Normally, a story about a shutout victory would be about the goalie. But Wednesday night, it was all about senior forward Derek March’s natural hat trick in the first period as the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders defeated the Westborough Rangers, 4-0 at the Groton School.
March capitalized on his team’s first shot of the game at 3:17 of the first period, as he and Bradley Garside charged up ice on a 2-on-1 breakaway. March took a feed from Garside and fanned on the initial shot, but that got Westborough goalie Jared Ward out of position long enough for March to regain control of the puck and put it in the net for a 1-0 lead.
At 9:24, March took advantage of some sloppy play by Westborough as he stole the puck off a clearance attempt in the offensive zone, skated in close, and fired a shot that bounced off Ward and into the net to make it 2-0.
March would complete the hat trick at 11:48 when he recovered a loose puck in the neutral zone on a penalty kill, then sped up ice and beat Ward over his right shoulder for the goal.
“It was a nice surprise,” G-D head coach Phil Rowley said. “He had a couple of good looks. He had better shots that didn’t go in. That set the tone for the rest of the game.”
“I was just wheelin’ and dealin’,” March said. “That’s the feeling that came to mind.”
The Crusaders would get their fourth and final goal of the game at 4:49 of the second period when Chris Lattini jammed at the puck in front of the net, getting it past ward on the second effort.
Westborough struggled in all facets of the game in the first and second periods. They had difficulty getting the puck out of their own zone, and when they did get offensive chances, their passes were off target, allowing the Crusaders to clear with ease. The Rangers only got only one shot on goal on three power plays.
“I think we’ve got the best penalty kill in the state,” Rowley said. “They work at it every day in practice, and [the coaches] get on ’em when they do something wrong.”
Crusaders goaltender Jason Robes stopped all twelve shots he faced before being pulled late in the third period for freshman Ben McEvoy, who stopped one shot to complete the combined shutout.
“Everybody played well today,” Rowley added. “We had a couple guys injured, but we had some guys stand up.”
The injured players Rowley referred to are defenseman Michael Bermingham and forwards Justin Cole and Matt Ovenden. Bermingham is scheduled to return Monday, Ovenden should be back by the end of the month, and Cole’s status is still up in the air.
The Crusaders (14-3) won their twelfth straight, and the team’s confidence is only growing.
“We’re on a good run,” March said. “We just need to keep the energy up, focus on the games, and keep rolling.”
The Crusaders will travel to Northstar Arena in Westborough to take on Algonquin Saturday at 8 p.m.