WORCESTER, Mass. — Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl will not waver in the notion that his Crusaders will snap out of their goal-scoring slump, even though his club continues to have an awfully hard time scoring these days.
The Crusaders took a 2-0 lead by the middle of the second period, but were shut down the rest of the way as Connecticut awoke to salvage a 2-2 tie on Wednesday night at the Hart Center. This game was the first of a home-and-home between the two Atlantic Hockey Association teams. The two squads will have 22 days off before the rematch as they both skate into semester break.
The Crusaders (6-5-4, 3-2-3 AHA) were just starting to get their legs under them having won three in a row, ignited by its 3-1 win over Union of the ECACHL in the consolation game of the Coffee Pot tournament in Providence back on Nov. 28. Yet, scoring continues to limit the effectiveness of the defending Atlantic Hockey champs. In just three of their 15 games have the Crusaders scored more than three goals.
“I don’t worry about the goal-scoring, believe me,” said Pearl. “For the first 30 minutes of hockey we controlled the game. We are getting our opportunities and the goals will come.”
UConn sophomore goalie Scott Tomes showed why he was last week’s Atlantic Hockey Goalie of the Week as he was brilliant in the first period with 13 saves. Holy Cross outshot the Huskies, 13-3, after the first 20 minutes but came up empty on the scoreboard.
The Crusaders finally solved Tomes in the second period with the first goal coming on a power play. It was a tightly called game by referee Jim Doyle and both teams spent their share of time in the penalty box for their transgressions.
With Husky B.J. Crum in the box for tripping, Holy Cross’ James Sixsmith passed the puck out front from behind the UConn net and teammate Dale Reinhardt swatted it out of the air and into the net at 1:42.
Holy Cross went up 2-0 at 7:35 when Jon Landry kept the puck in at the left point and blasted one on net. Andrew Weber was able to get the rebound amongst the commotion in front and give the Crusaders the two-goal edge.
A year ago Holy Cross would have put a struggling team like UConn (3-10-2, 2-4-1) away at this point. But the Huskies, who own a big win over Massachusetts of Hockey East as its high point of the first half of the season, responded with a offensive flourish of their own.
With last year’s Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year Tim Olsen a going concern for the Crusaders, the Huskies followed his lead. Beau McLaughlin backhanded home a rebound from the goalmouth at 14:51 and the Huskies closed to within a goal after two.
“The key was after they got that second goal, we came right out and had a good shift,” said UConn coach Bruce Marshall. “We didn’t score right away, but that says a lot about this team that they came right back. I thought we got stronger at that point.”
Crum drew the Huskies even at 10:10 of the third by picking up a rebound and placing it perfectly into the right side of the net past Crusader goalie Tony Quesada.
Quesada had to be sharp down the stretch. After a quiet three-shot first period, he was tested by 21 shots over the second and third periods and two in overtime. Oftentimes the UConn shooters tried to beat the South Freeport, Maine, native five-hole but he got the pads closed in time.
William Magnuson of UConn rang one off the post with 1:30 to play for the best scoring bid in the waning moments. Overtime was uneventful.
“This break comes at a good time,” said Pearl. “We’ve played an awful lot of physical hockey.”
After exams and the Christmas break, the teams will meet in the first round of the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic at the Storrs campus on Dec. 30. Brown and Merrimack meet in the other game.