WALTHAM, Mass. — They say that one is the loneliest number. For Holy Cross on Friday night, it provided company.
Thanks to a tight-checking, 1-0, road victory over Bentley, the Crusaders remained tied with Sacred Heart, an 8-3 winner over Connecticut on Friday, for the top spot in the Atlantic Hockey standings with one night left in the season.
Either team with a victory on Saturday can clinch at least a tie for the regular season championship.
“We were able to limit [Bentley's] chances all game,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “When they did get the chances, [goaltender] Tony [Quesada] made the save.”
Indeed, Quesada (26 saves) did have a memorable game in goal. In addition to posting his second shutout of the season and his sixth of his career, he made a third-period save with the game in the balance that folks may talk about for a while.
With Bentley rookie phenom Anthony Canzoneri feeding Dain Prewitt on a clear-cut two-on-one, Quesada seemed dead to rights. Somehow, though, he flashed a glove at the right time and right place and Prewitt’s shot ended up in the middle of the webbing, preserving the one-goal lead with 10:06 to play in the game.
“We’ve been working on two-on-ones all week in practice because last weekend we got beat by a lot of two-on-ones,” said Quesada. “I got a good push across and was able to get a glove on it.”
Quesada admitted that he had no clue whether the save was skill or luck and also said that teammate Pierre Napert-Frenette may have prepped him for the game-saving play before the night started.
“During warm-ups, Pierre put a shot just like that on me and I made a glove save,” said Quesada. “The guys joked that I should make some of those in the game.”
That save proved to be the biggest of the night, and in return spoiled a 40-save effort by his counterpart Ray Jean in the Bentley net.
A tight-checking first period in which Holy Cross held a 13-11 in shots, most of the from the perimeter, saw the Crusaders grab the early lead on a quick swing of emotions.
It appeared Bentley had scored at 10:17 when a shot from above the faceoff dots ended up in the back of the net. But the referee ruled that Canzoneri had kicked the puck into the net and disallowed the goal.
“It was a good call by the ref,” admitted Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “When [Canzoneri] came to the bench I asked him if he kicked the puck and he said yes.”
Twenty-three seconds later Holy Cross scored on a similar play. A shot by Blair Bartlett from the high slot appeared to be covered by Jean, but the rebound ended up trickling free and Dale Reinhardt, using his stick instead of his skate, poked the puck into the net at 10:40 for the only scoring of the first.
In the second, each team posted shots on goal but few resulted in quality scoring chances. Canzoneri posted an early shot that went off the shoulder of Quesada and bounced just over the crossbar. And Holy Cross’ lone chance came with 4:41 remaining when Dale Reinhardt fanned on a pass while staring down a wide open net.
The third period, then, became a goaltending display. In addition to Quesada’s show-stopper, Jean came up big particularly in shorthanded situations. Bentley killed off nine Holy Cross power plays on the night, though penalties also taxed the Falcons, who found themselves shorthanded for the closing minutes of the game after a Marc Zwicky major for hitting from behind with 3:49 left.
From there, Holy Cross needn’t even pressure the offensive net, instead choosing to play a defensive set and keep Bentley from gaining any possession of the puck in the offensive zone.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Crusaders knew two points was all that now separates them from a league title.
“The goal at the beginning of the season was to put ourselves in position to win a league championship,” said Quesada. “Now we’re there.”