As you look back at last year’s Holy Cross team, you have to think that the 2004-05 edition of the Crusaders was one of the better teams to play in either the MAAC or Atlantic Hockey and not take home any hardware.
It would seem like last year’s ‘Cross club had everything — two solid goaltenders, a high-powered offense that lost three of its top scorers but also returned seven of its top ten point-getters, and most importantly, the experience and know-how to win.
Then February happened. Two non-league losses followed by a road loss at Sacred Heart began the month. Two wins seemed to right the ship. But a four-game winless skid down the stretch pushed the Crusaders into fourth place to end the year.
Though HC finally got things back on the right track, closing with a 7-2 win at Bentley and a first-round semi-upset of Sacred Heart at home, their season was ended by red-hot Mercyhurst in the semifinals.
A year later, head coach Paul Pearl will look to repeat everything last year’s team did but this time translate hard work into success.
If there’s anywhere that success needs to begin, it’s likely in the offensive department. Last year’s club actually had a lower goals against average than Holy Cross’ 2003-04 team that went to the NCAA tournament. But a lack of scoring, particularly at key times in the game, led to 17 losses or ties in games decided by two goals or fewer.
“For a team that had some pretty good forwards, we had a lot of games last year where we’d get 42 shots and two goals,” said Pearl. “It’s obviously an offensive production issue.”
As Pearl notes, it’s not for a lack of talent that pucks aren’t finding the back of the net. Up front, the trio of Pierre Napert-Frenette, James Sixsmith and Tyler McGregor (though they rarely actually played on a line together) could be the best offensive trio in the league. That, though, didn’t always translate to goals.
To change that, Pearl will look to his most experienced players, namely Napert-Frenette and McGregor, as well as Blair Bartlett and Andrew Weber to pace the offensive attack. Last season both Weber and Bartlett were hampered at times with injuries, so if they should stay healthy you might see some offensive production.
Between the pipes, Holy Cross has the number-one veteran goaltending tandem in the league, if not the country. Tony Quesada and Ben Conway have played just about every single game for the last three seasons and both have the experience needed to win a championship. The ability to rely on them to steal a few games could mean the difference for Holy Cross between fourth and first place come March.