WESTBOROUGH – The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders have slowly been getting their legs underneath them as the 2014-15 hockey season has progressed, and Monday night at North Star Youth Forum, they finally broke through with a 4-2 victory over the Westborough Rangers.
Harry Perrault got the scoring started at 14:03 of the first period. The Rangers committed a turnover in their own zone, which led to an easy top-shelf wrist shot for Perrault past Westborough goalie Jared Ward.
The Crusaders extended their lead with two goals in 47 seconds in the second period. After an initial save by Ward, Michael Cole collected the rebound and wrapped around the goal to find Nathan Rabbitt, who put it in the wide-open net. Then Westborough’s Evan Leva fanned on a pass at his own blue line, leading to a breakaway and easy goal for Ryan Dodge.
The Rangers finally got on the board at 6:50 of the third period. G-D’s Eric Niemoller fanned on a shot from the blue line, allowing Jacob Uhlman to chase down the puck and head for the goal. Despite two Crusaders draped all over him, he still wriggled free and scored.
The Crusaders eventually put it away with 1:43 to go in the game, as Robert Hoare batted in a rebound out of mid-air with six players representing both teams scrambling in front of the net.
“We played Algonquin exactly the same way,” G-D head coach Phil Rowley said. “We outshot them and outplayed them, we just didn’t finish. But we had some nice finishes today, and we had some nice goals. We moved the puck well, and we had a lot of good shots.”
Westborough’s Dylan Kehoe got the last goal of the game 28 seconds later by scoring from a tough angle on his own rebound, but it was too little too late.
Eight different Crusaders had a point, and two had multi-point games: Perrault (goal, assist) and Bradley Garside (two assists).
In the games leading up to this win, the Crusaders have finally found their identity: pepper the opposing goalie with shots. And they lived up to that mantra by outshooting the Rangers 45-17, including margins of 14-3 in the first period and 17-4 in the second.
“That’s what we need,” Rowley said. “We don’t have any pure scorers, so we need to throw a lot of shots on net… It’s a work in progress. We’re trying to get them to feel good about themselves and do things with muscle memory instead of overthinking.
The Crusaders (1-4) have killed penalties at a 94% rate this season, and only built on that mark by killing all three penalties called against them. In fact, they ended up with more shorthanded shots (three) than Westborough had power play shots (two).
“The penalty kill has been really good for us this year,” Rowley lauded. “We got some good power play looks today which we haven’t gotten in the past.”
The Crusaders will play their home opener Wednesday against Algonquin at the Groton School at 7 p.m.
For more G-D sports coverage, visit TheGrotonLine.com.