Sam Feeley

Jun 182015

WELLESLEY — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders are headed to the MIAA Division 2 girls’ lacrosse state championship game against Norwell this (Thursday) afternoon after winning an overtime thriller over the Ipswich Tigers, 10-9, Monday night at Babson College.

The Crusaders offense was sparked by hat tricks by sophomore Sophia Irby and freshman Ellie Eisenklam.

Ipswich ran their offense through Jordan Morrissey, who scored a hat trick of her own, with all three goals coming in highlight fashion — one just seven seconds into the game, another while falling down, and a third on a cut following a wraparound by Ellie Swenson.

After the Crusaders scored three goals in 4:30 to take a 9-8 lead, Ipswich’s Tessa Amoroso tied the game with less than two minutes to go. The finale started when Ipswich goalie Eliza Statile (nine saves) won a race to the end line on the opposite end of the field off a missed G-D shot. It wasn’t the only big play she made, as she denied Sara Walsh on a 2-on-1 with a kick save about six minutes into the second half.

“We knew [Statile] was amazing,” Crusader head coach Sara Valacer said. “She made a lot of saves that a normal person would never make. She is really good.”

The Crusaders had a golden chance to end the game in regulation after Julie King drew a charge, leading to Nicole Wilkinson (two goals, two assists) getting a free run to the goal with 7.5 seconds left. But as she charged toward net, she lost control of the ball, and the clock ran out, pushing the teams into overtime.

In the first overtime, the Crusaders won the draw and worked off 2:57 of the three minute limit before Sara Walsh scored her only goal of the game off an assist from Wilkinson.

In the second overtime, the Tigers controlled time of possession and got one shot on goal that was denied by Maria Antonellis (10 saves). That led to a helter-skelter sequence of events where the teams took turns forcing turnovers until Ipswich’s Delaney Whooley got control of the ball and made her move toward net.

But King made the play of her life by drawing a second charge, and the Crusaders ran out the clock to set off the celebration.

“They’re here to play,” Valacer said of her team’s effort. “If one of them wants it, the rest of them want it. I kept a short roster this season. I was nervous about it, but it proved to be a good thing. They’re obsessed with each other.”

The Crusaders’ depth was tested when Rebecca Herlihy showed up in street clothes after suffering a knee injury following the sectional final win over Grafton. Alexa Stathis was unable to play after falling ill earlier in the day. But once again, the Crusaders’ conditioning paid dividends — the starters toughed out with almost no substitutions.

“They had to really fight for this one,” Valacer said. “We had some girls who hadn’t seen any big games playing today and they really pulled through.”

The Crusaders and the Tigers traveled almost identical paths leading to this game. They had similar records (G-D entering at 13-6, Ipswich entering at 13-5), they both beat two higher seeds on the road in the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals, and they knocked off the highest remaining seed in the sectional final. So it was fitting that their game be as tightly contested as it was, with neither team leading by more than two goals, the draws favoring Ipswich 13-9, and ground balls favoring G-D only 27-25.

The Crusaders will face South sectional champion Norwell for the state championship Thursday, June 18 at Harvard University at 5 p.m. Norwell finished the regular season at 13-5 and earned the no. 1 seed in the South bracket. They defeated Ursuline, Old Rochester, and Cohasset to win their section, then defeated East sectional champion Medfield, 14-9, in the other state semifinal.

Jun 152015

"We are Number 1!" The Groton-Dunstable girls LAX team celebrates its sectional championship victory over GraftonSam Feeley

“We are Number 1!” The Groton-Dunstable girls LAX team celebrates its sectional championship victory over Grafton

WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders’ play in the MIAA Division 2 Central/West girls lacrosse tournament has belied their 9-6 regular season record and number 5 seed.

With the exception of their upset of the number 1 seed Bromfield in the sectional semifinal, none of their tournament games have been close — and that trend continued Friday when the Crusaders defeated the number 2 Grafton Indians, 13-7, to win the sectional title at Foley Stadium.

