BUFFALO, N.Y. — Linemates Everett Sheen and Adam Schmidt split six points and Holy Cross will head back to Worcester with three points in the Atlantic Hockey standings after closing a weekend series versus Canisius with a 6-2 win Sunday at the Buffalo State Ice Arena.
The victory propelled the Crusaders into a second-place tie with the Golden Griffins, but the teams are heading in distinctly different directions. Holy Cross is 5-4-1 overall with a 4-1-1 record in Atlantic Hockey. The Crusaders are 5-2-1 since absorbing a pair of losses in the season-opening Warrior Ice Breaker Tournament in St. Louis.
Canisius, on the other hand, is 0-4-2 in its last six games. The Golden Griffins have a 4-5-3 overall record and are 3-4-3 in Atlantic Hockey after starting the season with a 4-1-1 run.
Holy Cross had to overcome a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-3 tie with Canisius on Saturday, but similar theatrics were unnecessary on Sunday. The Crusaders took the early lead on Luke Miller’s tap-in at the left post at 13:40 of the first period and moved ahead 2-0 on Rob Linsmayer’s second goal of the season at 3:30 of the second period.
“I thought we skated a lot better today,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said. “We’re a pretty quick team, and we didn’t look it last night. I thought tonight that our speed showed. … It’s good to finish some of these chances, because we’ve been working so hard in practice on low play and the rush, and we’ve been in so many of the 3-2, 2-1 games that it was nice to get a couple [more] goals tonight.”
Canisius winger Eric Rex cut the lead to 2-1 on a short-handed goal at 13:11 of the second session, but Sheen scored the eventual game-winner on the power play just 44 seconds later to give Holy Cross a 3-1 advantage.
Andrew Cox and Adam Schmidt added third-period goals for the Crusaders, and Sheen collected his second of the game when he completed a two-on-one break with four seconds left in the game.
It was a dominating performance from Holy Cross. The Crusaders shut down the Golden Griffins’ offense with a suffocating 1-2-2 trap, limiting Canisius to 13 shots through the first two periods. The physical Holy Cross forwards kept the Griffs pinned back in their own zone for long stretches of the game, overpowering their hosts along the boards and peppering the besieged Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison with 35 shots.
“We were fortunate. Sometimes, those [Golden Griffins forwards] are going to spring,” Pearl said. “They got a couple — [Cory] Conacher, especially — got a couple real nice one-timers that [goaltender] Tommy [Tysowsky] made saves on. If you can keep those guys from going crazy, you’re pretty fortunate, and we were.”
Canisius coach Dave Smith split up Conacher, a Hobey Baker Award nominee in 2009-10, and his longtime linemate Vinnie Scarsella prior to Sunday’s game. Conacher centered the top line with wingers Preston Shupe and Steve Shafer, while Scarsella played the pivot between Eric Rex and Scott Moser.
Conacher finished the game with three shots, no points, and was minus-1. Scarsella had an assist and no shots on goal.
“I’m just trying to get guys to play to their potential,” Smith said. “We wanted to give our unit a little more depth up the middle and try to get a little more speed throughout.”
Kyle Gibbons, the AHA rookie of the month in October, was dropped to the fourth line and recorded one shot.
Thomas Tysowsky earned the win in net for the Crusaders, stopping 18 shots.
“That can’t go unnoticed. Tommy made a couple of really nice saves,” Pearl said. “That’s important. He’s got to stand tall for us at the important moments, and tonight he did.”
Holy Cross will look to continue building momentum in Atlantic Hockey next weekend with a visit to Sacred Heart and a home game against Bentley, two squads that have struggled. The Pioneers and Falcons are ninth and 10th in the AHA standings, respectively.
The Golden Griffins will face a tough task as they attempt to regain their winning ways. Canisius will host Air Force, which has started the season with an uncharacteristic 2-6-2 record, and conference-leading Robert Morris.
“My concern is our team,” Smith said. “If we play without the confidence that we have, it’s going to be a tough weekend. We have to find a way to get our game where it needs to be.”