SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Freshman Brett McKinnon (Kelowna, British Columbia) netted two second period goals as the Holy Cross men's ice hockey team topped American International 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at the MassMutual Center in Atlantic Hockey action. With the victory, the Crusaders improve to 11-18-3 overall (10-12-3 AHA) while the Yellow Jackets slump to 10-21-1 (9-15-1 AHA). The game, played at the home arena of the AHL's Springfield Falcons, concluded the three-game regular season series between Holy Cross and AIC where the Crusaders went 2-1 including a 5-1 win on Friday, Feb. 21 and a 1-0 loss on Friday, Nov. 15.
The first 20 minutes of play ended with a score of 1-0 in favor of AIC despite a consistent effort on both ends of the ice by the Crusaders. AIC opened up the period's shooting at 4:52 when Nick Campanale rocketed a shot from the lower right side of AIC's offensive end that was pushed back into play by senior goalie Derek Kump (Falmouth, Maine). Holy Cross would see its first two shots of the game within 18 seconds of each other. The first scoring opportunity came at 8:04 when senior Adam Schmidt (Warrington, Pa.) wheeled down the ice and took a wrist shot from the right wing that AIC tender Hunter Leisner kept out of the net with a right pad save. Freshman Nick Finn (Canton, Mass.) then kept the offensive pressure up for the Crusaders at 8:22 as he tried to shove a wrap-around behind Leisner, but it wouldn't go. AIC took the lead, scoring the lone goal of the period at 14:00 when Steven Hoshaw rifled the puck from the left point for Dan Clairmont to tip in front of the net. Kump came up with a huge save, but the resulting rebound was finished by Blake Peake, who awaited the bouncing puck on the left of Kump. Shots for the period were tied at 10 each, while both teams went 0-1 on power play opportunities.
The second period of action resulted in five goals, four of which were nabbed by the Crusaders, who took a 4-2 lead of the contest. Holy Cross gained its first lead of the game after two early goals, kicking off just 12 seconds into the middle period. McKinnon intercepted a pass from an AIC defenseman just outside the blue line of the Crusaders' offensive end. He continued on a fast break down the ice, tallying his second career goal off a wrist shot to the top right of the net. The Crusaders' second goal came at 3:25 when sophomore Matt Vidal (Manorville, N.Y.) won a battle for the puck at the left corner of the boards and dished it to senior Shayne Stockton (Rochester, N.Y.), who weaved through three defensemen in the slot and wristed the puck glove-side of Leisner. The Yellow Jackets kept the game close with a tying goal less than two minutes later, at 5:22, when Brandon Lubin ripped a shot from the right point that pinged off the post in front of Nathan Sliwinski, who evened the game. The Crusaders then took their second lead, and furthered it with two goals in just 35 seconds. At 10:29, sophomore Castan Sommer (Shrewsbury, Mass.) won a fight for possession behind the AIC net and passed the puck off to junior Tommy Dwyer (Ridgefield, Conn.) who wrapped around the right side, finding junior Jake Youso (International Falls, Minn.) just outside the right post. Youso shoveled the puck through the five-hole of Leisner, taking back the lead for Holy Cross. Seconds later, at 11:04, McKinnon tallied his second of the game. After a face-off win, Stockton delivered the puck to McKinnon who slipped it across the ice and under the right pad of Leisner, making it 4-2. Holy Cross outshot AIC 14-9 for the period. Neither team found the back of the net with the man advantage, as the Crusaders went 0-1 and the Yellow Jackets went 0-2 on the power play.
The Yellow Jackets upped their offense in the final 20 minutes hoping to bounce back, but came up a goal short as the third ended with a final score of 4-3 and a Crusader victory. At 12:55, AIC netted the lone goal of the period when Chris Porter sped down the center of Holy Cross' defensive zone and shot the puck top–shelf, above the right shoulder of Kump. AIC kept the offensive pressure up, outshooting Holy Cross 13-8, but couldn't even the game as Kump remained solid in net making 12 saves. Leisner also put up a great third period performance, making eight saves, including a right pad one that shut down Schmidt's backhanded attempt in the final two minutes. Holy Cross did not have any power play opportunities, but successfully killed off all of AIC's chances as they went 0-2 in the last 20 minutes.
During the tilt, Kump made 29 saves for Holy Cross while Leisner tallied 28 saves for AIC. Shots for the game were even at 32-32. The Crusaders went 0-2 on the power play while the Yellow Jackets went 0-4 with the man advantage. Tonight's game was Schmidt's 144th in his career, solidifying him sole possession of fifth place for games played among Division I Holy Cross hockey players. The Crusaders improved their record to 5-2-0 in the month of February with today's win. They're also now 10-2-2 in games where they've scored three or more goals.
The Crusaders return to action next weekend in a home-and-home weekend series against AHA opponent, the Army Black Knights, to close out the regular season. The series kicks off on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Hart Center and concludes the following evening on Saturday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. at Tate Rink in West Point, N.Y. Friday evening's game is Senior Night, where the team's six seniors will be honored for four years of dedication and hard work.
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