Nicole Wilkinson was the catalyst to the Crusader effort. She scored six goals, including five in the first half and each of the Crusaders’ first four. Grafton’s Elizabeth Navin and Lauren Lyver helped the Indians keep it close by each scoring two goals to erase three early deficits and tie the game at 4 with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

But after a timeout by G-D head coach Sara Valacer, the game went sideways and then downhill for Grafton. Three goals in the next four minutes, one each by Katherine Royal, Sara Walsh, and Samantha Smith, boosted the Groton-Dunstable lead to 7-4.

A Grafton timeout couldn’t stop the bleeding. The Crusaders continued the attack. Wilkinson won the ensuing draw and got halfway to the goal before being fouled. On the restart, she finished what she started, sprinting toward the net to score and extend the lead to 8-4.

“Everyone looks up to her,” Valacer said. “It’s Nikki’s game. When she’s on, everyone else is on. They follow her lead. When she stays composed, they all stay composed. She proved that today.”

The Crusaders punctuated their outburst by milking over two minutes off the clock before Sophia Irby scored her second of two goals with five seconds left in the half to finish a 7-0 run and go into the break leading 11-4.

Any fears that the Crusaders might get ahead of themselves and let the big lead slip away were nixed by goalie Maria Antonellis, who made four of her six saves in the second half, including denials of point-blank chances by both Navin and Lyver.

“She’s always on her game,” Valacer lauded. “I’m very lucky to have Maria. She’s a huge asset to the team and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

It was an all-around dominating effort by the Crusaders. As the second half progressed, and the Crusaders worked more and more time off the clock, it became evident that Grafton was no match for G-D’s speed, stamina, defense, and athleticism. Even in the final 10 minutes, when the Crusaders played “keep away” on offense, they still had the energy to elude Grafton’s double, triple, and quadruple-teams.

Even when the Indians drew fouls and were awarded clear paths to the net, the Crusader defenders did an excellent job of closing those paths quickly and forcing the Indians to turn back and reset their offense.

Celebration quickly turned to concern, however, as Rebecca Herlihy suffered a freak knee injury as the players mobbed each other after the victory. Her status for the state semifinal against North sectional champion Ipswich is unknown. That game will be this evening, Monday June 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Babson College in Wellesley.

“I had a few girls come up from JV for reasons like this,” Valacer said when asked if the injury would test her team’s depth. “They’ve been playing with us for the past three weeks, so they’ll be ready to step in.”

Ipswich has been on an impressive tournament run of its own, defeating no. 3 Bishop Fenwick, no. 2 Marblehead, and no. 1 Austin Prep on its path to the North sectional title.

Jun 082015

WATERTOWN — The no. 5 Watertown Red Raiders scored three goals in the final minute of play to stun the no. 4 Groton-Dunstable Crusaders, 11-10, in an MIAA Division 3 Central/East quarterfinal Thursday June 4 at Victory Field. The game was a wild, back-and-forth affair from the opening whistle. There were six ties and five lead changes by the time the game was over. The Crusaders led 2-1 after one, Watertown led 4-3 at halftime, and the Crusaders regained a 7-6 lead after three.

The Crusaders got out to the largest lead either team enjoyed in the game — two goals — thanks to scores by Nick Irby and Zach Cotoni (five goals) with 2:15 to play. But as the clock reached the final minute, the Red Raiders made their move.
Nick Giordano somehow managed to get a pass while falling down to Chris Fidler (four goals) in front of the net to cut the lead to 10-9 with 54 seconds left. Just 14 seconds later, off the ensuing faceoff, Anthony Busconi (seven goals) came around the back of the net and put the ball in high past Crusader netminder P.J. Kendall (10 saves) to tie the game.

“We knew [Busconi] was a really good player, and we knew [Fidler] was a really good finisher,” G-D head coach Rick Arena said. “They put us in uncomfortable spots, and we weren’t able to recover. They just took advantage of their opportunities.”

Then came the final dagger. The Crusaders failed to capitalize on a scoring opportunity after winning the faceoff, and Red Raider goalie Christian D’Amico started a fast break that ended with Fidler scoring the game-winner with five seconds left.

“We didn’t take care of the ball the way we needed to, and they took advantage of it,” Rick Arena said. “That’s what happens in a tournament game. You’ve got good teams going after each other, and the team that makes the plays is going to win and move on. Watertown did that down the stretch.”

