Oct. 10, 2007
By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Holy Cross men's hockey team returns 20 players from last season (10-20-5, 9-14-5 Atlantic Hockey) to a team that will have strong veteran leadership with 10 seniors and an exciting group of young players.
"Our guys are very excited to start the season," said head coach Paul Pearl, the all-time winningest coach in the program's history. "I think last year being in the fifth spot in the tournament was a good wake up call. I think our guys have improved and done a good job getting ready for the season. The team is motivated to get back on top and win the AHA championship."
This group of 10 seniors (Matt Burke, Brent Franklin, Brian Gabriel, Bryce Nantes, Frank O'Grady, Dale Reinhardt, Cal St. Denis, Chris Trovato, Jim Tselikis and Matt Werry) has been a part of 53 wins, one Atlantic Hockey regular season and tournament title and a victory in the NCAA Tournament, so they bring a lot of big game experience to the team. "They have been a part of a lot of success here," said Pearl. "All different roles are filled within that group. There are some scorers, some checkers and some defensive players. All of them can really find a role to help the team. Just being 10 out of 28 guys, that is a large part of the locker room so I expect a lot out of all of those guys. I think it is going to be a good year for them."
Along with the veterans the Crusaders will also have an outstanding group of underclassmen. "We have a big senior class but we also have a lot of young guys with six sophomores and eight freshmen," said Pearl. "We have to integrate everybody and get everyone to play as a team. We need to have everyone find and take ownership of their roles and be proud to do them because not everyone can be a scorer or a big power play guy. Once we have that established we can be a pretty good team."
Senior captain Matt Burke is expected to be a strong leader for the Crusaders. "Matt has the best type of leadership because he is not just a talker but he is a doer," said Pearl. "He is a wonderful kid that is well thought of by the players. Matt is a well spoken kid and when he says something the players really listen because he does not say things just to say them. He really cares about the team."
The Crusaders will also look to senior assistant captains Dale Reinhardt and Matt Werry for leadership. "Dale is a person that the guys will listen to," said Pearl. "He earns a lot of respect because of how good of a player he is. Dale has been a big contributor in a lot of big wins here. Matt has a real hard work ethic and is a great teammate. He always works extra hard to help the team."
The four juniors have gained valuable experience from their first two seasons here at Holy Cross and are expected to continue to be big factors in the success of the team. "I like that group a lot in terms of talent," said Pearl. "Dewey Thomson and Shane McAdam are as talented a duo that we have in the league. We think they can really shine as juniors and they will be given the opportunity in big roles this year. Marty Dams is an excellent stay at home solid defenseman that provides some offense when necessary and has seen a lot of big game experience. Charlie Lockwood had a solid first season in net last year and will be one of three goalies that will have a chance to be the starter."
The sophomores saw key playing time a year ago, as Pearl is happy with what they learned and expects them to have strong sophomore seasons. "Rob Forshner, Ryan Driscoll and Brodie Sheahan all finished strong last year," said Pearl. "Peter Lorinser and Bill Pinel also had some strong play on the ice, while Ian Dams will have the opportunity to use his experience from a season ago to see playing time in net this year."
Holy Cross welcomes seven freshmen to the program. "I think it is a good group," said Pearl. "On defense, Matt Celin is a big strong kid that is a solid two way player. Mark Znutas is in that line of good offensive defenseman that we have had in the past that can really skate. Offensively, Joe Brock, Everett Sheen and Jamie Jelinek all had a lot of success scoring last year for their teams. We think they can do that at this level. J.P. Martignetti who is 6-2, 220, is a real strong player, while goalie Adam Roy was considered one of the best goalies in the North American League last year."
The strength of the team will be its depth in all three positions. "Anytime you are going to have decisions with lineups that means you have pretty good depth," said Pearl. "Depth is nice but it can't all be just average depth. We need depth in that all guys are good players, which is what I think we have. Six guys scoring 12 goals work just as well as three guys scoring 24 goals. We want to have a team that does not just have one or two good lines but four strong lines. If we have that type of team I think we will be really good."
The Crusaders are also expected to be a strong defensive team. "We have to get back to two goals a game against," said Pearl. "That has been our hallmark for 12 years so we will have to get back to that. The nice thing about two seasons ago is that not only did we have a great defense we also led the league in offense. So we want to be strong both ways."
