan McCann.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be an absolute dogfight like it was out there,” McCann said.
“All season long, we have been neck and neck. Everything between the two of us — from the goaltending on out. Both goalies put on an absolute show in the shootout. I don’t know how those two goalies dealt with that pressure.”
The Crusaders had a pair of power play opportunities go by the boards in the final five minutes of the third period.
“On the 4-on-3, (G-D) had a couple good looks,” McCann said. “(Mike) Tascione made an unbelievable save on Patrick Keating backdoor. It could’ve been a turning point with three minutes left, but Algonquin did a great job on that kill.”
Groton-Dunstable senior Patrick Keating accounted for all of the Crusaders’ goals this postseason. The captain gave the No. 2 seeded Crusaders a 1-0 lead at 9:25 of the second period.
After allowing the equalizing goal from John DiPadua with under a minute to go in the second period, Tardif was determined to not let another sneak in. Tardif faced six straight shots to end the period.
He was out of position on a blue line blast from John Peterson, but he scrambled and stacked the pads to keep the damage at 1-1 after two.
“Nev kept us in there when we had a couple of defensive breakdowns.” McCann said.
Algonquin put the pressure on Groton-Dunstable in the third period. Paterson broke free down the right wing and uncorked a blistering shot from the point. Tardif slid to his left and deflected the puck out of harms’ way at 4:59 of the third period.
The Crusaders had a quality scoring chance late in the first overtime session as senior Michael Cole blasted a shot towards the mouth of the net. Tascione deflected the initial shot wide. Groton-Dunstable senior Ryan Dodge tried to flip it in on the short-side, but Tascione (24 saves) was able to ice the puck and stave off the danger.
The Crusaders completely turned the page from a six-win season in 2015. “They came into this season with an open attitude,” McCann said. “They really bought into the team defense concept. We went from giving up 50-something goals last year to 27 or 28 this year. We lose 12 and they’re going to be a tough 12 to replace. We have a core here that hopefully can sustain it going forward.”
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