Zach Cotoni (five goals) opened the scoring at 2:51 of the first quarter with a bouncer from the right side. Busconi tied it four minutes later after forcing a turnover, but Cotoni gave the Crusaders the lead going into the second quarter.

The Crusaders (11-9) dominated on faceoffs (16-9) and ground balls (26-18), and also had the edge in time of possession. All of their goals were unassisted.

“We certainly had our chances,” Arena said. “This was a good lacrosse game on both sides of the ball.

It was the final game for G-D seniors Cotoni, Kendall, Ronnie Peck, Ryan Heinser, Matt Straw, Tyler Poitras, and Paul Leonardo, But the Crusaders will return plenty of key contributors in 2016, including attackman Ryan Dodge (two goals) and faceoff wunderkind Liam McDonough.

The Red Raiders (13-3) will visit no. 1 seed Dover-Sherborn Monday at 5 p.m.

May 242015

The Groton-Dunstable Regional High School girls track and field team won the Mid-Wach B League Championship on Wednesday, May 20, coach Colleen Naboicheck reported. She wrote in an email that “The girls scored 129 points to defeat the runner up Nashoba with 123.50 points. The girls were undefeated and District B champions leading up to the League Meet and accomplished their season goal winning the League Meet as well.”

1st Place:

Emily Willson- 2Mile – 12:00.48 and 2nd Place 1 Mile 5:41.28
Sarah Morenz- Discus- 94-10
4X100 Meter Relay- Natalie Nguyen, Emily Gath, Mae Kovacs, Annie Gold- 52.68

2nd Place:

Taylor White- Javelin 109-1 and Shot Put 32-4.5
Emma Rasmussen-High Jump- 4-10
Mae Kovacs- Long Jump-16-0
Emily Gath-100M- 12.98
4×800 Meter Relay- Sammie Ferraro, Alyssa Towle, Emma Fournier, Ein
Svanborg- 10:36
4×400 Meter Relay- Sammie Ferraro, Brianna Fischer, Erin Scanlon, Olivia
Dunsmoor- 4:26.81

3rd Place:

Sylvia Thomas- Discus 86-8
Annie Gold- 100M- 13.04

4th Place:

Kira McKinley-100MHurdles- 17.18
Olivia Dunsmoor- 200M – 27.44
Bethany Fordham-1 Mile- 5:54

5th Place:

Katie Wogan- Javelin- 86-4.5
Lexie Ferraro- 100M-13.41
Auste Subacuite- 400M Hurdles- 1:13.64

6th Place:

Briana Bozkurt- Triple Jump- 31-5.25
Emily McAuliffe- 2 Mil3- 13:08
Alexander Sinnery- 400M-1:07.9
Erin Scanlon- 400M Hurdles- 1:14.41
Bethany Fordham- 800M- 2:38.84

Mar 102015

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders girl’s basketball team took off hot in its first post-season game last week, but got knocked out of MIAA Division 2 play this weekend, falling to the Medfield Warriors.

Crusaders Win a Classic Against Notre Dame

WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders erased a 10-point third quarter deficit and defeated the Notre Dame Rebels, 59-57, in an MIAA Division 2 Central girls’ basketball semifinal game March 1 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

After being held to just seven points in the first three quarters, Crusaders senior guard Lindsay Werner came alive with eight in the final session, including a layup with 2:30 to go that gave the Crusaders a 56-55 lead they would not relinquish, and their first lead since 2-0 in the first quarter.

In a last-ditch effort, Rebels center Allie Smiley (24 points, eight rebounds) managed to get to the line with 2.6 seconds left, but she missed both free throws, part of an 0-for-5 dry spell in the fourth quarter. Werner owned the rebound and then got fouled, leading to a quick celebration by her and her teammates.

But it was not over yet. Werner still had to go to the line for a 1-and-1. She missed the front end, and the Rebels got the rebound, but they hesitated … Time expired before they could get any kind of look at the basket.

“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a coach, without question,” Crusaders head coach Mark Hennelly said. “It’s just about the growth of the team. I can’t even put into words how different this team looks from three weeks ago when we went up to Oakmont and got our butts kicked. We played with no passion and no energy. It was a turning point for us. We came back, and they turned the corner. I was all over them, and they could have shut me out, but they responded in a big way.”

