Hats Off (of sorts) For the Crusaders
Traditions that exist involving hockey players and hair have existed since the beginning of the game. The playoff beard is popular in professional and college hockey, where players with grow facial hair for length of the postseason. And for high school, junior and prep players, many of whom aren’t old enough to grow facial hair, the tradition of shaving heads often takes on the same aura.
But this weekend, the Holy Cross Crusaders will walk onto the ice with shaved heads, as far away from the playoffs as you can imagine. This time, though, will be for a very different reason.
Hockey, particularly at the college and junior level, is one sport in which bonding with teammates is almost as important as knowing how to skate. The Crusaders have decided to shave their heads to show that bond.
Glen Crane, still considered a freshman after missing half of last season, has been diagnosed with a recurrence of Hodgkin’s disease and begins chemotherapy to treat the cancer this week. He came to coach Paul Pearl three weeks ago with the startling news.
Unfortunately, this was all too familiar to the sixth-year coach.
“Glen was diagnosed with the Hodgkin’s last year and he went through the chemo and thought he was back to start playing again,” said Pearl. “He was my best forward through the first two weeks of practice [this year], but he went back to the doctor’s because he was having trouble breathing.”
Both Crane and the doctor had hoped that the breathing difficulty was caused by scar tissue from the original cancer. But it wasn’t.
“We found out before our first exhibition game [that the cancer was back] and his first reaction was, ‘Coach, you’re going to play me, right?'”
Pearl did play Crane that night, and he scored a goal in a 5-3 loss to St. Nick’s. He made it into the lineup the following weekend at Air Force and, according to Pearl’s estimations, played well.
But that was the end of the road for now. Though Crane probably could have played against Bentley last weekend, Pearl decided to keep him out for safety reasons.
Thursday, Crane began his second round of chemotherapy, which Pearl said he accepts better than you could expect from a young player.
“He walks into my office and talks about chemo the way you and I would talk about the flu,” said Pearl. “It’s like, ‘Coach, I can’t be at practice today, because I have chemo.
“He’s really an amazing kid. I know all coaches say that about kids on their team, but he really is. You couldn’t imagine anyone handling this situation like he has.”
Which, most likely, is why his teammates wish to salute their brother.
While Crane is losing his hair to the effects of chemotherapy, the Crusaders will lose theirs to barbershop clippers, as Pearl puts it, “as a sign of solidarity.”
Pearl noted Crane’s own bravery as a source of hope.
“They’ve seen a lot,” said Pearl, noting that the team went through this last year when Crane was first diagnosed. “They’re a much more mature group because of what they’ve dealt with.
“And Glen is so unbelievably strong about it, and he seems to keep it from weighing on their heads. Maybe inside it weighs on these guys, but there’s no way they’d let it show outside. Glen has been too strong to let them.”
Crane is expected to finish the semester academically, and is likely to miss the second semester. Combined with one semester from last season, Crane will have completed an entire year and will return to Holy Cross as a sophomore.
Crane’s illness may have actually sparked some much-needed fight into the Crusaders early in the season. Not known for starting fast, Holy Cross has posted a 2-1 record in its first three games with wins over Bentley and Air Force.
Pearl credits this success to a coming-of-age or sorts.
“We’re not an old team, but we’ve now got kids with experience,” Pearl said. “I feel like I have four lines and six D out there that can go out and do well.
“Are we the best team in the league? Probably not. But we’re competitive.”
Pearl’s Crusaders will be able to test their mettle this weekend as the team takes the unenviable trip west to Mercyhurst and Canisius, something Pearl notes is never easy.
“Any time you play either of these two guys it’s difficult,” Pearl said. “Whether it’s the beginning or the end, it’s tough to go up there and play.”
One noted area of improvement for the Cross is goaltending. Derek Cunha, who showed signs of brilliance last season, has recorded both wins and will start in goal on Friday night. Cunha is part of a tandem with Rick Massey, also a sophomore. But Pearl can’t say at this point whether the tandem will remain or whether Cunha will become the number-one tender.
“Derek will start on Friday and whatever happens from there happens,” said Pearl. “I just like going with whoever is playing well. I think in the long term, different people end up getting their time.
“Goaltending is definitely a key. Whoever’s in there, we have to have some key saves at key times and we’ve gotten that so far.”
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Player of the Week: Adam Tackaberry, Mercyhurst So. F, Nepean, Ontario
Last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year picked up right where he left off, scoring both game-winning goals this weekend and added an assist. Tackaberry scored the only goal of the game, a power-play goal, to beat Fairfield Friday. He also had a power-play goal early in the third period of Saturday’s game to give the Lakers a 3-1 lead against Sacred Heart. Tackaberry had two game-winning goals all of last season.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Goalie of the Week: Peter Aubry, Mercyhurst Sr., Windsor, Ontario
Aubry, the 2000-01 MAAC Goalie of the Year, is starting his bid to win the honor again. He allowed only two goals in a weekend where the Lakers went onto win both of their games against MAAC opponents. Aubry posted a shutout against Fairfield this weekend, stopping all 25 Stag shots. Against Sacred Heart on Saturday he stopped 24 of 26 shots. His weekend save percentage was .961 and his GAA was 1.00 as the Lakers started conference play.
