By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The 2010-2011 Holy Cross men's hockey team returns 22 of 28 letterwinners and four of six starters from last year's squad (12-19-6 overall, 10-13-5 Atlantic Hockey), while it welcomes six freshmen. The Crusaders, who went 6-4-1 in their last 11 regular season games last year and outscored their opponents by a 37-31 margin during that stretch, will be looking to carry over the late season success into the 2010-2011 campaign.
"Everyone is very excited for this season as we finished very strong last year," said 16th-year and the program's all-time winningest head coach Paul Pearl. "We lost some great players, but we also have a lot of key guys back. With the success we had in February we know we can win games, so we are very excited to start the season."
One of the biggest strengths of the team is expected to be its defense, as it was third in the conference and 20th nationally last year by only allowing 2.76 goals per game. With all of the defensive skaters, and goalies Thomas Tysowsky (Amherst, N.Y.) and Adam Roy (Feeding Hills, Mass.) returning, the Crusaders should be very strong defensively. "I think we have a good defense, but I think we can get even better," said Pearl. "We have to get our goals allowed per game to be fewer than two. That is a legitimate team goal for this year because of the players we have. If you look nationally, any team that allows less than two goals per game is probably on the top of their conference."
Pearl expects his defense to be a key to the team's success all season, but knows how much he needs them to be at the top of their game at the beginning of the season. "It is important that we play strong defense right at the start of the season," said Pearl. "I think we are going to score more goals this season but that doesn't always happen right away. But you should be able to rely on your defense from the start of the season. Defense will be a focal point for us throughout the season but especially early on."
Pearl also sees the attitude of the team as a big strength. "I think we had a winning attitude last season, but we just lost some real close games," said Pearl. "We went 2-10-4 during the middle of the season, but because the team had a great attitude we were able to finish strong which I give the players a lot of credit for. I think we will have a winning attitude all season long."
The Crusaders played in nine overtime games last season with three losses and six ties and also went 3-7 in games decided by one goal. Pearl sees winning these types of games as how you make a run at the top of the standings. "To win those close games we need to score on the power play," said Pearl. "The last couple of years we have struggled scoring on the power play and we need to get back to the success we use to have. I feel like we have the right players and they know what to do so we just need to get it done. That will be something that we stress in preseason."
The Crusaders' penalty kill percentage (83.2) last season was third in the conference and 19th nationally. "One big reason why our penalty kill has been good is because of our goaltending," said Pearl. "We also have experienced players on the penalty kill which is a key to our success. I expect our penalty kill to be a strength."
This year's team is also expected to have solid depth. "We are really deep on defense," said Pearl. "Up front we just have not scored a ton of goals so we need players to step up and score more goals. If all of the forwards play to their capabilities then we will have great depth. We are also very deep in net."
Senior captain Everett Sheen (Lethbridge, Alberta), who has played in all 111 games in his first three seasons, will lead the team for the second straight year. "Everett is a great two-way player," said Pearl. "He gives 100 percent every day in practice. Everett is a great offensive player but is also really good on defense and killing penalties. We expect him to score a lot of goals this year. He is very excited for his senior season and to put the puck in the back of the net a bunch of times this season."
The six seniors of Matt Celin (Gibsonia, Pa.), Jamie Jelinek (Great Falls, Va.), J.P. Martignetti (Winchester, Mass.), Roy, Sheen and Mark Znutas (Emerson, N.J.) will be looking to lead the team to a successful season. "The senior class is an excellent group of players that have something to prove," said Pearl. "They want to win a championship. It is always good to have a group that wants to prove that they can win."
The nine juniors of Kyle Atkins (Brockville, Ontario), Gianni Baldassari (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Matt Clune (Toronto, Ontario), Andrew Cox (Lombardy, Ontario), Mike Daly (South Burlington, Vt.), Matthew Davis (Lancaster, N.Y.), Matt Gordon (Perth, Ontario), Luke Miller (Andover, Mass.) and Jay Silvia (Burlington, Mass.) are a group of players who have seen a lot of game action during their collegiate careers. "The junior class is extremely talented and, just like the seniors, are looking to show that they can contribute to more victories," said Pearl.