The Crusaders put themselves in position to make the comeback at the end of the third quarter, when Nikki Eggiman (10 points, two steals) stole an inbounds pass with 1.6 left and hit a layup as time expired to cut the deficit to five points.

“You can’t put a price on that,” Hennelly said. “Nikki gave every ounce of energy she had … her effort was something special.”
As the Crusaders marched toward victory, Hennelly, a man who shows the same energy and desire to win as his players, urged his girls to keep up the effort.

“He just said, ‘Keep fighting, keep fighting,’” Werner said. “Even if we’re up, keep fighting, because we know they’re a good team that could possibly come back, but we held our own.”

“There was no point in the game where they had a look on their face like ‘We’re done,’” Hennelly said. “There was always fight left in them. Ten points in a girls’ basketball game? You never know.”

Sophomore forward Hannah Van Pelt had another double-double for the Crusaders (15 points, 12 rebounds), despite fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Freshman Ellie Eisenklam had nine points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two assists in her first career start. Jenna Plausse added four points and eight rebounds.

Throughout the first half, the Crusaders were settling for contested threes and getting themselves into foul trouble. Werner picked up three fouls in the first half and was walking the tightrope for much of the second half after being called for her fourth foul midway through the third quarter.

“I know I was [settling for threes],” Werner said. “We were taking a lot of jump shots in general. When we were hitting threes, it was because we were going inside, then outside.”

“We never thought we were out of it,” Van Pelt said. “We never lost energy.”

Smiley wasn’t the only Rebels player to have a tremendous game. Molly Terry, whom Hennelly lauded as one of the best guards in Central Massachusetts, had 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four steals.

Medfield Routs G-D In Sectional Final

WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders saw their tournament run come to a disheartening end, as the Medfield Warriors cruised to a 64-33 victory in the MIAA Division 2 Central sectional final on Saturday, March 7. Medfield was a tough draw for the Crusaders — The number 4 Medfield Warriors stunned top seed and previously unbeaten Nashoba 60-34 in the other semifinal.

The Crusaders got off to a great start, leading 7-2 early on, before Medfield responded with a 9-2 run to end the first quarter. Trailing 11-9 at the end of the opening frame, the Crusaders still had a shot to pull another upset.

Then the second quarter started, and the Warriors stepped on the gas.

Led by Payton Ouimette (20 points, 18 rebounds), Maggie McCarthy (20 points, four rebounds), and Lauren Casieri (12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) Warriors began the quarter on a 17-0 run, and went into halftime with a 32-17 lead. Having trailed Notre Dame by as many as 10 points in the second half of the sectional semifinal, the Crusaders may have felt they could make it a game again.

“I think [Ouimette] wore us down,” Crusaders head coach Mark Hennelly said. “We came out and we played her really hard … when she gets going, everybody else feeds off her. She’s the engine that makes that whole squad roll.”

All those hopes were erased in the third quarter, as the Crusaders got high-quality looks at the basket, but the shots simply would not fall. One-and-done was the theme of the Crusaders’ offense, as the Warriors out-rebounded the Crusaders 43-27.

“We ran into a buzz saw,” Hennelly said. “The reality of the situation is that to be in that game down to the wire, we would have had to play close to flawlessly, and we didn’t. We couldn’t get our shots to go in, we had difficulty penetrating their zone early, and we allowed too many rebounds.”

Lindsay Werner was the only Crusader to score in double digits, with 13 points, two assists, and two rebounds in her final game. Melyssa Langell, the other senior starter, had six points and two rebounds. As the outcome became apparent in the fourth quarter, Hennelly let the rest of his seniors, Alex Pray, Ariana Lacombe, and Nicole Georges, get some playing time, which the sizable Crusader student section appreciated, applauding throughout much of the final minutes of the game.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Hennelly lauded. “I have nothing negative to say. A few weeks ago, I don’t think many people would have said we would be standing here. I’ll take the great parts of the season with me, then the loss will settle in eventually, and then we’ll move forward. The girls have a lot to hold their heads high about and some great memories.”

