Feb 092014

During their current winning streak, the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders boys’ hockey team hadn’t had many close calls. There was a 2-1 squeaker against a usually high-scoring Shrewsbury team, but every other game was well in hand.

Saturday’s game against the Longmeadow Lancers at the Groton School was the biggest test since the Shrewsbury game, but the Crusaders passed, winning their 11th straight by a score of 3-1.

The Crusaders got on the board first at 3:10 in the first period when Chris Lattini took a pass from Anthony Resca, wove through three Longmeadow players, and beat goaltender Omar Natour for a 1-0 lead. They would extend their advantage six minutes later when Justin Cole fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that trickled through Natour’s legs. Natour turned around to try and bat it out of the crease, but in the process helped the puck into the net with his stick. The Crusaders would go into the intermission up 2-0.

Things got difficult for the Crusaders in the second period when they were called for a string of five penalties that left them short-handed for a full 4:32. But while the Lancers fired eight shots on goal in that time frame, goaltender James Robes (20 saves) and the G-D penalty kill unit stood their ground, keeping the Lancers off the scoreboard. Robes even went spread-eagle to deny a point-blank chance by Longmeadow’s Alec Metropoulos.

“Robes played a great game, and our D is strong,” said G-D head coach Phil Rowley. “All those penalties we went through, they didn’t score.”

The Crusaders had a chance to go up 3-0 with nine seconds left in the second period as Connor Maguire took a shot from the right point that was tipped into the net, but the officials ruled that the puck was tipped in with a high stick, so the score remained 2-0 after two.

Longmeadow finally got on the board seven minutes into the third period, as Drew Kelleher strode into the G-D zone and whistled a shot top shelf past Robes to cut the lead in half.

The Lancers pulled Natour with 1:30 left to try and salvage the tie, but the Crusaders kept blocking shots and passes until Maguire shuffled the puck all the way down the ice and into the empty net to seal the victory.

The Lancers gave the Crusaders a run for their money all game long. Despite scoring only one goal, they blocked a dozen shots, controlled the puck in the G-D zone during the lengthy power play, and kept G-D from making changes when they needed to.

“In the second period, they just took us out of the game,” said Rowley. “Our third line went out once … but I’m happy with the W.”

The Crusaders (13-3) will host Westborough Wednesday at 7 p.m.