WORCESTER, Mass. — After rattling off three consecutive road victories, including a 4-1 rout of ECAC foe Union last Saturday, Holy Cross proved that it could battle at home as well, as the Crusaders downed Canisius 3-0 at the Hart Center.
The Crusaders received two votes in the USCHO.com poll after their victory over Union, the first time in the team’s 37-year history that they were given votes in a major national poll. Holy Cross proved it was no fluke with two Jonas Tomiuk goals, along with Tony Quesada’s 28-save performance and his first collegiate shutout, to earn a fifth straight victory.
“It was nice to get the win tonight returning home,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “Canisius is a tough team to play against. They are good on loose pucks, but our advantage was speed.
“Quesada is playing like he’s not a freshman. He certainly is a guy that the team can build off of his confidence.”
Pearl showed some concern, coming off the Union win, that his team might be overconfident.
“It’s always a major concern for every coach. I thought we did a great job playing with intensity. I didn’t think we were (overconfident).”
Holy Cross fired on all cylinders early, controlling the tempo of play and using its speedier forwards to put the Griffins on their heels.
The Crusaders drew first blood when Tomiuk took freshman Blair Bartlett’s pass from behind the goal line. With the defender hanging all over him, Tomiuk muscled the puck under the pads of Canisius goaltender Eric Kieffer for the goal at 10:40 of the first period. Tom Pawlak received the other assist.
“Playing with Pawlak and Bartlett, they are able to create a lot of space,” said Tomiuk. “They both worked hard down low on that goal. It was a credit to everyone.”
After burying three goals on the power play against Union last weekend, the Crusaders tallied on the man-advantage yet again. R.J. Irving teed up a shot from the point that went wide of Kieffer but ricocheted off the boards onto the stick of Greg Kealey. At a sharp angle from the doorstep, Kealey banked the puck off Kieffer’s pad and into the net. Irving’s assist was his 11th on the year, to lead all MAAC defensemen in scoring.
The Crusaders’ 14 first-period shots and two goals were enough to chase Kieffer from the net as sophomore Bryan Worosz started the second period in relief.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second stanza despite seven power-play opportunities between them.
“We wanted to dictate play in the second, up 2-0 at home,” said Pearl. “Playing man-up, man-down, that slowed the pace of the game, but I thought we adjusted well.”
The Griffins appeared to have momentum swinging in their favor with just under five minutes to play in the period; however, Quesada was equal to the ask. With Canisius on the power play, Quesada butterflied to turn aside a shot from the point, but the rebound landed on the stick of Griffs’ captain Rob Martin.
Martin’s turnaround shot at the yawning net was robbed by the glove of Quesada to preserve the Crusader lead. Those were two of Quesada’s ten saves in the period.
“I never saw the first shot,” said Quesada. “I let out a bad rebound and tried to get as close as I could. It was just enough to get over there and grab it.”
Holy Cross had an opportunity three minutes into the third to go up 3-0 when a soft shot from Tomiuk at the bottom of the left circle was taken by senior Mark Spiers. Spiers walked across the slot uncontested but fanned on the shot, giving Worosz time to make the save with his left pad. As both teams scrambled for the rebound, a melee ensued, resulting in a penalty shot for the Crusaders after the Griffins covered the puck in the crease.
Tomiuk took the chance for Holy Cross but was denied by the stick of Worosz as he closed the five-hole.
“I was thinking high glove the whole time,” said Tomiuk. “But he (Worosz) was back in the net and was able to get his stick in the way to swat it. It was a great save.”
Josh Henry had a shorthanded two-on-one opportunity for the Griffins with just under 14 minutes remaining in the third. Henry streaked down the right-wing boards but his shot from the top of the circle was denied by the right pad of Quesada.
“Nothing is going through my head,” said Quesada. “I’m just playing in the zone, as they say. It was a nice feeling to get the shutout, but it wouldn’t have happened without my defensemen. They are clearing rebounds and blocking shots for me. I owe it to them tonight.”
The Crusaders would strike one last time with 1:45 remaining. On the power play once again, Pawlak used a two-on-one down low to feed a pass to Tomiuk, streaking between the hash-marks. Switching to his backhand, Tomiuk roofed a shot for his second goal of the game and third of the year to seal the win.
The victory improved Holy Cross’ to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the MAAC. The Crusaders will return to the road to take on AIC Nov. 15 in their next contest. Canisius had a two-game winning streak snapped. The Griffs’ record falls to 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the MAAC. They will host Iona on Nov. 15.