The Crusaders finished the season at 16-7, and have plenty to look forward to next season, with three starters — Ellie Eisenklam, Hanna Van Pelt, and Jenna Plausse — returning to hopefully spark another deep tournament run.

Feb 282015

AUBURN – As far as Lindsay Werner is concerned, the theme of the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders’ tournament run this year is “revenge” – for missing out on the tournament the past two years, and for being eliminated in the first round in their last appearance in 2012.

The no. 3 seed Auburn Rockets were the first team to feel the no. 6 Crusaders’ wrath, as G-D pulled off a 63-46 upset at Auburn High School Wednesday night, February 25 in an MIAA Division 2 Central quarterfinal matchup.

Werner, the only Crusaders player who was on the team for their last tournament appearance, unleashed some pent-up frustration with 25 points, five rebounds, four assists, and four steals.. She unleashed some jaw-dropping plays along the way, with two no-look assists and a fadeaway jumper with two Auburn defenders draped all over her.

“We’re all really hungry to come back to the playoffs,” Werner said. “For the other seniors, this is their first time. I was only in it once, and we got knocked out in the first round. We’re ready to bring it.”

“Lindsay’s special,” Crusaders head coach Mark Hennelly said. “She’s the best offensive player I’ve ever had as far as an ability to create her own shot and just make things happen. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. Nobody works harder than her in the offseason.”

The Crusaders came out of the gates on fire, scoring the first eight points of the game and leading 12-2 midway through the first quarter. But the Rockets came storming back, going on an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to one, forcing a timeout from Hennelly.

“I think we lost a little bit of energy,” Crusaders forward Hanna Van Pelt said. “We reflected, and we came back out and pushed it again.”

The timeout reeled the Crusaders in, as Brielle LeClerc (six points) hit a three-pointer from the top of the circle as time expired to get the lead back to four points. The Crusaders never looked back from there. They extended their advantage to 11 at halftime, led by as much as 20 in the fourth quarter, and went wire-to-wire without trailing or being tied.
Van Pelt scored 10 points in the second half en route to a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds). Jenna Plausse had seven points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Wynn made her presence felt in the second quarter, coming off the bench and hauling in seven of her eight rebounds in that quarter alone, allowing G-D to keep their offense going and stretch their lead.

“As a freshman, I’ve never seen anyone play with more composure (than Jordan),” Hennelly lauded. “She’s one of the hardest-working kids, and one of the smartest – one of the highest basketball IQs I’ve ever been around.”
Wednesday’s performance is indicative of the renewed purpose the Crusaders have found after a letdown in the penultimate game of the regular season at Oakmont.

“We had a very disappointing loss two weeks ago against Oakmont,” Hennelly said. “It was disappointing not because Oakmont isn’t a good team, but because we came out with absolutely no heart, and it was one of the more disappointing performances in my coaching career. The team recommitted. The practices and intensity have gone up about a hundred times. They were phenomenal against North Middlesex last Thursday. If we play with this kind of energy, we’re always going to be in the game. I couldn’t be more proud of the turnaround the last two weeks.”

“We had a four year run of getting to the district finals, and an eight or nine year run of getting to the tournament, so it almost felt like a birth right,” Hennelly added. “So when you [miss the tournament] two years in a row, and you get back to it, you’re reminded of how truly special the atmosphere is and how much fun it is.”

The Crusaders will face no. 2 seed Notre Dame-Worcester Sunday at 5 p.m. at WPI. Hennelly knows that will be a huge test.
“(Notre Dame point guard) Molly Terry is one of the best players in the area,” Hennelly lauded. “(Notre Dame forward) Allie Smiley’s improvement in the post from last year to this year is dramatic. We’ve got our hands full.”

Feb 172015

WESTON – Passing, defense, rebounding – the Lawrence Academy girl’s varsity Spartans struggled with key playmaking skills and came up short in a 74-42 loss to the Rivers Red Wings Saturday at Benson Gymnasium.

It was the second time the Spartans had given up 70 points in a game, and both instances resulted in losses (the other was a 73-59 decision against Noble & Greenough). They committed 11 turnovers and were outrebounded 47-23.

The Red Wings never trailed nor found themselves tied with the Spartans They got off to a quick start, leading 9-2 in the first 3:10 before Spartans head coach Donna Mastrangelo called a timeout. That didn’t to stop the bleeding, though, and the lead ballooned to 16-5 before Mastrangelo called another timeout.

