DENVER — After playing Denver to a 2-2 tie Friday night, Holy Cross Crusaders’ coach Paul Pearl talked about being able to build on the experience of playing strongly against the No. 5 team in the county, and how it would help them down the stretch.
That experience probably helped the Crusaders in their win over RPI in the consolation game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup Saturday afternoon. After being dominated in the first period and trailing 2-0, the Crusaders rallied to edge the Engineers 4-3.
“Last night, we were getting run over because we were taking penalties,” said Pearl. “Tonight, we were getting run over because they were outworking us. We didn’t have a very good first period. We didn’t work hard. The second and third were really good.”
RPI got on the board early in the first period on a fluky set of bounces. Off a dump in, the Engineers broke into the zone, and Holy Cross’s Everett Sheen intercepted a pass, but it went off his stick and right back to Alex Angers-Goulet, who fired it on net. Crusaders’ netminder Ian Dams made the save, and Kyle Atkins tried to clear it, but the puck rolled off his stick to Kurt Colling, who one-timed it top shelf past Dams at 3:34.
Buoyed by the goal, the Engineers dictated play the rest of the period, out-shooting the Crusaders 13-4. The Engineers built on their lead at 10:52 on a goal Dams would probably like back. Colling skated up the right side boards with the puck towards the point and slide a cross-ice pass to Peter Merth at the left point. Merth fired a low wrist shot along the ice that beat Dams as he slide back across his crease.
“I thought our work ethic was very good,” said Engineers’ coach Seth Appert. “I thought there was just some individuals on our team where their habits, their intensity and commitment to playing the way we need to play wasn’t there, and that hurt us. We’re a team that’s not going to beat people with our individual skill’ it’s our speed and our work ethic and team play. We probably had 16 on board tonight and three or four who weren’t, and we let them back into the game because of it.”
The Crusaders had one good chance to get on the board late in the period while on a power play, but were unable to grab a rebound down low with Engineers’ goalie Allen York scrambling to get back into position.
“We warmed up very poorly, and it was something we wanted to address,” said Jordan Cyr, who got the game-winning goal. “We’ve struggled a bit with first periods this season, particularly against out-of-conference foes, and that’s something we definitely have to shake. Having said that, we weathered the storm. In the first, we probably played our worst period of the year, and you have to hand it to the guys in the locker room.”
Just like they had against Denver however, the Crusaders rebounded in the second period after being on the defensive for the first, both times capitalizing on turnovers.
Jay Silvia got the Crusaders started on their first goal, forechecking aggressively. As Engineers’ defenseman Mark Zarbo carried the puck up the right side boards, he tried to spin away from Silvia, and Silvia stole the puck and cut back across the slot, dropping a pass to Matt Celin, who backhanded a shot through the crease. J.P. Martignetti picked it up behind the goal line, stepped out to his right and roofed a perfect snap shot glove side past York at 7:02.
The Crusaders had a golden chance to tie the game when Engineers’ winger Justin Smith was called for a five-minute penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind at 10:52. However, the Crusaders were unable to get anything going on the power play, even after Pearl called timeout with 2:28 left in the power play to regroup.
It looked like the period would end with the Engineers up 2-1, but a turnover cost them again. With less than 10 seconds left, Merth fumbled a pass at the Engineers’ offensive blue line and the puck squirted behind him into the neutral zone. Sheen won the footrace for the puck and streaked down the right side boards, firing a snap shot from the right faceoff circle that beat York top shelf glove side at 19:54 of the period.
“I had an idea there wasn’t much time left,” said Sheen. “I just wanted to get it on net as fast as I could. I really didn’t see the puck go in. I just knew if I got it off it would have a chance to go in.”
Energized by the tying goal, the Crusaders started to dominate for stretches in the third period, firing a lot of shots and maintaining position in the offensive zone.
“It comes back to skating and moving,” said Pearl. “If you’re going to take a lot of big hits when you’re not moving your feet and taking the easy way out and just moving the puck on to your buddy, that doesn’t work very well. I thought we got more physical as we started to skate.”
Center Rob Forshner put the Crusaders up 3-2 at 13:57 of the third on was, for all intents and purposes, a power-play goal. John Kennedy was called for interference at 11:52, and as the penalty expired and he raced into the play, Forshner got a pass in the slot from Ryan Driscoll and beat York low glove side with a quick wrist show.
“Great pass from Ryan Driscoll for sure,” said Forshner. “When it went in, I kind of went crazy there. It was definitely a great feeling to get that one. I definitely saw that low glove side open, and I picked it.”
With the lead, Holy Cross went into protect mode. The Engineers desperately tried to regain their earlier offensive momentum, and started firing pucks from everywhere in the Crusaders’ zone, while the Crusaders were content to chip the puck into the neutral zone or ice it.
“Some calls went against us and we need to be a little more resilient to find ways to fight through,” said Appert. “We need to be stronger to fight through those things and not let them get us down.”
Looking for the tying goal, Appert pulled York with 2:16 left in the period. The bold move looked like it would pay dividends, as the Engineers generated some of their best chances of the period, but at 18:54, former Engineer Jordan Cyr won a footrace for the puck in the neutral zone, and from the right side boards just past the red line, backhanded a puck into the empty net for a 4-2 lead.
“It’s exciting; I guess they all count,” said Cyr. “It certainly feels good. I’d be lying to say I wasn’t thinking about this one. I was nervous, I was excited going into it. I felt like our team had something to prove, especially after that first period, and I’m proud of the way the whole team played in the second and third period.”
Just 19 seconds later however, the Engineers got one back when Josh Rabbani tipped Jeff Foss’s wrist shot out of midair and beat Dams high blocker side.
The Engineers however, could not get anything after that. The Crusaders won the ensuing faceoff and kept the Engineers pinned in their defensive zone for the last 47 seconds of the game, preserving the win.
“That’s hockey,” said Pearl.”We talked about that right after we scored. Obviously we’re giddy over there and we’re yelling on the bench, the game’s still going; there’s 67 seconds left. That’s a long time, especially against a good team like that. I thought the last 47 seconds was tremendous. We dumped it in their zone and kept them there.”