The sophomore class of Brendan Baker (Edina, Minn.), Kyle Fletcher (Kanata, Ontario), Rob Linsmayer (Winnetka, Ill.), Brandon Nunn (Fairport, N.Y.), Tysowsky, Erik Vos (Carlisle, Ontario) and Evan Zych (Kilbride, Ontario) will be looking to build on their freshmen seasons, while the freshman class of Derek Kump (Falmouth, Maine), Ryan McGrath (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Jeffrey Reppucci (Newburyport, Mass.), Adam Schmidt (Warrington, Pa.), Shayne Stockton (Rochester, N.Y.) and Mark Williamson (Centennial, Colo.) will look to contribute right away. "We expect all of our freshmen to contribute. With that said, any team who has been successful did not rely on their freshman class. I would love to see one of them win Rookie of the Year in the conference. We really feel like we have a great freshman class."
Holy Cross will open the season at the 14th annual Warrior Ice Breaker Tournament at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 10. The Crusaders will play Notre Dame on Oct. 8, and then either take on Wisconsin or Boston University on Oct. 10. Holy Cross will become only the second school from Atlantic Hockey to ever take part in the event. "This tournament is great because it is on a national stage playing against some of the best teams in the country," said Pearl. "We are excited to try to win it."
Atlantic Hockey will have two new members this year as Niagara and Robert Morris will join the conference. "Both Niagara and Robert Morris will strengthen the conference even more," said Pearl. "Both schools have two really good programs."
Here is a look at the 2010-2011 Crusaders by position.
Returning 13; Lost 5; Freshmen 3
The Crusaders, who averaged 2.35 goals per game last year, will be looking for an offensive spark from their forwards this season. Holy Cross will be led by Sheen who has 35 goals and 34 assists for 69 career points. Sheen, who participated at the Philadelphia Flyers' prospects camp this summer, recorded nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points last season as he was ranked second on the team in points, while he was fourth in goals and assists.
Linsmayer is coming off an outstanding freshman season in which he played all 37 games and had four goals and 15 assists for 19 points as he ranked second on the team in assists and was third in points. Silvia, who participated at the New York Islanders' prospects camp in the summer, has been a clutch player as he led the team with four game-winning goals last season and has six for his career. He also has 21 goals and 14 assists for 35 career points and is expected to be a major contributor this season.
Gordon, Miller, Celin and Martignetti, who combined for 15 goals, 24 assists and 39 points last season, will be a key to the success of the offense. Pearl also expects Baldassari, Cox, Fletcher, Jelinek, Nunn, Vos, Williamson, Schmidt and Stockton to be major factors in making the Crusader offense more productive.
Returning 7; Lost 0; Freshmen 2
Holy Cross returns its entire defense from a year ago and is expected to be one of the best in Atlantic Hockey. Znutas, who has only missed three games in his career, has 10 goals and 33 assists for 43 points in 108 career games. Last season he ranked third on the team with 12 assists. Daly and Clune will also be major leaders on defense. Daly had a career season last year with three goals and 10 assists for 13 points, while Clune tallied two goals and a career-best 10 assists for a career-best 12 points a season ago. Atkins, Baker, Davis and Zych will also be keys in keeping the puck out of the net, along with McGrath and Reppucci.
Returning 2; Lost 1; Freshmen 1
The Crusaders have a lot of depth in goal. Tysowsky is coming off an outstanding freshman season. He started in 34 of Holy Cross' 37 games and had a 2.43 goals against average ranking him second in Atlantic Hockey, 17th nationally and fourth on the school's Division I single-season list. He was also fourth in the league with a .910 save percentage and ranked second on the all-time Holy Cross Division I single-season save list with 839. The Crusaders also return Roy, who enters the season ranked second on the Holy Cross Division I all-time list with 1,377 career saves as he has played 51 career games with a 3.15 goals against average. Pearl is also excited to welcome Kump to the program and expects him to contribute also.
With a group of veterans looking to prove that they can win a championship and a talented bunch of underclassmen, the 2010-2011 Crusaders are ready to have a successful season.