Last season Holy Cross posted 17 wins, the most since its dream season of 2005-06. The Crusaders went 10-2-3 down the stretch and made their first appearance in the league semifinals since 2006, giving eventual champion Air Force all it could handle in a 3-2 loss.
Holy Cross lost key players at each position, but returns with a large senior class and a crop of young forwards coming off good years.
“[Last year’s seniors] wasn’t a huge class but it was pretty significant,” said coach Paul Pearl. “We lost (second leading scorer) Everett [Sheen], [defenseman] Mark Znutas and one of our goalies, Adam Roy, who played every game down the stretch.”
With Roy gone and sophomore Derek Kump injured, Pearl is deciding between junior Thomas Tysowsky, who saw action in 12 games last season, and rookie Matt Ginn, one of the top goalies in the British Columbia Hockey League last season.
“Tommy and Matt have both had good days in practice and not-so-good days,” said Pearl. “We’ve got another week of practice and then an exhibition (against New Brunswick). I imagine whoever comes out of this week will get the early starts. We like to go with the hot hand. I can’t envision going with a Friday-Saturday rotation, but you never know if both guys are playing well. That would be a good problem to have.”
Pearl said the key to this season is to keep up the scoring pace that saw the Crusaders averaging around four goals a game down the stretch. Back are last year’s leading scorer, junior Kyle Fletcher (38 points), classmate Rob Linsmayer (34) and sophomores Shayne Stockton (25) and Adam Schmidt (21).
“We took a lot of shots the first part of the year that didn’t go in,” said Pearl. “But we had a much better second half of the season offensively.
“We just have to score. We’re solid defensively and I have faith that at least one of our goalies is going to play well. We have nine seniors and are poised for another good year.”
About the Crusaders
2010-11 overall record: 17-16-5
2010-11 AHA record: 14-8-5 (third)
2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Third
Key losses: Everett Sheen (F), Mark Znutas (D), Adam Roy (G)
Players to watch: Kyle Fletcher (jr., F), Rob Linsmayer (jr., F), Shayne Stockton (so., F)
Impact rookie: Goalie Matt Ginn, who was ranked by NHL Central Scouting in 2009, could see playing time.
Why the Crusaders will finish higher than the coaches poll: If the Crusaders’ hot streak carries over from last season, they’ll be at or near the top of the standings.
Why the Crusaders will finish lower than the coaches poll: Goaltending remains an unknown.