ITECH MAAC Hockey League Rookie of the Week: Brent Williams, Iona Fr. F, Prince George, B.C.
The rookie forward scored his first three career goals on Friday in Iona’s 6-3 win over American International. His goal 31 seconds into the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Gaels continue to lead the MAAC with seven points. Saturday night against Quinnipiac, Williams assisted on the game-tying goal in the Gaels 4-2 victory.
Bright Lights For Quinnipiac
Predictions for success for Quinnipiac this season have, to say the least, been mixed. So far things have looked good for the Braves even though they’ve dropped two close games to a much-improved Iona team.
Regardless of the results on the ice, off the ice the athletic department has been working hard to improve the team’s image. Actually, the department has done its best to improve the entire state of Quinnipiac athletics.
One major step occurred recently when WCTX, [nl]Connecticut’s UPN affiliate, reached a deal with Quinnipiac to televise five athletics contests — four basketball games and one hockey game.
This comes at the same time at the ECAC hockey league whitewashed its TV deal with NESN, citing high production costs.
The hockey game to be televised is the November 25 contest against in-state rival UConn.
Poor Parade for Pioneers
Last Saturday’s game between Sacred Heart and Mercyhurst certainly could be deemed special. But the reference is anything but for Pioneers coach Shaun Hannah’s club.
Entering the third period tied at one, the Pioneers paraded nine players to the penalty box on separate infractions, including one five-minute major, putting the club shorthanded for 10:16 of the period (4:14 of which was 5-on-3). There would have been even more shorthanded time for the Pioneers had they not surrendered four power-play goals to the Lakers, to bring the grand total on the night to five. Mercyhurst connected on an incredible 5-for-15 on the man advantage that night in the 5-2 victory.
“It was a tough night for penalties, but I don’t think we helped ourselves near the end of the game,” said Hannah. “We scored a power-play goal of our own midway through [the third] and got some momentum and then took our frustrations out in the last five minutes to take it all away.
“We’ve got to get away from that as a team and not let things we can’t control effect our play.
“Mercyhurst has a good power play that moves the puck well. They capitalized on their opportunities on the power play. Just a team you can’t take penalties against.”
Iona Out of Gates Quickly
In a quest to go from bottom of the MAAC to the top in just four years, Iona College has already made an early impact on the standings.
Where most clubs start off the year with nonleague games, Iona this year began with four league games, and has posted a 3-0-1 record, placing it alone in first place.
Starting quickly has always been a good sign for MAAC champions. Mercyhurst didn’t lose a league game last year until January 9, starting the league season 8-0-1. When Quinnipiac captured its second regular-season titles in 1999-2000, they began the year with four league wins before dropping its only league game all season to Mercyhurst. One year earlier, the Braves began 13-1-0, their only loss coming to UConn in mid-November.
Youth Movement at Bentley
Don’t look now, but Bentley was able to record its first win last weekend, a full two months earlier than last season. And that win comes just a week after the Falcons had Fairfield firmly in their grasp before letting the win slip away.
So is there a revitalization in Waltham, Mass.? Seems like a strong possibility.
And leading the revolution are the least likely of citizens — the rookies.
In Saturday’s victory over AIC, all three Bentley goals came off the sticks of rookies — with Brian Goodwin tallying in the first, Nick Carosa tying the game with less than seven minutes to play, and Troy Weibler notching the OT game-winner.
Lest we also forget: between the pipes is rookie Simon St. Pierre from Montreal, Que. — one of only two foreign-born players on the roster.
This Week’s Highlights
Looking at this weekend’s schedule, the best bet for game of the week would have to be Sacred Heart traveling up I-95 to Quinnipiac on Saturday night. After last weekend’s demise against Mercyhurst, the Pioneers will have to face a tough Quinnipiac squad with hopes of proving their worth. The Pioneers were winless in three tries (0-2-1) against Quinnipiac last season.
Only one nonleague game is on tap, but it’s probably one of the most exciting early-season games in the league. Iona, quickly out of the gates, will travel to Colgate, which started the year with four losses (two vs. Nebraska-Omaha, two vs. Minnesota). The Red Raiders may be licking their chops to play a less-experienced MAAC team at this point on the schedule.
An apology to all the readers who have been without my weekly picks thus far. This week, though, will mark the return of my poor guessing … er, my picks.
Thank you, though, to all who wrote wondering why they were missing. Fan mail, as well as hate mail, is always welcome.