January 9, 2014

Atlantic Hockey: Holy Cross in post-holiday rut

By Allen Lessels

Junior goalie Matt Ginn hasn't been geting much offensive support from his fellow Crusaders thus far in the second half of the season. (Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Holy Cross hit the Christmas break on a nice little roll.

The Crusaders have struggled some since.

“We’re on a bit of a tough streak,” said coach Paul Pearl. “We haven’t played badly and we’ve had a lot of chances, but we haven’t been able to score a lot of goals. In the last three years, we’ve been at or near the top of the league and this year we’ve gone long stretches without scoring goals.”

The Crusaders have lost all four of their games in the second half and have scored a total of five goals in that stretch.

They gave Bentley a run and lost the first Frozen Fenway game, 3-2, on Dec. 29 and the next afternoon dropped a 4-1 game at Yale. Last weekend, they lost at home against Canisius, 4-2 and 3-0.

Overall, Holy Cross is averaging 2.05 goals a game. The last three years, the Crusaders have averaged at least three goals a game.

“It’s not because of lack of effort or attempts,” Pearl said. “We’re just not there yet. We’ll get there.”

Three of last year’s top four scorers graduated.

Through 19 games, senior forward Adam Schmidt leads Holy Cross in goals and points with five goals and seven assists for 12 points.

Four sophomores, starting with Matt Vidal at 4-7-11, follow him on the scoring list.

The Crusaders, who finished third in the league standings last year, are tied forninth going into this weekend and yet another major test.

League-leading Mercyhurst is in for games on Friday and Saturday.

“They’ve got about the whole team back.” Pearl said. “I think 20 of the 25 or whatever number they carry went to the finals last year and they didn’t lose any key cogs.”

The Lakers average 3.64 goals a game and have three of the top five scorers in the league in junior forward Matthew Zay (11-20-31), senior forward Daniel O’Donoghue (11-19-30) and junior forward Ryan Misiak (7-16-23).

One good piece of news for Holy Cross is that sophomore Karl Beckman, the leading scorer among defensemen last year and a key on the power play, is due to return to the lineup soon. He’s been out all season following hip surgery.

On the flip side, junior defenseman Nilan Nagy broke his hand in the Yale game and will have surgery that will keep him out of the lineup for a while.

For now, the Crusaders look to get back to scoring more goals and back to a stretch like they had before Christmas when they split a pair with Robert Morris, won 5-4 at Boston College and then tied a pair of games with Air Force.

“It’s not like we’re far off,” Pearl said. “But we have to start winning games. All teams that are supposed to be good teams and lost a lot, the key is by the time you get back to the playoffs the next year, be ready again. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Player of the Week

Brant Harris, sr. F, UConn

Harris collected his first career hat trick in UConn’s 6-2 win over RIT on Saturday. The triumph followed up on UConn’s 2-1 win on Friday night to complete the weekend sweep.

Games of the week

RIT at Bentley, Friday and Saturday

The Tigers and Falcons are both looking to bounce back from rough weekends. RIT got swept at UConn and Bentley came away with just one point in a two-game set at home against Niagara.

Power Rankings

1. Mercyhurst (11-9-2, 9-1-1)  . . . The Lakers opened up a three-point lead in the league standings with a sweep of Army. Junior goalie Jimmy Sarjeant stopped 60 of the 62 shots he faced in a pair of 3-1 wins. Mercyhurst is at Holy Cross this weekend.

2. UConn (9-6-2, 7-3-1) . . . The Huskies closed to within a point of second-place Bentley with two wins, 2-1 and 6-2, at home against RIT. The Huskies play host to Robert Morris on Thursday and Friday.

3. Bentley (9-8-2, 7-3-2) . . . The Falcons extended their unbeaten string to nine games at 7-0-2 with a 2-2 tie at home against Niagara on Friday night. But they lost Saturday’s game, 5-3. RIT is in for games on Friday and Saturday.

4. Air Force (10-6-4, 5-3-3) . . . The Falcons lost at AIC, 4-3 in overtime, on Friday and bounced back for a 2-0 win on Saturday in freshman Chris Truehl’s debut. He opened up in fine fashion with an 18-save shutout.

5. Canisius (7-10-1, 6-4-1) . . . The Golden Griffins swept a pair of games at Holy Cross, 4-2 and 3-0. Sophomore Keegan Asmundson made 31 saves on Saturday for the shutout. Canisius has gone 5-1-1 in its last seven games to climb into a tie for fourth place.

6. RIT (6-9-3, 5-5-1) . . . After getting out to a 5-0-1 start, freshman Mike Rotolo lost his first two games in net at UConn. He has a .916 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average. RIT is at Bentley on Friday and Saturday.

7. Niagara (4-11-3, 4-4-3) . . . Niagara came up with a 2-2 tie and 5-3 win at Bentley, which had been tied for first in the league. Each team had 36 shots and was 1-for-1 on the power play on Friday. Each team had 33 shots and scored two power play goals on Saturday.

8. Robert Morris (4-12-2, 4-5-2) . . . Sophomore forward Zac Lynch scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 win over Sacred Heart on Friday. Junior forward Scott Jacklin scored 16 seconds into overtime to give the Colonials another 2-1 win on Saturday.

9. Holy Cross (4-13-2, 3-7-2) . . . The Crusaders dropped 4-2 and 3-0 games to Canisius. They have lost their last four games and have scored five goals total in them. Mercyhurst is at Holy Cross on Friday and Saturday.

10. Sacred Heart (5-15-0, 4-9-0) . . . Junior Alex Vazzano stopped 68 of the 72 shots he faced, but the Pioneers lost a pair of 2-1 games at home to Robert Morris. The second loss was in OT. Sacred Heart is at Canisius for games on Saturday and Sunday. 

11. AIC (4-13-0, 4-7-0) . . . The Yellow Jackets rallied for a 4-3 overtime win over Air Force on Friday. David Norris got AIC within one with 1:27 left in regulation and Jake Williams tied it with an extra attacker goal. Alexander MacMillan scored 59 seconds into OT.

12. Army (3-14-0, 3-10-0) . . . The Black Knights outshot Mercyhurst 62-46 for the weekend, but dropped a pair of 3-1 games. Army went 1-for-8 on the power play and the Lakers were 4-for-10. Air Force is at Army for games on Friday and Saturday. 

Twitter: @AllenLessels
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