WORCESTER, Mass. — Despite coming from behind twice in the third period, including erasing a first period two-goal deficit, Holy Cross came up just short in their season opener to visiting University of Ottawa. After a tumultuous final four minutes of the third that saw each team score a goal in the last 2:20, Jourdan Lagace’s second goal of the game with 1:31 remaining put the Gee-Gees on top for good, 4-3.
Ottawa came out of the gates early taking the body and looking to physically outplay the Crusaders. In a game that saw 14 penalties, the Gee-Gees bore the brunt of the officials early, giving the Crusaders a quick five-on-three advantage. However, Holy Cross ran into difficulty setting up their power play which was number one in the MAAC last season. The Crusaders were only able to muster one shot on goal during the two-man-advantage.
After getting a mere two shots on HC freshman goaltender Tony Quesada in the game’s first eight minutes, the Gee-Gees looked to swing the game’s momentum in their favor. Taking a pass from Hugo Giguere, Chris Boucher wound up from the right point into traffic where Vince Grant redirected the puck through the legs of Quesada. Grant’s first goal of the season, and of the game, came with 11:23 remaining in the opening stanza.
Ottawa’s power play would get a chance to go to work themselves when the Crusaders’ Chris Smith was sent to the box. With :33 remaining on the power play, Jean-Luc Martin’s shot from the left point found it’s way passed a screened Quesada and into the back of the net. Martin’s goal came with 3:24 remaining in the first and upped the Gee-Gees lead to 2-0.
The Crusaders received a last minute jolt when junior Tim Coskren intercepted a pass in the slot and put it off the facemask of Ottawa goaltender Jordan Watt.
A seemingly deflated Crusader team got the benefit of a power play with :21 remaining in the opening period, when junior Greg Kealey was tripped by Ottawa’s Nevin Patterson. Unable to convert, Holy Cross started the second period on the man-advantage with 1:20 to work with.
“The first period was a little slow,” said Pearl. “I think guys were feeling their way around in the early going. You have to remember that for a lot of guys, this was their first college game, and for the others, it was the first game of the season.”
A more determined and comfortable Crusader team took to the ice in the second period. Ottawa again was only able to fire two shots on goal in the first nine minutes; however, Holy Cross’ offense was able to take advantage and became more potent.
With a three-on-two down low, junior Jeff Dams took a pass on his backhand in the slot before saucering a pass over to sophomore Jonas Tomiuck who was hauled down. With a delayed call coming, Tomiuck fired it into the twine past Watt with 11:33 remaining in the second and the Gee-Gees’ lead now cut in half.
Just over halfway through the second, sophomore goaltender Matt Norton came in to replace Quesada. “I had told each goaltender to be ready,” said Pearl. “I told them they were going in, but I didn’t tell them when. I basically wanted to see who’d be a good relief pitcher for us.”
Norton would make his presence known early robbing Eric Boucher with a glove save on Boucher’s slap shot from the middle of the point.
With the score still at 2-1 opening the third, mental mistakes would cause the Crusaders to go down a man once again as the bench was charged with a too many men on the ice penalty with 16:12 to go in the third.
The best chance actually came for Holy Cross short handed when senior captain Brandon Doria was able to pick the pocket of Dan Delisie on the point and create a rush back the other way. From the top of the left circle Doria teed up a clean shot, but Watt, cutting the angle down, was there to meet him every step of the way.
Pearl kept his promise with 12:25 left in the third when he pulled Norton to give freshman Peter Bartline a chance to prove himself in net.
Ottawa would find themselves in the box once again as Jonathon Ross was charged for roughing with 9:58 remaining. The struggling Crusader power play would need only five seconds to tally. Off the draw to the right of Watt, Coskren was able to win it back to Tomiuk on the right point, who quickly slid the puck over and into the wheelhouse of junior J.R. Walker. Walker’s one timer was labeled for the far post which it rang off of and past Watt. Walker’s goal erased the two-goal deficit and knotted the game at 2-2 with 9:53 to play.
Two Holy Cross penalties coming at 6:06 and 4:37 gave the Gee-Gees a five-on-three. Working the perimeter, they were finally able to force the puck into traffic in the slot where Lagace was able to get a stick on it and whack it passed Bartline to put Ottawa back on top. The Gee-Gees would finish the day 2-6 on the powerplay.
The Crusaders, similar to opening last season, were familiar with playing catch up. Junior Tom Pawlak put a nifty move on the Ottawa defense to get a shot away, only to be denied by Watt. Freshman Blair Bartlett came right back at Watt, taking a centering feed from freshman Tyler McGregor to light the lamp and once again even up the scoreboard. Bartlett’s goal came with 2:18 remaining to knot the score at 3-3.
“That third goal told me a lot tonight,” said Pearl. “It proves the confidence and heart of this team to not get down.”
Ottawa had the answer, however. Lagace would cap off his two-goal night with 1:31 remaining. Lagace took the centering feed from Grant and buried the opportunity passed Bartline to put the Gee-Gees up for good.
With Bartline on the bench, a sixth attacker on the ice still couldn’t get the job done for the Crusaders.
“Overall, we played well,” said Pearl. “We tried a lot of different things tonight, and we did a good job.”
The Crusaders will open their 2002-2003 MAAC campaign Oct. 8 at 7:00 when they host the defending MAAC champion Quinnipiac Bobcats.