LEWISTON, N.Y. — After watching his team surrender a 2-0 lead the night before, then stomaching Niagara’s three-goal comeback in a rematch Saturday at Dwyer Arena, Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl must’ve been panicking behind his team’s bench as the Crusaders entered the final 10 minutes deadlocked with Niagara, right?
Not so, the two-time Atlantic Hockey coach of the year insisted.
“Honestly, and this isn’t coachspeak, last night we weren’t mentally entuned to what we were doing I didn’t think. It was a weak mental effort by us. Even when we were up 2-0, I don’t know if we deserved to be,” Pearl said. “But tonight, I thought we played great, even when they tied it. We were locked in right from the beginning of the game.”
Rob Linsmayer was certainly locked in. He scored his second goal of the night and third of the weekend — he’d notched just a single assist in his first four games — to get the Crusaders a gritty 4-3 Atlantic Hockey road victory on Saturday. The victory was Holy Cross’ first in four tries at Niagara.
Linsmayer buried a nifty pass from Brandon Nunn, who had curled in from behind the net. Also getting an assist on the winner was Luke Miller, with whom Linsmayer was reunited this weekend. He gave the senior some of the credit for his breakout series.
“I played a lot with Luke my freshman year and we had a great run there,” Linsmayer said. “Luke and I didn’t get to play together last year, so when we heard we were tonight, we were pretty excited.”
That duo — Linsmayer, then Miller — gave the visitors a 2-0 edge in the second as each scored on the power play, converting after captain Mike Daly launched shots from the point. Kyle Atkins added another goal with the extra attacker later in the second to give Holy Cross (3-3-0, 2-2-0 AHA) a commanding 3-0 edge in front of goalie Thomas Tysowsky, a Western New York product who was making his first start of the year.
The Crusaders’ potency on the power play shouldn’t come as a surprise. They scored four times with the extra skater over the weekend, maintaining their spot atop Atlantic Hockey’s power-play rankings. Last season, Holy Cross had the league’s best power play and ranked fourth nationally in that stat.
Niagara (2-4-2, 1-2-1 AHA) got some life late in the period, however, as Dan Weiss floated a shot from the point that eluded Tysowsky.
In the third, Scott Arnold snapped a wrister after Sam Alfieri won a draw to pull Niagara within one, then Giancarlo Iuorio scored a power-play goal on a great snapshot to even the score at 3-3.
Pearl called timeout, and the Crusaders seemed unfazed. The coach, now in 17th season, was happy to see Linsmayer light the lamp, but he wasn’t surprised by the junior’s outburst this weekend. Before his three-goal showing this weekend, it seemed the team was leaning on Adam Schmidt, who had five goals through the team’s first five games.
“There’s 34 games and goals come and go,” Pearl said. “We try to tell the forwards, as long as you’re getting shots and you’re getting opportunities, you’ll score some times and you won’t score others, but over the long haul, you will. And Robby’s been getting a ton of opportunities. The puck’s going to go in for him, he’s a good player.”
As for Niagara, which has consistently dug early holes before clawing back through the early portion of the season, coach Dave Burkholder said his team needs to get better starts.
“It’s a dangerous way to go about it. And we’ve been good about it all year, but this time it came back (to get us), and it hurts,” Burkholder said.