WORCESTER, Mass. — It didn’t start out where Friday night’s 6-4 shootout left off, but Holy Cross continued its march up the Atlantic Hockey ladder with a 5-2 victory over Bentley Saturday night.
Thanks to Ben Conway’s 26 saves in his return to the net, and a three-goal second period, Holy Cross completed a weekend sweep of the Falcons.
“I thought we played hard tonight,” said Crusader coach Paul Pearl. “For the first eight minutes, they had us on our heels, but after that, we controlled the tempo. That and a good penalty kill helped us pulled away tonight.”
The normally disciplined Crusaders allowed Bentley five chances on the power play, but Holy Cross stifled the Falcons (0-for-5 on the night). That stint included killing off back-to-back minor penalties in the final five minutes of the second period. Conway proved to be instrumental, including a save on the back doorstep.
“Our penalty kill was excellent,” said Pearl. “Conway was especially key in that. His save sliding to the back post, I haven’t seen a great save like that in a long time.”
Conway returned to the lineup this evening after being sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered over the team’s trip to Montreal during the Winter Break. He struggled to find a rhythm early after coughing up several rebounds in the game’s opening minutes. Conway was making his first start since shutting out Army 3-0 on Dec. 6.
“They were shooting at my blocker all day,” said Conway. “I felt like I was fighting it to start off, but I settled down. The team played well in front of me. I could see everything tonight, the only glitch was that they set up a different power play than we thought tonight. I’ve been practicing for the last couple weeks, so I feel back in the flow now.”
Holy Cross had given up 13 goals in its last three games.
“We have two similar teams,” said Pearl. “The difference tonight was that we talked about picking up guys on the back check. We had a good run where we gave up one and two goals, but I guess that had to end sometime or another.
The Falcons actually struck first after controlling play in the opening half of the first period. With the teams skating four-on-four, Crusader defensemen Jon Landry was caught on a pinch that sent Ryan Mayhew the other way with a two-on-one. Mayhew let go a rocket from the top of the left circle that beat Conway low to the blocker side with 11:00 minutes to play in the first period.
Holy Cross struck back when Tyler McGregor burst over the blue line and pulled a wrister across his body that beat Bentley goaltender Simon St. Pierre low to the blocker side. St. Pierre was victimized four times in the game before being pulled at the end of the second period in favor of sophomore Geordan Murphy. St. Pierre gave up ten goals to Holy Cross this weekend in five periods of work.
The Crusaders used a three goal second period to open up the game, much the same as they did in Friday’s third period. Pierre Napert-Frenette starting things off just 1:04 into the middle stanza. Napert-Frenette walked out of the rightwing corner alone on St. Pierre and sniped a shot short side over the goalie’s shoulder. Napert-Frenette tallied Holy Cross’ fifth goal as well, the lone of the third period.
“We had to play our own game tonight,” said Napert-Frenette. “All the goalies in this league are good, be it [Jamie] Holden, or St. Pierre. We tried going high on him tonight and had some success with it.”
With 15:40 to play in the second, senior Jeff Dams fed a saucer pass to Jonas Tomiuk on a two-on-one. Tomiuk took St. Pierre across the crease before tucking it five hole. Tomiuk’s third goal of the season put Holy Cross up 3-1.
Sophomore Andrew Weber increased Holy Cross’ lead to 4-1, after corralling a St. Pierre rebound and chipping it over the goaltender with 5:21 to play in the second.
Moments later, Bentley’s Chris Quinn took advantage of a Holy Cross turnover in its own zone and sent a wrister from the right circle that went off of Crusader defensemen Tim O’Grady’s chest and past Conway. The fluke goal would be as close as Bentley would come.
The Crusaders improve to 13-2-1 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, while Bentley continues to struggle, dropping to 3-7-4. Holy Cross will be back in action next Saturday against Canisius, while Bentley takes on UConn.