Oct. 9, 2008
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2008-2009 Holy Cross men's hockey team returns 16 players, including four starters and eight of its top 10 point producers from a year ago (10-19-7, 9-15-4 Atlantic Hockey), to a team that will be looking to capture its third AHA championship and third NCAA Tournament appearance.
"The team is excited to come back and have a successful season," said 14th-year head coach Paul Pearl, the all-time winningest coach in the program's history. "We went through some tough times last year but we played two great games in the playoffs and I think that positive momentum will carry over to the start of practice."
The team will be led by its co-captains, senior defenseman Marty Dams and junior forward Ryan Driscoll. "Both of them are great players," said Pearl. "You have to be a great player for the guys to respect you and vote for you as captain. Ryan is a determined player. He is a really tough kid and will do what ever that is asked of him. Marty is also a tough player, while he also keeps things light in the locker room. So it is a good combination of captains."
Pearl sees the importance of how well the defense plays as a major factor in the success of the season, including the play of the four freshmen defenders. "For us to be successful, the strength of our team has to be our defense," said Pearl. "I think we will be pretty good up front. We have to improve in scoring five-on-five, but our power play was outstanding last year, so we should be good offensively. If we can increase our goals per game average up by a half a goal we will be as good as anyone in the league in terms of scoring goals. It is defensively where we have to be great. The three championships we have won were because of our defense. We have to be a team that only gives up two or less goals a game."
Holy Cross' 22.7 power play percentage last year ranked second in the league and fourth in the nation, but Pearl would like to see an increase in goals in equal strength play. "The focus early on is going to be five-on-five scoring," said Pearl. "We are usually a pretty good power play team, but we have to be a good five-on-five team. With the five freshmen forwards coming in, they will be given a look right away to see what they can do five-on-five."
Pearl also believes the team has solid depth. "The talent we have is off the charts," said Pearl. "But our depth will depend on how quick that talent of the freshmen will resonate into effectiveness on the ice during games. If that happens then we will have a ton of depth."
The Crusaders will also focus on being a strong team on the penalty kill. "I am confident that we have the ability to clear the puck and limit shots," said Pearl. "We need to get back to being a great shot blocking team. That is very important."
The four seniors, Dams, Charlie Lockwood, Shane McAdam and Dewey Thomson, bring the experience of being freshmen when the Crusaders defeated Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament in 2006, and the determination to get back to the tournament as seniors. "Marty is a physical strong player who we expect to have an outstanding senior year," said Pearl. "Marty and Shane were big factors in our run in the NCAAs as freshmen. Shane is a dynamite defenseman. He is just a great player. Up front I think Dewey will have a great season. He is a good five-on-five player and has become an excellent penalty killer. He is such a great leader and player. We expect him to get a lot of points this year. Charlie is also a great player. When he did get a chance to play in the 2006-2007 season he was outstanding. He can be a factor in goal."
Now in its third year with the program, the junior class of Ian Dams, Driscoll, Rob Forshner, Peter Lorinser and Brodie Sheahan, are expected to have a very strong season. "We always expect our juniors to be major contributors because after two years of being on the team you should be prepared now to step up and be big factors in the success of the team," said Pearl. "I think during the second half of the season Rob was the best center in the league. He was excellent. Brodie had a very consistent year as he led the team in assists and points. He is ultra talented and competitive. He is so skilled and makes the guys on the ice even better. We can expect even more points from Brodie this season. Ryan is so versatile in that he can kill penalties and he can also play on the power play. He really got better in winning draws which is big for us. Ryan is a dependable solid player who also has the ability to score goals. Peter has been a solid penalty killer for us and we expect Ian to have a great year in net."