Holy Cross will face a tough non-conference schedule once again this season with home games against Niagara (10/13), Merrimack (12/1) and Quinnipiac (1/19), while it will face Providence (10/20) on the road. The Crusaders will also participate in Vermont's TD Banknorth Tournament (12/29-30). Holy Cross will play the Catamounts in the first round and either Quinnipiac or Western Michigan the next day.
Atlantic Hockey is once again expected to have a lot of depth. "The balance of our league is tremendous," said Pearl. "I think there are numerous teams that can win the championship and represent our league in the NCAA Tournament. For us to be successful we have to be the most disciplined and the best defensive team in the league."
The Atlantic Hockey Tournament will now consist of a best two out of three opening round series, while all five winners will move onto Rochester, N.Y. After the two lowest remaining seeds play each other on March 14, the winner will advance to the semifinals on March 15. The championship game will be on March 16 with the winner earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Returning 11; Lost 5; Newcomers 5
The Crusaders return 11 forwards from a year ago and welcome five newcomers. Despite the graduation of Holy Cross' all-time Division I points leader James Sixsmith, the Crusaders have a good mix of experienced forwards and talented underclassmen.
Reinhardt enters the season with 38 career goals and 92 career points, as his 38 goals are tied for eighth on the Holy Cross Division I career list and his 92 points are ranked ninth. The center will be a major factor in setting up and scoring goals. "Dale is a great set up guy, but he also has a good knack for scoring goals," said Pearl.
Werry will also need to have a strong year for the Crusaders as he is coming off his most productive season as a Crusader. "I look for Matt to have a pretty big year for us offensively," said Pearl. "He is also a great penalty killer and a strong guy on the boards."
The three sophomores, Driscoll, Forshner and Sheahan, all had strong freshman seasons and are expected to be major contributors this year. Last season, Driscoll ranked fifth on the team in points with six goals and 11 assists for 17 points, while Sheahan was eighth with five goals and eight assists for 13 points and Forshner was tied for ninth with three goals and eight assists for 11 points. "Driscoll is really powerful and he can take the puck away, but he can also make some real good skill plays with the puck," said Pearl. "Forshner is very skilled. He is very fast and creative. Sheahan is a scorer. He finished really strong as he scored at least one point in five of our last eight games."
Thomson had a career season as a sophomore as he recorded seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, as his seven goals tied for fourth on the team. "Dewey is a really good shooter, skater, puck handler and passer," said Pearl. "He is a play maker and he also finished really strong last season."
On the penalty kill, Pearl expects Trovato and Tselikis to have great seasons. "I expect those two to be the best combination of penalty killers in the league," said Pearl. "They can both skate and they are both tough. They are also really good at blocking shots." Holy Cross will also need solid production from St. Denis, while Nantes, Lorinser, Brock, Jelinek, Martignetti and Sheen are all expected to contribute.
Returning 7; Lost 2; Newcomers 2
The Crusader defense is a veteran and talented group that is expected to be a strength of the team. Burke has played in all but two games in his career at Holy Cross and is coming off a season that saw him rank fourth on the team in points with two goals and 16 assists for 18 points. Pearl sees Burke, McAdam and Pinel as solid defensemen who should also add some kick to the offense.
O'Grady, Franklin, Gabriel, Marty Dams, Celin and Znutas are all expected to help the team defensively and add offense when necessary. Pearl is really excited about his group of defensemen. "All of our defensemen will help us keep the puck out of the net and also contribute on offense," said Pearl.
Returning 2; Lost: 1; Newcomers 1
Ian Dams and Lockwood return to the net this season, while Roy enters the program. The starting goaltending job will be up for grabs as all three goalies will be given the opportunity to earn playing time. Dams played in 18 games with 17 starts last season as he had a 3.23 goals against average in 985:27 with a 8-9-0 record. Dams was also named the Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week once.
Lockwood saw time in 10 games with nine starts and had a 3.52 goals against average in 579:17, while Roy played in 82 games in goal in two seasons for the Springfield Blues (NAHL) with a 3.30 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. He was named the NAHL Player of the Week twice last season.