Trailing 37-16 at halftime, the Spartans tried to make a game of it early in the second half. They nearly doubled their first-half scoring output in the first five minutes of the second, cutting the lead to as little as 15, but a 7-0 run by Rivers extended the lead to 22, and it would continue to expand from there.

“We missed some easy buckets early, then we came back down to the other end of the court and just imploded,” Mastrangelo said. “The second half was a different game… we’ve got to show up right from the start.”

Red Wings Freshman sensation Tess Sussman achieved a double-double in the first half on her way to 16 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. She completed her game by getting an uncontested rebound off her own missed free throw and laying it back in before taking a rest with five minutes to go. Kaitlyn Foley, who had struggled all year from beyond the three-point arc, scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-10 shooting from long range. McDonald’s All-American nominee Kristen Daley had seven points, 13 rebounds, and three steals. Julia Thissell had 11 points and six rebounds.

“They’re a phenomenal team,” Mastrangelo said of the Red Wings. “They’ve got a lot of Division 1 athletes, one going to Penn and one going to Yale. They’re all great shooters too.”

Emily Pratt (17 points, three rebounds) and Erin Antosh (15 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, two assists) led the Spartans effort. Gabrielle Reuter, who normally plays a big part in the Spartans’ offense, was called for three fouls in the first eight minutes of the first half, forcing her to sit for an extended period of time and thus limiting her to six points, five rebounds, and two steals.

The Spartans (16-2, 8-2 ISL) will travel to Brookline for a game against Southfield Wednesday at 3:15 p.m.

Feb 112015

Lopsided doesn’t even begin to describe the Lawrence Academy Spartans’ 67-15 victory over the Middlesex Zebras Friday night at the Stone Athletic Center. To sum it up in a few statistics:

  • Middlesex had more fouls (19) than points.
  • Gabrielle Reuter outscored Middlesex by herself (18 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals two assists), and
  • Erin Antosh came close to doing that as well, with 13 points, four rebounds, and three steals.
  • Six Lawrence players outscored Middlesex’s leading scorer, Lydia Paddock (four points, seven rebounds, two steals), and a seventh, Kristen Parry, who played just eight minutes, had just as many points.
  • It was the second time the Spartans held an opponent to 15 points in a game, and the fourth time they held an opponent to less than 20.
  • The Spartans have beaten their opponents by an average margin of 21 points and have held their opponents to an average of 33.8 points per game.

It didn’t look like it was going to be that lopsided from the outset, as the Spartans fell behind 5-2 in the early stages, and head coach Donna Mastrangelo had to call two timeouts to get her girls back on track.

“I had to reel them in,” Mastrangelo said. “They’ve got to perform out there to the best of their ability at all times. We’ve had a great season so far, and we have to make sure they’re pumped up for every game.”

To say the timeouts worked would be an understatement, as the Spartans finished the first half on a 33-2 run, including 29 unanswered at one point, and last trailed at 5-4.

“We’ve been nervous because of all these snow days,” Mastrangelo said. “We were a little slow on Wednesday at Thayer … the kids did a much better job this time. The help defense was much better.”

It won’t be this easy for the Spartans down the stretch, because even though they now stand at 14-1 (6-1 ISL), they play six of their final nine games on the road. They have back-to-back games on Friday against Milton (whom Mastrangelo said they had not beaten in a long time) and on Saturday at Rivers. Earlier in the season, Rivers defeated Noble & amp; Greenough, the only team to beat the Spartans thus far.

“We were hanging in there,” Mastrangelo said about the Nobles game. “We’ve been annihilated by that team in the past, so for us to be in that game was big.”

Feb 092015

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders girl’s basketball team clinched their first postseason berth since 2012 with a 57-50 victory over the Quabbin Panthers on Senior Night last Tuesday at G-DRHS.

The Crusaders came out of a tight, high-scoring first quarter which a 20-17 lead, and G-D continued to accelerate in the second quarter and the first part of the third quarter. They outscored the Panthers 30-20 to lead 50-37 entering the final frame. Three Crusaders scored in double digits: Lindsay Werner (17 points, five rebounds, four steals, four assists), Hanna Van Pelt (11 points, 10 rebounds), and Alex Pray (10 points, five rebounds).