The sophomore class of Joe Brock, Matt Celin, Jamie Jelinek, J.P. Martignetti, Adam Roy, Everett Sheen and Mark Znutas are coming off an outstanding rookie season in which all of them saw substantial playing time. "The sophomore class is very talented," said Pearl. "This class has a little bit of everything. Everett is a great two-way player who had a great freshman season as he led the team in goals. Joe is a pure goal scorer who will help us in scoring five-on-five goals. He can really shoot the puck. I loved the way he developed last year as he had a great end of the season. J.P. is a big strong kid who can score. Jamie is a fast skater who also knows how to score. Mark has great offensive skills, while he also had a great year on defense. Matt played a lot of time last year and demonstrated that he is a great player in big games. Adam is a very quick goalie who loves to play. We expect him to continue where he left off and have an outstanding season in goal."
Sophomore Jordan Cyr transferred from Rensselaer after the 2006-2007 season, and after attending Holy Cross in the 2007-2008 academic year is now eligible to compete. "He will be a two-way center," said Pearl. "He is a strong kid who will be a big time leader. We are very excited for Jordan to be part of this team."
Holy Cross will welcome a big class of nine freshmen to the program. Kyle Atkins, Gianni Baldassari, Matt Clune, Andrew Cox, Mike Daly, Matthew Davis, Matt Gordon, Luke Miller and Jay Silvia are expected to contribute to the program right away. "I expect them to see a lot of minutes," said Pearl. "We need all four defenders to be college ready. I know all four can play. They are all good defensemen who we expect to have great careers. Up front we need two or three of them to be in the top three lines and two of them to get into the fourth line. If these freshmen can have the same type of year that our current sophomores and juniors did then we will have great depth."
Once again the Crusaders will play a challenging non-conference schedule. Holy Cross will face Providence (Oct. 25) and Dartmouth (Jan. 21) at the Hart Center, while it will play at Boston University (Nov. 25) and at New Hampshire (Dec. 11). The Crusaders will also compete at the Denver Cup with a game against Denver (Jan. 2) and either Boston University or Rensselaer (Jan. 3).
The Atlantic Hockey Tournament is moving to a four-round format that will begin on March 7 with a single-game elimination as the seventh and eighth place teams host the 10th and ninth place teams respectively. Then on March 13-15 the best two-out-of-three quarterfinals series will take place. The semifinals and finals will be played at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., on March 20-21.
Returning 9; Lost 6; Newcomers 6
Holy Cross returns nine forwards from last year and welcomes six newcomers. The Crusaders' top three goal scorers return, including Sheen who led the team in goals with 15 which were tied for seventh in the nation by rookies. A member of the Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie Team, Sheen is coming off of a summer in which he participated in the Anaheim Ducks' conditioning camp. Sheahan is expected to have another big season as last year he led the team in assists (20) and points (33), while he was second in goals (13). He was also strong on the power play as his nine power play goals tied for second in the conference. Sheahan earned third team All-Atlantic Hockey honors. Brock ranked third on the team in goals a year ago with nine as he will be expected to provide a lot of offense.
Forshner, who tied for third on the team in assists (17) and points (24) last season, is a play-making center who will be a key player in the success of the offense. Driscoll is a center who provides leadership on the ice and is also a force on the power play as he has scored 10 career power play goals. Jelinek, Lorinser, Martignetti and Thomson are expected to be key for the Crusaders in scoring goals during five-on-five situations, while Cox, Cyr, Baldassari, Gordon, Miller and Silvia look to contribute immediately to the team.
Returning 4; Lost 5; Newcomers 4
The play of the Crusader defense will be a major factor in the success of the team. Marty Dams and McAdam will provide strong leadership to a defense that also consists of two sophomores and four freshmen. Znutas, who earned Atlantic Hockey All-Rookie accolades as he led the team's defensemen in goals (six) and points (17), and Celin will look to continue their solid play from their rookie season, while Atkins, Clune, Daly and Davis are expected to see game-time right away.
Returning 3; Lost: 0; Newcomers 0
Holy Cross returns all three goaltenders from last season in Ian Dams, Lockwood and Roy. Roy is coming off an outstanding freshman year in which he set a Holy Cross freshman record for most saves in a single-season with 771 in 26 games. He also had a .911 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average. Dams played in 12 games last year with a .902 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average. Lockwood, who has been solid in net in 10 career games, has the ability to shutdown an opponent's offense. All three goalies are expected to compete for ice time.