NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Following its 4-1 victory at West Point on Friday night, Holy Cross capped off a perfect weekend in New York as the Crusaders defeated Iona 6-3 on the strength of freshman Tyler McGregor’s first three collegiate goals.
The Crusaders (4-2-0; 3-1-0 MAAC) are proving themselves to be road warriors when it comes to MAAC play. In addition to this weekend’s victories, Holy Cross posted its first win of the season at Connecticut on October 13.
“The win down at UConn was really big because it was the first win of the year after Quinnipiac handed it to us in that first game. I think we got a lot of confidence to playing in someone else’s building,” coach Paul Pearl said. “These guys are smart. They know you have to get out there and get established.”
The road to establishment got off to a bumpy start as the Gaels (0-4-1; 0-1-0 MAAC) jumped out to a 1-0 lead only 45 seconds into the game. Mark Hallam caused a turnover in the neutral zone and drove down the right side to beat goaltender Tony Quesada high to the stick side for an unassisted goal.
Holy Cross settled down and went about pressuring Iona with an aggressive forecheck — something Pearl has been waiting to unleash.
“That was something I wanted to do when I got here eight years ago — and now we have the horses. We’ve got some speed on the team, probably more than we’ve ever had since I have been here,” Pearl explained.
Holy Cross tied the game as McGregor notched his first goal as he sped behind the Iona defense, deked goaltender Ian Vigier, and slid home the tying goal at 7:15 on assists from Jonas Tomiuk and Tony Coskren.
Brandon Doria put the Crusaders ahead seven minutes later as he caught Vigier moving from right to left, and Holy Cross’ captain beat Vigier to the far post at 14:19. Jeff Dams and R.J. Irving assisted on the goal.
The Gaels tied the game early in the second period as lady luck smiled down upon them when Kelly Bararuk’s centering pass for Neil Clark deflected off a defenseman’s stick and past Quesada at 3:16.
Before the crowd of 600 at Skate Nation Arena could settle down, Holy Cross regained the lead 24 seconds later. Once again McGregor slipped behind the Iona defense, fought off a Matt McMahon check, and put Holy Cross ahead 3-2.
“Our defense was caught off guard by their speed. Holy Cross definitely has some quick forwards — we knew that coming in, but they made the best of their opportunities. We had some chances in the second period and we didn’t turn the [red] light on. I thought was the turning point of the game,” Iona coach Frank Bretti said. “I wasn’t so much disappointed with our effort. I was disappointed that we let up six goals at home.”
Iona rallied to tie the game less than four minutes later as Hallam scored his second goal of the game at 7:07. Quesada misplayed the puck, allowing Jamie Carroll to corral the loose puck and set up the Iona captain for his second of the night in his first home game since March 10, 2001 after sitting out last season as a medical redshirt.
For the second time in the period, the Crusaders responded to the Gaels’ challenge. Tom Pawlak scored the eventual game-winning goal at 8:49 of the second period on assists from Doria and Dams.
Pearl viewed his team’s never-say-die attitude as the key point in the game. “Both times that [Iona] scored to tie it, we came back and answered pretty quick. That can be a little tough. I know that if it happens to us, it is tough,” Pearl explained.
McGregor capped off his hat trick and gave Holy Cross an insurance goal at 4:23 of the third period. McGregor came down the left wing and drove to the net while fighting off defenseman J.P. Chaput check. Vigier stopped the first shot, but the native of Ajax, Ontario slipped home the rebound.
“It was huge win for us [and] getting four points this weekend was awesome. I couldn’t have finished it off in a better way,” McGregor said.
“He’s been getting a ton of chances. He is always around the puck and he goes to that net hard. He’s not tall, but he’s a strong kid and has a great burst of speed. Those are goal scorers’ goals. He knows how to get through and make the really nice move,” Pearl said in describing McGregor’s play this season.
As for describing himself, McGregor sees himself as a team player.
“I just do whatever I can. During the first couple of games, I’ve been more of a fire starter. I’ve been trying to hit [opponents] and get my teammates going. Tonight everything just fell into place and really worked well for me,” McGregor admitted.
Blair Bartlett finished off the scoring at 16:47 on assists from MAAC Rookie of the MAAC Pierre Napert-Frenette and Pawlak.
Pearl and the Crusaders are in a tough spot because all three goaltenders are freshman — something Pearl realizes is out of his control.
“You’d love to have a senior goalie, but he graduated,” joked Pearl as he referred to last year’s number-one netminder Derek Cunha. “It’s either that or we play with six skaters.”
“They are all good goaltenders and they are battling for the job. [Quesada] did a good job this weekend. He earned the right o play again tonight and we’ll kind of go from there and evaluate them in practice,” Pearl said.
Holy Cross gets another opportunity next week to live up to their road warrior image as the visit Union in a nonconference game on November 2. Iona returns to action on November one as they host Army in the first of a home-and-home series.