October 25, 2012

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Crusaders looking for revenge

By Allen Lessels

Connecticut pretty much had its way with Holy Cross last season. For the first time in the history of their program, in fact, the Huskies managed a sweep of the season series, three games to none. 

Senior defenseman Evan Zych has three points through two games for the Crusaders. (Photo by Peter Cooke)

Crusader senior defenseman Evan Zych and his teammates hope to do something about that this time around.

They get their first shot at UConn in the Hart Center at Holy Cross on Friday night.

The rivalry between the two New England schools has been building steam in recent years, Zych said.

“The past two years we’ve had pretty good battles against them,” he said. “Last year, they stole a couple of points from us.”

When he first got to Holy Cross, Zych recalled, he heard a lot about how heated the school’s rivalry was with RIT.

“That’s still big, but I don’t think it’s as big as it was in the mid-2000s,” he said. “I would say Connecticut’s right up there now on our hit list. It’s always good to play them.”

The first game last year came just after Holy Cross had gone to Boston University and upset the Terriers, 5-4.

“I think they took that as a way to prove they could beat a ranked team as well and we came out flat and they stole it from us,” Zych said.

UConn won that one in Storrs, 4-2.

The Huskies won again the next time the teams met, 3-1 in Storrs on Jan. 27, and closed out the sweep the next night in Worcester, 3-0.

The odd thing was, the teams took off in different directions from there. Holy Cross went on a 7-0-1 run through the end of the regular season and passed the Huskies in the standings, finishing up in a three-way tie for third place.

UConn went 1-5-2 the rest of the way.

Both teams advanced to the quarterfinal round of the league tournament and then were eliminated.

This weekend, they start all over. The Crusaders, winners of their first two games, know what to expect from UConn, which is playing its league opener.

“They always play hard,” Zych said. “They pound the body and pound you in the corners and always finish their checks. We expect nothing less than that this time. They’re real good.”

UConn lost its first and thus far only game, 4-1, at Massachusetts two full weeks ago.

Zych has three assists for the Crusaders and senior Brandon Nunn and freshman Jake Youso each have a pair of goals.

Sophomore Matt Ginn has a .962 save percentage and 1.50 goals against-average through the wins over AIC (6-2) and Clarkson (3-1). 

Player of the Week

Andy Starczewski, sr., forward, Whitesboro, N.Y., Army

The only Black Knight to hit double figures in goals last season, Starczewski posted his second career hat trick in a 5-2 win over Sacred Heart on Friday night.

He added a goal and an assist in a 4-4 tie against the Pioneers the next night. Starczewski had 13-11-24 totals in 34 games last year and is 4-3-7 in four games thus far. 

Game of the week

UConn at Holy Cross, Friday

UConn becomes the last Atlantic Hockey team to play a league game (four other teams start on Thursday night) when it visits Worcester. The New England rivals won’t see each for a while after this one: They don’t meet again until Feb. 15 in Storrs and then play again the next night back in Worcester. 

Power Rankings

1. Holy Cross (2-0-0, 1-0-0 AHA) . . . Sophomore goalie Matt Ginn stopped 36 shots in 3-1 win at Clarkson. 

2. Bentley (1-1-0, 1-0-0 AHA) . . . Junior Brett Gensler, the top scorer in the league last season, has 2-4-6 totals in first two games.

3. Niagara (1-2-2, 1-0-0 AHA) . . . Carson Chubak, a junior goalie, made 33 saves in a 3-2 loss at Michigan State on Friday and came back with 35 in 3-3 tie on Saturday.

4. Air Force (0-2-2, 0-0-0 AHA) . . .  Colorado College (6-2) and Denver (5-2) each put up more than 40 shots to upend the Falcons. Air Force last allowed 40 in consecutive games in 2003.

5. Mercyhurst (0-2-1, 0-1-0 AHA) . . . Sophomore goalie Jimmy Sarjeant’s 39 saves in second career start earn 3-3 tie at Ferris State.

6. RIT (1-2-0, 0-0-0 AHA) . . . Still looking for their first power play goal of the season (0-13), Tigers open league play at home against Robert Morris on Thursday night.   

7. UConn (0-1-0, 0-0-0 AHA) . . . Huskies open Atlantic Hockey play at Holy Cross on Thursday then host Frozen Four participant Union on Saturday.

8. Robert Morris (1-1-0, 0-0-0 AHA) . . . Colonials are at RIT on Thursday, home against Air Force on Saturday. Last February, Robert Morris and RIT played a pair of 2-2 games in Rochester. 

9. Canisius (1-3-0, 0-0-0 AHA) . . . The Griffs host Air Force on Thursday and play at Minnesota on Sunday. Canisius went 1-0-2 against Air Force each of last two seasons.

10. Army (1-2-1, 1-0-1 AHA) . . . Black Knights took three points from Sacred Heart last weekend; play Penn State at home Friday and are at Holy Cross on Saturday.

11. AIC (1-2-0, 0-1-1 AHA) . . . Yellow Jackets play No. 8-ranked Union at home on Friday and Alabama-Huntsville is in town on Saturday.

12. Sacred Heart (0-3-1, 0-2-1 AHA) . . . Army got an extra-attacker goal with 33 seconds left to tie Pioneers, 4-4, on Saturday.

Allen Lessels can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.