WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — How does a freshman goaltender begin to earn the faith of his new teammates? Well, one way is to pitch a shutout in the first home game of the season.
In just his second collegiate start, Ben Meisner turned aside all 30 of Holy Cross’s shots in leading American International College to a 3-0 win at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Mass., on Friday night.
Forwards Josh Froese and Steve McLeod led the offensive charge for the Yellow Jackets, tallying two points apiece. The win was Meisner’s first of his young college career.
“When that buzzer rang, I mean, the feeling I felt was pretty undescribable,” said the Halifax, Nova Scotia native. “I’m on top of the world right now.”
It was the first time AIC (1-3-0, 1-1-0 AHA) had held an opponent scoreless in over two years. Their last shutout came on January 30, 2007 against Army.
AIC took the lead less than four minutes into the contest. Sliding across the ice, just inside the top of the right circle, Froese caught the puck and beat Crusaders’ goaltender Thomas Tysowsky with a shot to the far side. It was Froese’s first goal of the season. McLeod and defenseman Mike Little contributed with the assists.
At the 10:00 minute mark, AIC scored again. This time, it was a short-handed marker, their first of the season. With Chris Campanale serving a minor penalty for holding, Mike McMillan broke free and streaked down the left-side boards. He created just enough space to snap off a rising shot, which snuck over Tysowsky’s shoulder under the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Holy Cross (2-3-0, 2-1-0 AHA) struggled out of the gate, posting only five shots in the first period, plus they were unable to capitalize on a five-on-three midway through the frame. However, the Crusaders generated more chances as the game progressed, outshooting the Yellow Jackets 25-13 over the final two stanzas, including some quality opportunities.
“I didn’t think we played very well in the first period and I thought they played great,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “They kind of took it to us and we got back on our heels.”
With 2:28 remaining in the third, Holy Cross pulled their goalie and sharpened their attack on AIC, but Meisner was strong to the task, turning away each shot, including a few from close range.
The puck eventually squirted free and, with 31.4 seconds left in the period, Froese fed the puck to AIC defenseman Jeff Ceccacci, who wristed a shot the length of the ice. It clanged off the post and found its way across the goal line, sealing the win.
“We came out hard, playing the way we had hoped to,” said AIC Coach Mike Field. “They took it to us a little bit in the second half, but our guys did a great job of maintaining their coverages in the ‘D’ zone and our goaltender did a great job.”
Friday night was the first meeting between the two teams since Holy Cross knocked AIC out of the first round of the 2008-09 AHA playoffs with a 1-0 overtime win.
Saturday night, the two teams will meet again, this time at the Hart Center in Worcester. After starting the season with five straight road games, Saturday’s contest will be the 2009 home opener for Holy Cross, who will play four of its next five at home. AIC, meanwhile, will play its next four on the road.