January 4, 2006

Men's Hockey To Face Sacred Heart This Weekend

Jan. 4, 2006

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GAME DAY QUICK FACTS:

Holy Cross Radio: Friday-WTAG 580 AM, Worcester, Mass.; Dick Lutsk, play-by-play; Mike Maguire, color. www.sportsjuice.com, internet

Series Record With Sacred Heart: HC leads, 14-9-1

Last Meeting: Holy Cross 4, Sacred Heart 2 (3/12/05; Worcester, Mass.; Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals)

THIS WEEK: The Holy Cross men's hockey team (10-4-1 overall, 7-2-1 Atlantic Hockey) faces Sacred Heart (10-7-1 overall, 7-5-1 Atlantic Hockey) in a home-and-home series on January 6-7. On Friday, the Crusaders will travel to Milford, Conn., to take on the Pioneers at the Milford Ice Pavilion, while on Saturday they will host Sacred Heart at the Hart Center. Both games are set to start at 7:00 p.m. The two teams are currently tied for second place in Atlantic Hockey with 15 points each, while Mercyhurst is in first with 20 points. This weekend's games will mark the 25th and 26th meetings between the Crusaders and the Pioneers with Holy Cross leading the series 14-9-1. Last season, the teams split the series, 2-2. The Crusaders took the first game on the road in overtime by a score of 3-2 (1/4/05), but the Pioneers then won the next two games by scores of 5-3 (2/11/05) and 2-1 (2/18/05). Holy Cross then defeated Sacred Heart, 4-2, in the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals (3/12/05), at the Hart Center.

HC IN THE RANKINGS: The Crusaders' .700 overall winning percentage this season is sixth in the nation. Holy Cross is first in the AHA and tied for 11th in the nation in scoring defense with 2.33 goals allowed per game, while it is first in the AHA and fifth in the nation in penalty kill percentage (88.8). Offensively, the Crusaders are third in the AHA and 21st in the nation in scoring offense (3.20 goals per game), while they are third in the AHA and eighth in the nation in power play conversion percentage (22.2).

THE PIONEERS: Sacred Heart is coming off a 4-1 win over Bentley on Tuesday to move into a tie for second in the AHA with Holy Cross. Junior forward Pierre-Luc O'Brien leads the team and is second in the league in scoring with 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points, while freshman forward Bear Trapp is second on the team in scoring and fourth in the conference with nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points. Junior goalie Jason Smith is second in the AHA and 10th in the nation in goals against average (2.15), while he is second in the AHA and seventh in the nation in save percentage (.928). The Pioneers are second in the league in goals per game (3.44) and goals allowed per game (2.50).

THE WEEK THAT WAS: Last weekend, Holy Cross earned a third-place finish at the Ohio Hockey Classic at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. On Thursday night, the Crusaders fell to tournament host No. 19 Ohio State, 4-0, marking the first time that two teams had faced each other. Senior goaltender Tony Quesada (South Freeport, Maine) made a season-best 40 saves. On Friday night, Holy Cross defeated Rensselaer, 4-2, in the third place game to improve to 2-4-0 all-time against the Engineers, including a 3-2 victory earlier this season on Nov. 25, at the RPI Holiday Tournament. Junior James Sixsmith (Alexandria, Va.) scored the first goal and last goals, while sophomore Cal. St. Denis (Freelton, Ontario) and senior Tyler McGregor (Ajax, Ontario) each added goals. Senior goalie Ben Conway (South Hadley, Mass.) made a season-high 39 saves to earn the victory.

SIXSMITH EARNS ALL-TOURNAMENT HONORS: Junior forward James Sixsmith (Alexandria, Va.) was named to the all-tournament team at the Ohio Hockey Classic for his two-goal performance in the win over RPI. His first goal gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead just a minute into the game, while he added a shorthanded empty net goal to clinch the victory. Sixsmith has now scored five goals in three games against RPI in his career, including two last season (in the 8-4 lost on Feb. 5, 2005) and one earlier this season (in the 3-2 win on Nov. 25). On the season, Sixsmith now ranks third on the team in scoring with four goals and nine assists for 13 points. Over the course of his Holy Cross career, he has totaled 23 goals and 55 assists for 78 points.

