GROTON -- Groton-Dunstable junior attacker Austin Hourani propelled the Crusaders past regional foe North Middlesex, 12-6. Hourani tallied four goals in the win. Midfielder Quintin Forbes posted a hat trick and an assist for Groton-Dunstable. Crusaders head coach Rick Arena's club out-shot North Middlesex, 37-17, but he felt that the Patriots were a resilient bunch.
"Austin Hourani had a great game today," said Arena. "We had a tough time putting this team away. They (North Middlesex) kept fighting and scrapping, and we could not put them away. I thought we were going to be able to, but they kept fighting."
Forbes catapulted the ball in the low left corner of the cage to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead at 3:46 of the first quarter. Hourani set the play up nicely with a quick bullet pass to Forbes.
Exactly 1:00 later, Hourani facilitated another goal for Groton-Dunstable, this time it was a beautiful pass to junior captain Tristan Lynch. Lynch took the pass and skipped the ball like a rock on the pond into the back of the net to give Groton-Dunstable a 2-0 lead.
North Middlesex started the game a bit sluggish, but a Nate Deigham goal helped to snap the Patriots out of their funk.
"They had some good athletes out in the midfield, and we didn't do a good job sliding on help defense," said head coach Paul Giacobbe. "We had a lot of turnovers at the top of the box, which developed into a lot of fast breaks. Offensively we rushed shots and missed passes."
Deigham corralled a picturesque pass from Brett Estrella and set his crosshairs on the top corner of the net to make it 2-1 at 5:10 of the first quarter.
Thirty seconds later, Nick Irby found Lynch off the restart to give Groton-Dunstable a 3-1 lead to round out the scoring in the first quarter. Groton-Dunstable held an 8-4 shot advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Crusaders picked up where they left off in the first, as they strung together three unanswered tallies. Hourani spun off a North Middlesex defender and deposited the ball top left to make it 4-1 with 10:05 left in the half.
Next it was Irby on a low-hop shot with 9:42 remaining in the quarter. Forbes capped off the three-goal outburst with a dart inside the crease to give the Crusaders a 6-1 lead with 7:35 remaining.
Dan LaCross scooted the ball over to Will Faulkner, who dipped and ducked through traffic and rattled the cage with 6:02 left in the period to bring the Pats back within three at 5-2.
Faulkner threaded the needle on an entry pass to Nick Scaltreto, who chipped the ball in low-right to make it 5-3 with 4:49 on the clock. Houraini produced his second goal of the game from long distance to put the Crusaders up 6-3 going into the half.
Cam Clermont accepted an entry pass from Brad Lambert, and sent it howling in the back of the net to bring the Pats within two at 6-4 with 10:54 remaining in the third.
Hourani produced the rabbit from his hat with his third goal of the afternoon with 8:42 left. Hourani scored the Crusaders' next goal with an unassisted howitzer to push Groton-Dunstable's lead to 8-4.
Forbes channeled his inner running back when he spun off the steady pressure of North Middlesex's Paul Naumann and scored as he was falling to the turf at 7:30 of the third quarter.
LaCross sniped a shot into the cage with under four minutes remaining in the quarter to bring the Patriots within four at 9-5. Forbes took a Hourani feed and tickled the twine to double up the Crusaders, 10-5.
In the fourth quarter, the Crusaders got insurance goals from Zach Cotoni and Ryan Doody to cap off the game's final tally of 12-6. Faulkner was the Patriots leading points getter with his two goals and an assist in the loss.
"We fought hard on sliding the body, and winning the ground balls," said Giacobbe. "We didn't win as many ground balls as I would have liked, but we fought hard. The effort was definitely there, but once we settled in, we played better."
Sophomore Groton-Dunstable goalie P.J. Kendall stonewalled 11 shots for the win, while North Middlesex goalie Brendan Macarty stopped 25. The Crusaders held the edge in the face-off circle, outdrawing the Patriots 12-7.
"We're still trying to find our groove," said Arena. "You never know what you are going to get with North Middlesex. But you know you are going to get fighters, and they are going to be fighting all the way through. We kept coming, pushed the ball, and put the ball on net."