Since the Holy Cross men's ice hockey became a Division I program in 1998-1999, it has never taken on a defending national champion, until today. At 4:00 p.m. the puck will drop at Ingalls Rink in New Haven, Conn. for Holy Cross vs. defending national champion No. 11 Yale.
In the past, the Crusaders have taken on the national champions during the season in which they won twice. During the 2008-2009 season, the Crusaders faced the No. 8 Boston University Terriers, who would eventually go on to win the 2009 NCAA Division I national championship. Holy Cross fell to the Terriers 3-2. On December 30, 2012, the Crusaders took on the Yale Bulldogs, the eventual 2013 national champions, and prevailed to win 5-4. This victory was only the second for any Holy Cross team over a team that would win the national championship that same season. In the past, the baseball team defeated the University of Southern California 3-0 on June 14, 1958 during the College World Series double elimination series. Following that game, the baseball team would play three more games against future national champions during the season in which they would win, but lost all three games. The men's basketball team also took on five teams that would win the national championship, but lost all five games. The women's basketball team also took on the national champions to be eight times and lost all eight games, seven of which to Connecticut.
This game will also be a reunion for two Holy Cross players and three members of the Yale Bulldogs. Sophomore Jake Bolton (Ellington, Conn.) grew up playing bantam hockey with Yale freshman Chris Izmirlian and Trent Ruffolo. Bolton and Izmirlian went on to play at the Westminster School together, joined by fellow Bulldog freshman Patrick Spano and Crusader Nick Finn (Canton, Mass.). Bolton, Izmirlian and Spano played together for the Mid-Fairfield U-16 Midget team where they won the Tier II national championship. After high school, Ruffolo played for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, and Bolton followed in his footsteps living with his host family while playing for the Jr. Monarchs as well.
MATCH UP AGAINST YALE: The Bulldogs (6-3-3, 3-2-3 ECACHL) have the fifth best offense in the ECACHL scoring 3.17 goals per game, while the Crusaders (4-10-2, 3-5-2 AHA) rank 10th in the AHA scoring 2.25. The Bulldog defense is tied for fifth in its conference allowing 2.50 goals per game while the Crusader defense is fourth in the AHA allowing 3.06. Yale's power play ranks eighth in the ECAC with a .167 percentage while the Crusaders' .127 is 10th in Atlantic Hockey. Holy Cross is eighth in its conference with a .773 penalty kill percentage while Yale's .756 percentage places them 11th in its conference. The Crusaders sit in eighth in Atlantic Hockey with a .479 percentage for combined special teams and Yale bottoms out its conference with a .421 combined special teams ranking.
THE SERIES WITH YALE: This will be the sixth meeting between these two teams in varsity games. Holy Cross is 1-4-0 all-time against Yale as it earned its first victory on Dec. 30, 2012 by a score of 5-4 at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass. The Bulldogs have hosted the Crusaders three times in the past winning all three matches by scores of 10-3, when they were ranked No. 1 on Jan. 2, 2011, 2-1 on Oct. 27, 2006 and 6-1 on January 20, 2001. The Crusaders have only hosted Yale once in the series which resulted in a 7-3 loss at the Hart Center on Nov. 28, 2009.
Flashback to December 30, 2012's 5-4 victory over Yale:
Brandon Nunn (Fairport, N.Y.) posted two goals and one assist including netting the game-winner…Senior Kyle Fletcher (Kanata, Ontario) tallied one goal and two assists, while senior Rob Linsmayer (Winnetka, Ill.) posted three assists…The Crusaders took a 1-0 lead at 11:13 of the first period when Adam Schmidt (Warrington, Pa.) stole the puck in the Holy Cross zone and then sprinted down the ice on a breakaway sending a backhander to the upper left corner of the net for the short-handed goal. The goal was his team-best ninth of the season…With the Crusaders on a five-minute major power play, Holy Cross took advantage with two early third-period power play goals to take a 5-2 lead. At 2:02, Shayne Stockton (Rochester, N.Y.) netted a spectacular goal on a backhand. Schmidt and freshman Nathaniel Domagala (Oakville, Ontario) tallied assists…Goalie Matt Ginn (Lindsay, Ontario) made 32 saves to earn the win and improve to 9-3-2 on the season. The 5-4 win versus No. 15 Yale was the first ever win for Holy Cross over Yale as the Crusaders were 0-4-0 versus the Bulldogs entering the game. This was the third win for Holy Cross over a ranked team in its Division I era. Following the win versus Yale, the Crusaders were ranked No. 20 in the USCHO.com Division I Men's National Poll. This was the third ever time that the Crusaders had ever been ranked in this poll as Holy Cross was No. 20 on March 13, 2006 and No. 19 on March 20, 2006.