GROTON -- Even though Groton-Dunstable was out-shot 25-13 by previously unbeaten No. 1 ranked Shrewsbury, it made the most of its opportunities in the decisive third period.
Groton-Dunstable was riding high after beating defending Division 3 State Champion, Westfield, on the road last week. Last Wednesday, the Crusaders defeated the hottest team in Central Mass., Shrewsbury, 2-1.
Senior captain Connor Maguire netted the game-winner at 7:42 of the third period.
"I fumbled with it and Shrewsbury tried chipping it out, but I was able to keep it in," Maguire said about the game-winner. "I saw the wide-open lane, which doesn't really come up that much. It was just instincts. I took a slap-shot. I think the goalie thought it was out, and he was a little unprepared and upright. Luckily, it was quick enough to get it through his five-hole."
The Crusaders held a Shrewsbury team that was averaging eight goals per game coming into the tilt scoreless in the opening period, due to the camaraderie of the defense and its stalwart senior goaltender, Jason Robes.
"They (the defense) did a good job blocking shots," Robes said. "They blocked a lot more than I expected sometimes. Last game against them, I got about 40 shots, so I knew what was coming to me this time. I tried to see the puck as well as I could and tried to be ready. The defense never quits working. Without them, we wouldn't be winning games."
Groton-Dunstable surrendered a goal late in the second period to Shrewsbury wing Dave Belbin. Junior right wing Adam Twitchell fed an ice-level sweeping pass to the stick to Belbin, who dangled left-to-right before pulling the trigger and beating Robes glove side at 11:51 of the period.
The Crusaders went into the dressing room during the second intermission, reluctant to allow Shrewsbury to escape the Frank "Junie" O'Brien Rink unscathed. At 1:08 of the first period, James Tardif corralled a centering pass from Eric Niemoller behind the cage. Tardif settled the puck swiftly and uncorked a whispering wrist shot from the left circle to tie it at 1-1.
Six minutes later, Maguire made a heads-up play to keep the puck in the offensive zone to avoid offsides. Maguire popped to his feet and blasted a howitzer through the five-hole of Shrewsbury senior goaltender Matthew Andrews (12 saves).
With 5:30 remaining in the game, Shrewsbury center John Quinlivan blasted a blue-line slapper that looked destined for the top-shelf, but Jason Robes reached up and snared the shot to preserve the 2-1 lead.
Groton-Dunstable's defense withstood a healthy dosage of shots from the Colonials late in the period. Shrewsbury pulled Andrews with 1:08 remaining in the third. With 25 seconds left, Derric Dell'Olio chipped a diving shot, and the rest of the Shrewsbury line crashed the cage, but Robes was able to ice the puck. Groton-Dunstable wrapped the puck around the boards to shave off the remaining seconds to pull off the upset and move to 5-3 on the season, as this is written.
"In the second period, we were not playing our game, and we were off-sync," Groton-Dunstable head coach Phil Rowley said. "I went in and told them that they only had two shots in the second period and that kind of motivated them and got them a little upset. They played well in the third period.
"That's a quality team, these kids never grew up," he said. "The young kids and the kids who didn't play much in the past are stepping up and filling roles. They are doing their jobs well. All the coaches are extremely proud of them."