By Ed Niser
MARLBORO — Groton-Dunstable knew the stakes coming into Monday night’s President’s Day showdown with Hudson. A win or tie would keep the Crusaders’ chances at qualifying for the Division 3 district tournament alive.
Junior forward Andrew Berube rushed from the Crusaders’ blue line, split a pair of Hudson defenders and scored top-shelf at 7:49 of the third period to lift the Crusaders to a 3-1 victory over Hudson at the New England Sports Center.
“Andrew is an opportunistic kid,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Brendan McCann. “He is a big lanky kid — he has been pretty good at finishing his chances for us this year.
The Crusaders are not out of the woods just yet. With the win, Groton-Dunstable needs at least a tie at Auburn Thursday (3:00 p.m.) to make it into the playoffs, but there is a little extra gravy on the line as well.
“If we win, it would likely put us in the sixth-seed against Algonquin or North Middlesex,” said McCann of the playoff scenario. “If we tie, it would put us in the seven seed. Not only is the Auburn game big for playoffs, it is big for seeding as well. The boys know the situation now and what they’ve gotta do. We have 120 minutes of ice over the next couple of days to prepare and get ready.”
Five minutes into the first period, Hudson junior defenseman Brad Connor ripped a shot from the blue line and Groton-Dunstable senior goaltender Ben McEvoy (12 saves) was able to make the sliding save.
Groton-Dunstable put the pressure on Hudson goaltender Adam Devlin early and often. The Crusaders out shot Hudson, 9-6, in the opening period. Groton-Dunstable came out with a sense of urgency from the opening faceoff and were rewarded at 10:03 of the period, when Keegan Penney scored on a breakout pass from Michael Lawton and wristed his shot past Devlin to give Groton-Dunstable the 1-0 lead.
The goal game on the power play after Hudson was whistled for a minor penalty. McCann was particularly pleased with his team’s performance of his penalty kill and power play units. .
“It felt like we had three solid lines that were flowing constantly,” he said. “We tinkered with our power play a little bit and luckily popped one in on our first power play, which is awesome to see. We got shorthanded too much for more liking. We really need to clamp down on those. Hudson has a great power play unit — we did a really good job limiting their chances.”
Groton-Dunstable went into the first period intermission clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Hudson senior forward Tom Sansone broke free and scored the equalizer at 5:18 of the second period, when he collected a pass from the point by Connor and wristed the puck inside the top right corner.
The chances mounted for Groton-Dunstable in the second, but the Crusaders could not sneak one past Devlin. Groton-Dunstable senior forward Charles Sebastyn blasted a high shot from the slot and Devin brandished his glove and swatted the puck aside. Senior captain Jack Rivet slapped the rebound chance on goal and Devlin (26 saves) came up with the sliding pad save.
Late in the period, Berube snagged a Hudson turnover and had a one-on-one breakaway chance at beating Devlin. Berube came skating down center ice full speed, cut across the crease and tried to tuck it inside the Hudson goal. Devlin managed to just get his forearm on it to keep the game level at 1-1 after two periods.
In the third period, after Berube’s goal put the Crusaders out in front, Sebastyn and the defense clamped down and denied Hudson any shot at a comeback. Sebastyn sacrificed his body to block a few power play chances from the Hawks to preserve the Groton-Dunstable lead.
Groton-Dunstable held a distinct 28-13 shot advantage.
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