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Nashoba Valley Voice/Ed Niser
Groton-Dunstable’s Dean Tornaritis scores on a free kick during Tuesday’s win over Algonquin.
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GROTON – The defending Division 1 Central Mass champion Groton-Dunstable Crusaders have been anything but dominant in the early stages of the season. Groton-Dunstable head coach Sean Wisbey called a timeout in the first half of Tuesday night’s match after Algonquin took an early lead.

Wisbey reminded his side that its season was on the line and the Crusaders responded accordingly. Groton-Dunstable senior forward Dean Tornaritis blasted an indirect free kick off a pass by Nate Martinez from just outside the 18-yard box in the 68th minute that rippled the twine inside the right post to propel Groton-Dunstable to a 2-1 victory over the Tomahawks.

“For some reason when the lights come on in Groton, Dean (Tornaritis) rises to the occasion,” said Wisbey. “I challenged him before the game to score because hadn’t scored in our last four games.

We run on the way he plays and he had another big goal for us in his final game at home on senior night.”
For the Crusaders, who push above the .500 mark with the win at 6-5-1, Tuesday’s match had all the makings of a playoff tilt. At the start of the season, the goal for Groton-Dunstable was to win the Mid Wach B league. Now that a league title is out of the realm of possibility. The Crusaders’ focus shifts to qualifying for the tournament and playing spoiler.

“We need 2 1/2 of our six road games to qualify now,” said Wisbey. “I can tell you that this the most difficult schedule we have had in my eight years with the program. Because Nashoba beat Westboro, anybody can win it. We are looking forward to going to Westboro Thursday and playing spoiler. We can really stir-up the whole picture. We have done well to get to this point. We are on track as far as our health and preparation. There is still a long way to go and we have to take it one game at a time.”

Algonquin struck in the ninth minute with a curling header by Sebastian Royo that whooshed the net to put the Tomahawks in the driver’s seat at 1-0.

Algonquin appeared to increase its lead to two minutes later, but it had its goal wiped off the boards by the side official as the goal-scorer was ruled offsides.

Three minutes later, Groton-Dunstable netted the equalizer. Sophomore forward Riley Patten lured Algonquin senior goalkeeper

Dustin Hartnett off his line and tucked it in to tie the game at 1-1.

Hartnett exited the game following the goal with an undisclosed injury and did not return.

Algonquin had a chance to reclaim its lead in the final 10 minutes of opening half. Tomahawk forward Jack Gingrich ripped a curling shot from the outside the 18-yard box that took a beeline for the upper right corner of the net, but Groton-Dunstable goalkeeper Nick Resca snuffed out the danger.

Resca (5 saves) made the diving save to keep the match level at 1-1.

Algonquin had four second half corner kicks, but it could not cash in. The Tomahawks peppered Resca with a congested attack in the box as it pushed forward in the final two minutes of the match .

Resca was out of position after making a diving save, but freshman defender Simon Chandler was there too clear away the threat.

Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout:@EdNiser