WORCESTER, Mass. — After jumping out to a 5-0 lead, sophomore goaltender Jamie Holden’s 47-save performance on the inaugural night of the MAAC 2002-2003 season, backstopped the defending champion Quinnipiac Bobcats to a 6-1 victory over Holy Cross.
“I am extremely happy with this win tonight,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold. “Holy Cross is one of the best three or four in the league and good enough to win it. It’s tough to say the first game of the year is critical but it was nice to come on the road and win.”
Holden’s effort was complimented by two Craig Falite goals; Falite had just one goal in his freshman season last year.
Quinnipiac’s success came on the power play, which proved to be quite potent on the evening. After struggling to set up their power play early, the Bobcats got another chance when the Crusaders’ J.R. Walker was whistled for tripping with 15 seconds remaining on the initial call, giving Qunnipiac an early five-on-three opportunity.
With 1:41 expired on the second half of the five-on-three, Matt Craig teed up a one timer for Dan Rossi on the point. Holy Cross goaltender Tony Quesada was able to make the initial save, but the rebound came to the stick of sophomore Matt Froehlich who roofed the puck over the diving Quesada for the early tally.
Holy Cross got a chance to work the man advantage when Tyler Dufour was sent to the box for tripping at 12:48 of the first, but the No. 1 power play in the league from last season ran into nothing but the pads of Holden. Its best opportunity came when junior Tim Coskren one-timed a shot from the top of the left circle. Holden flashed his glove and snatched up the Crusader opportunity.
With time dwindling in the opening period, Brian Herbert escaped the Holy Cross zone leading a two-on-one, coupled with right winger Chris White. With a burst of speed down the left side, Herbert wound up from the top of the left circle and blasted a shot that just trickled through the legs of Quesada.
“That second goal was the most important,” said Pecknold. “At that point, the game could have gone either way.”
Wade Winkler added another power-play goal, giving Quinnipiac a 3-0 lead before intermission.
Craig went put another nail in the coffin for the Crusaders when he tallied just 1:11 into the second period. Taking advantage of a Holy Cross turnover, Bobcat defenseman Bill Cass rocketed a shot that was stopped by Quesada; the young goaltender lost sight of the puck, where Craig picked it up on the doorstep and slid it into the empty net. The goal capped off a two-point night for the sophomore.
The Crusaders would not go quietly into the night, however. Holy Cross registered 19 shots on Holden during the second period.
“(Jamie) Holden was huge for us in the second,” said Pecknold. “He made saves in tight for us and allowed us to keep the lead and eventually pull away. We need some work on defense, but Jamie hid those problems for us tonight.”
Sophomore Jonas Tomiuk had the best opportunity for the Crusaders when he broke down the right side uncontested and tried to bring Holden right-to-left across the crease before tucking it through his five-hole. Holden met him every stop of the way, however, getting his stick down and squashing the scoring chance.
Holy Cross became the victims of a second late goal when Falite burst down the right side and around Crusader defenseman R.J. Irving. Falite was unmolested as he deiked around an outstretched Quesada trying to pokecheck and saucered the puck into the back of the net to give the Bobcats full control.
Holy Cross added a power-play goal, and had other strong chances, but Holden stood his ground and thwarted any rally attempts.
“The team did a great job in front of me tonight,” said Holden. “If I can see the puck, I should stop them. Everyone did their job well tonight.”
Falite capped off the scoring with 2:04 remaining in the third with a shorthanded goal.
The Bobcats return to action Friday, Oct. 11 when they host Lake Superior at 4 p.m. Holy Cross travels to Connecticut on Sunday, Oct. 13 (5 p.m.).