February 24, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Holy Cross: Back in the Mix

by Timothy O'Donnell/CHN Reporter

It wasn’t that long ago when Holy Cross was the cream of the crop in Atlantic Hockey. From 2003 to 2006 the Crusaders won nearly 20 games every year and competed for the Atlantic Hockey Championship, capped by its upset of Minnesota in the NCAA tournament, a feat that seemed to pave the way for others to follow.

It’s been four years since the Crusaders have seriously contended for the title Atlantic Hockey Championship. But this year, the Crusaders are back and have clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming Atlantic Hockey Tournament.

And things are looking like they used to for the Crusaders on the ice. They are getting great play in net, good defensive play and, after a hiatus for a couple years, scoring, especially on the power play — where it is the best in Atlantic Hockey at 26.6 percent, ahead of the likes of Air Force, Niagara, and RIT.

“Our power play has gotten back to where it was a few years ago when we used to have good power plays,” coach Paul Pearl said.

That power-play attack has been lead by senior Everett Sheen and freshman Rob Linsmayer. Sheen has seven power-play goals while Linsmayer follows close behind with six. For Sheen, this marks his best year on the power play since his freshman year. In fact, it's his best year overall since he wasa freshman. As a result, when this season ends, Sheen could easily be a member of the 100-point club, becoming the just the ninth Crusader do it in Division I.

“I am close but I would go pointless the rest of the season if it meant we win,” Sheen said.

And for the first time since he arrived in Worcester, Sheen is playing on a winning team. This season the Crusaders have more wins than any of the previous three.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun winning,” Sheen said. “Last year was a little bit of a disappointment where we had a good team that, I thought, should have won a lot more games than we did. It’s nice to be on team that lives up to our potential.”

And that potential is just beginning to be unlocked. The Crusaders have a strong group of underclassmen rising through the ranks, ready to take over when Sheen and company graduate at the end of the year.

“It’s just the maturation of kids learning to play in the league and learning to play Division I hockey,” Pearl said. “Guys like (Kyle) Fletcher, Linsmayer, (Brandon) Nunn, and (Erik) Vos have come along this year and done better each day. And you can see them getting more confidence and more scoring opportunities, more goals, and better results for us.”

Fletcher, Linsmater, Nunn and Vos have all seen a significant increase their production, with Fletcher having the greatest. He had just four points with no goals last year to 30 points with 10 goals this year. Linsmayer has increased from 19 points to 32 points and Vos and Nunn have gone up to 15.

But they’re not the only underclassmen moving the Crusaders forward. Freshmen Shayne Stockton is showing signs of brilliance, producing 19 points, good for fourth on the team, in his first year.

And while there is a youth movement going on up front, in net the Crusaders are relying on senior Adam Roy. Roy ranks third in the conference with a 2.48 goals against average. But it took a while for Roy to get playing time. The Crusaders started the season with Thomas Tysowsky in net but he went 5-6 with a 3.76 goals against average. So Pearl made the switch to Roy.

“When he got the opportunity to get back in after Christmas, he’s just run with it,” Pearl said.

“He’s a really tough mentality kid and someone who has worked really hard to get the starting job and he plays like that. He plays like someone who’s worked hard to earn something and doesn’t want to lose it.”

Since then the Crusaders have gone 8-6-2 to vault up the standings. Roy has especially been playing well in the last month, leading the Crusaders to an undefeated stretch of nine games (7-0-2), the second longest streak in school history.

Even with the success, the Crusaders are still focused on what’s at hand. They can finish as high as second place, and that’s something they want.

“We want that second spot for sure,” Sheen said. “We want that home ice. It’s been our goal this entire season.”

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