“Alex was phenomenal tonight,” Hennelly lauded. “She had an outstanding game. I could not be happier for her. Alex is a do-whatever-you-ask-her-to type of kid, and she works hard all the time. It’s great that she had such a great night on Senior Night.”

However, G-D’s shooting cooled off in the late third and early fourth quarters, and Quabbin came roaring back to life. In the fourth quarter alone, Quabbin center Mary Beth Parslow scored nine of her 23 points, including going 5-of-6 at the free throw line, and snagged seven of her 14 rebounds, to fuel an 11-2 run that cut the G-D lead to 52-48 with four minutes to go. But the Crusaders settled down, got their defense together, and extended the lead back to seven by the time the final buzzer sounded.

“Our offense is definitely prone to inconsistency,” Hennelly said. “What I was more concerned with in that stretch was defensive lapses. We had three or four trips down the floor where people didn’t know who they had, and you just can’t do that. That’s what’s going to allow them to get close.”
The Crusaders stand at 12-5 after defeating St. Bernard’s and Westborough this week on the road. They have three more road games to close out the season this week: North Middlesex on Monday, Hudson on Thursday, and Oakmont on Friday. Hennelly said he expects his team to finish 15-5 and get a home game in the first round of the MIAA Division 2 Central tournament in the process.

“I was happy for the seniors,” G-D head coach Mark Hennelly said. “It’s nice to get that last win (to qualify for the tournament), but we have a goal of getting back here for one more game.”

Jan 262015

The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders “ran out of gas,” according to head coach Phil Rowley, as a five-goal third period by the Wachusett Mountaineers let Wachusett skate away with a 7-4 victory at the Groton School rink Wednesday evening.

After trailing 3-2 for two periods, the Mountaineers took the lead for good with two goals in fifteen seconds about four minutes in. First, Joe Rinaldo fanned on an initial shot, but recovered and beat Crusader goalie Nevin Tardiff stick side. Then Brian Boulette, who registered a hat trick, took the puck from a faceoff win in his own zone and sprinted up ice to deliver a slap shot for the go-ahead goal.

The Mountaineers would extend their lead to 5-3 before the Crusaders made a last-ditch effort with the goalie pulled. Patrick Keating let loose a wrist shot from the right side circle after the entire offense set up on the right side of the dot for an offensive zone faceoff. But Boulette sealed his hat trick at 13:14 as Tardiff was forced to stay in his net, and was caught out of position off a rebound. Rinaldo got his second goal on an empty-netter with 24 seconds left, and that was that.

The Crusaders had a legitimate reason for running on empty — flu-like symptoms caused two defensemen to miss the game entirely and another to head back to the locker room partway through the game. By the end of the game, they were down to three healthy defensemen.

“I’m not making any excuses,” Rowley said, though he did point out that “the effort was great” given the circumstances. “Hopefully we’ll get some rest and come back healthier for Saturday’s game … they tried hard, and I was proud of them for that.”

The Crusaders started out well enough — after a slow start offensively by both teams in the first period, they started to get more shots on goal and eventually broke the ice at 7:57 when Harry Perrault put in a backhand from an impossible angle, straddling the goal line and with his back almost completely turned to the net. Just over two minutes later, they scored again when Ben Strauss rifled home a rebound that bounced far out into the slot.

The Mountaineers came back to tie it with back-to-back goals in the second period. First, Andrew Iacaboni stripped Kam Strong of the puck as he was setting up at the offensive blue line, then took it all the way uncontested. Then Boulette got his first goal of the game when Iacaboni fed him through the crease after collecting a rebound off a shot from Rinaldo.

The Mountaineers nearly took the lead in the final minute of the third period when a shot appeared to go into the net, but the officials signaled to play on. While the Wachusett fans and bench protested, the action went to the other end, and eventually Michael Cole stuffed in a loose puck with 2.2 seconds left.

The Crusaders fell to 3-6-1 and will travel to the Chelmsford Forum in North Billerica for a matchup with Lowell Catholic Saturday at 8 p.m.