NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Iona used four third-period goals to salvage a split in its home-and-home series with Holy Cross as the Gaels outgunned the Crusaders 7-4 on Saturday night.
Iona coach Frank Bretti shook up his line combinations in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Friday night’s lackluster 5-2 loss in Holy Cross. His changes paid off as the line of Tim Krueckl, Rob Kellogg and Ryan Carter combined for three goals and six assists when they were together as a unit.
“I though the Kellogg line was very effective and I thought we had a lot of chances in the first half of the game, but there were too many missed shots,” Bretti said.
Both coaches agreed that home ice advantage played a big part in both games.
“I thought we came out very strong. We just broke the puck out better tonight than we did in Holy Cross. It is a combination of that and there is a little bit more room in this rink,” Bretti said.
Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl agreed. “Iona played very tenacious on the puck tonight. I think we backed off at times and kind of caught with their speed. Last night I thought we were able to neutralize their speed. Tonight I think there was a little bit more room for them to make plays.”
Iona opened the scoring at the 4:20 mark as Krueckl used his size to fight off a check and set up Kellogg in front for the first of his two goals on the night.
A couple of minutes after that goal, Pearl used his timeout. What were his instructions?
“Skate,” he said. “We were standing around too much, trying to make the cute little play with the puck. I thought after that we were skating pretty hard and we were trying to forecheck.”
The pep talk worked as Holy Cross had two scoring chances, but Mike Fraser stopped Friday night’s star, Brandon Doria, with a right pad save from the slot and Jean-Paul Chaput cleared a puck away from the goal off a scramble in front.
Holy Cross finally broke through for the equalizer when Tony Coskren deflected home an Andrew McKay shot from the left point at 17:05.
Iona responded 13 seconds later when Kellogg struck again, as Krueckl used his size to absorb a hit at the Holy Cross blue line to set up Carter, who in turn set up Kellogg for his second goal.
Despite the 2-1 lead after the first period, Bretti lamented some of his team’s lost scoring chances. “I thought we could have added a lot more stress earlier by getting some variation on the offensive end and I thought that came back to bite us later on.”
Pearl was doing some lamenting of his own as he reflected on his team’s lost chances in the first period.
“(Iona) is a good team and we have to be on our game to hang with a team like that. Tonight we just didn’t hang in there in that first 10 minutes,” he said.
The Gaels took a 3-1 lead midway through the second period when the Kellogg line finished off its “hat trick” of sorts, as Carter worked the puck free off the left wing boards and beat Derek Cunha as he converted his own rebound at 9:10.
The Crusaders cut the lead to one as Doria sped down the right side, faked a shot, and fed Patrick Rissmiller in front to convert on the 3-on-2 rush. Greg Kealey received the secondary assist.
While Iona held a 3-2 lead going into the third period, the Gaels were playing with fire, forced to kill off four power plays. Holy Cross entered the game with its power play clicking on 35 percent of its chances. The Gaels’ run of good luck ended early in the third period as Holy Cross struck with the man advantage at 4:10.
Holy Cross nearly tied the game with 48 seconds left in the man advantage, but Fraser turned aside a Rissmiller shot from the top of the crease. The Crusader power play struck gold as Tony Deluzio deflected a McKay centering pass over Fraser’s shoulder.
Turnabout was fair play as Iona regained the lead at 8:40, scoring on its only power-play chance of the night. Cunha stopped Ryan Manitowich’s deflection of a Nathan Lutz point shot, but Krueckl picked up the rebound and backhanded it home.
Iona took its second two-goal lead of the game as Trevor Aubie pinched in from the right point, cut to the net, and backhanded the puck past a prone Cunha at 13:06.
The backbreaking goal came on a Holy Cross power play as the Gaels turned the tables on Holy Cross and scored a shorthanded goal. John Gilbert started the play by forcing a turnover inside the Crusaders’ blue line. Gilbert fed Manitowich, who deked Cunha and beat him with a backhander at 17:24.
“We can’t give up a shorthanded goal. We’re fighting to come back. We did a nice job, we didn’t quit and we hung in there … but that shorthanded goal really hurt.”
Despite the hurt, Holy Cross mounted one more comeback. Jeff Dams scored his second goal in as many nights as he deflected home a Rissmiller shot at the 18:13 mark to make it 6-4 as the Crusaders scored their second power-play goal.
Iona ended any comeback dreams when Kelly Bararuk iced the game away with an empty-net goal just 11 seconds after Pearl pulled Cunha for an extra skater.
Despite the lost opportunity to sweep the Gaels, Pearl was pleased with the way his team responded in a big spot. “Overall, it was a good series for the weekend. I think we were able to come out of this with some confidence. They’re a top team in the league and we hung with them pretty good.”
Iona (5-2-1, 5-1-1) returns to action Friday night when it hosts Quinnipiac at Skate Nation Arena at 7:30 p.m. Holy Cross (3-2-2, 2-1-2) also plays Friday night, hosting Bentley at seven p.m. in another home-and-home series.