As the Holy Cross seniors return to the ice for their final season as Crusaders, there’s no doubt that the last two years were memorable. Top-four finishes in MAAC play, home ice in the playoffs and a berth in the final four last year: these players have plenty to be proud of.
But when memories are shared, the 2000-2001 season will be near the top of the list. There were no championships, no home ice, nothing to celebrate.
— Head coach Paul Pearl, on his seniors
No, 2000-01 will be remembered for one reason only — so that it’s not repeated.
According to head coach Paul Pearl, this senior class has come a long way from the 10th-place finish and 8-22-2 record three years ago. At this point, the class of Matt Conway, Tim Coskern, Jeff Dams, R.J. Irving, Tom Pawlak, Scott Rissmiller, J.R. Walker, and most importantly captain Greg Kealey is one that won’t soon be forgotten.
“This senior class is as good as any,” said Pearl. “In terms of what they’ve done as a team and what they’ve done individually, they’ve accomplished a lot.
Pearl noted that four of those players — Koskern (60), Dams (84), Irving (71), and Kealey (97) — all have the potential to be 100-point career scorers.
“They’ve done so much for three years and now will for a fourth. This is a very talented class for us.”
This year, the seniors will have the charge of leading the Crusaders through a tough early schedule that opens Oct. 11. Holy Cross will jump into play with two league games at Canisius, and also face Mercyhurst (twice), Sacred Heart and UConn on the road before the Christmas break.
We’ve got to really grind it out in the beginning,” said Pearl. “We have a hell of a first-half schedule. If we can continue to get better during those games, we’ll be dangerous down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
What’s most difficult is, in fact, the road. Twenty of Holy Cross’ 34 games will be played on the road. A season ago, the Crusaders were a dangerous road team, posting a 7-5-1 record in league play away from the Hart Center. Pearl hopes to repeat that feat.
“If we want to be up there in the standings, we have to win on the road,” Pearl said. “That’s been the biggest improvement for this season’s class.” In 2000-01, HC was 1-11-1 in league road games.
The one area that might define this Holy Cross team is goaltending. Possessed of two semi-experienced goaltenders, Pearl hopes that development of Tony Quesada and Ben Conway continues.
“We’re happy with the experience in net,” said Pearl. “At times you couldn’t score on Quesada. And Ben Conway came out and played every well. He had some very good games for us.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that goaltending will be key. You can overcome other poor things like special teams, but you can’t overcome bad goaltending.”