CONWAY RECEIVES AHA HONORS: Senior goaltender Ben Conway (South Hadley, Mass.) was named the Atlantic Hockey Association Goaltender of the Week for his performance in the RPI win. Conway made a season high 39 saves against the Engineers to improve to 4-1-0 on the season. Last season, he received this honor on Nov. 29, 2004.

STRONG DEFENSE: In the first 15 games, Holy Cross is ranked first in Atlantic Hockey and 11th nationally in scoring defense with 48 goals allowed and 2.33 goals allowed per game, and has given up only 10 goals on 89 power play opportunities for its opponents which is first in the league and fifth nationally. The Crusaders have also received an offensive spark from junior defenseman Jon Landry (Lexington, Mass.) who is tied for fourth on the team in scoring with three goals and nine assists for 12 points. He is second in the conference and 10th nationally in points per game by a defenseman with .86.

DUAL THREAT IN NET: The Crusaders have two senior goalies bringing a wealth of experience to that position in Tony Quesada (South Freeport, Maine) and Ben Conway (South Hadley, Mass.). Quesada is 6-3-1 this season, including his fifth career shutout in the 1-0 win over Army and is just one win away from setting a school record for career wins. He is currently tied with Paul Pijanowski's school-record of 45 (1984-87). Quesada is second all-time at Holy Cross in minutes played with 4864:26 and games played with 85. He is third at Holy Cross in career saves with 2154. He ranks fourth in Atlantic Hockey and 27th nationally in goals against average (2.49), while he is fourth in Atlantic Hockey and 11th nationally in save percentage (.922). Earlier this season, Quesada was named the Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the week for his 22 save performance in the 3-2 win over UMass. This marked the fourth time that he has been named Goaltender of the Week by the conference, as he was named once (1/3/05) in 2004-05 and twice (11/23/03 & 1/4/04) in 2003-04. Conway is 4-1-0 this season and his .800 winning percentage ranks him third nationally, while his .929 save percentage leads Atlantic Hockey and is sixth in the nation. In addition, his 2.01 goals against average also tops the conference and is eighth nationally. He is coming off a season that he played in a career high 15 games for a total of 844:23 minutes and went 7-5-2 with 2.70 goals against average. He received the 2004-05 Regular-Season Goaltending Award for posting the best goals against average in conference games (2.31).

OUTSTANDING FIRST LINE: The first line consisting of seniors Tyler McGregor (Ajax, Ontario), Pierre Napert-Frenette (Bathurst, New Brunswick) and Blair Bartlett (Dryden, Ontario) has accounted for 20 goals, 29 assists and 49 points. Napert-Frenette leads the team in scoring with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points. His 112 career points ranks him 30th on the Holy Cross all-time points list. McGregor is second on the team in scoring with 12 goals and six assists for 18 points. His 12 goals leads Atlantic Hockey and his .86 goals per game is fourth in the nation. McGregor is first in the conference and tied for fourth in the nation in power play goals with eight. This season, he had five points with five goals in the two games against Mercyhurst, including a hat trick (11/11). He was named the AHA Player of the Week for that performance, making it the third time that he has received that honor. Last season, he was named Player of the Week twice (1/3/05 & 1/17/05). McGregor's 101 career points ranks him 33rd at Holy Cross. Bartlett has been a major factor as he has a goal and 11 assists for 12 points, which is good enough for a tie for fourth on the team in scoring. For his career, Bartlett has played in 94 games with 21 goals and 35 assists for 56 points.

HOLY CROSS HEAD COACH Paul Pearl: Paul Pearl is in his 11th year at the helm of the Holy Cross ice hockey program. He is just the fifth head coach in the 36-year history of ice hockey at Holy Cross. Pearl has forged a 164-142-30 record at his alma mater and has been the man behind the bench in six of the eight most successful seasons in Holy Cross history. Along with nine post-season appearances in 10 years, Pearl led the Crusaders to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in the 2003-04 season. Pearl's 164 wins puts him three shy of tying the school-record of 167 set by Peter Van Buskirk (1979-88; 1996-97). As a four-year letterwinner for the Crusaders, he played in 125 games as a defenseman, tallying 14 goals and 63 assists.