BC's Cross to Fear
Eagles Physical Captain Sets Team on Course for Tampa
by Jill Saftel/CHN Reporter
WORCESTER, Mass. In a conference with top scoring defensemen like Boston University’s Garrett Noonan and Hobey Baker finalist Brian Dumoulin, Tommy Cross doesn’t necessarily stand out among the league's best. His consistent play and leadership, however, make him the core of another successful BC team.
That leadership is talked about to a point where it often overshadows his play on the ice, but Cross' physical performance has led the Eagles into the final game of the Northeast Regional. The Eagles rode a strong effort, led by Cross' play on the blue line, to a 2-0 win over Air Force Saturday afternoon.
"He's an outstanding leader for us, and I appreciate that for the players, but his play has been, I think, deserving of all league consideration. He did not make that first or second team in our league, but I certainly think he's in that mix of players, some of the very best defensemen in Hockey East," BC coach Jerry York said.
Cross is no stranger to success as an Eagle defenseman; he was a part of his third Hockey East championship in his fourth year at BC on Mar. 17 and saw the national title in 2010.
"He's probably one of the most consistent players on our team, game in, game out. The thing is, even if he’s having a bad game, you don’t notice it, because he's just that consistent,” sophomore defenseman Isaac MacLeod said. "He's always making the smart plays, the right plays. Even if he's not having one of his best games, he's trying as hard as he can, and he’s vocal on the bench; so he’s both a really good player and a great leader for us.”
Cross began his career as an Eagle as an extremely physical defenseman, but said he worked to hone in on improving each skill set to create the well rounded game that defensemen need; he has 23 points on the season.
"I worked a lot with the coaches on making smart plays and my reach offensively, and then also my reach defensively and my play in my own zone. I'm still working to put it all together, it's definitely a work in progress, but I think I'm making some huge strides," Cross said.
The Eagles ran into trouble in late January when they travelled north to face Maine in two games in Orono. Coming off a Frozen Fenway win against Northeastern, BC fell twice to the Black Bears, 4-3 and then 7-4.
MacLeod said it was Cross who was able to get the team back on track after suffering the two road losses.
"When we were up in Maine, we had those two losses right before our win streak, and, after the game, he kind of gave us his little talk and straightened us out. Since then it's been all good," McLeod said.
Whatever Cross said apparently did the trick, because BC hasn't lost since that 7-4 defeat to Maine on Jan. 21.
While McLeod credits Cross as the leader who has propelled the Eagles into postseason success this year, with four other seniors, the captain sees the team’s leadership system in a different light.
"I think it's not even my leadership, it's the leadership of other guys. I do what I do and kind of lead the way maybe, but it wouldn't be effective if we didn't have 10 or 15 other guys that are just as effective at keeping the group together and really promote what I say and follow my lead,” Cross said. "We've got a lot of guys that follow my lead but also lead in their own way."
This group style of leadership that Cross encourages has certainly translated to the ice for BC, as it enters Sunday's Northeast Regional final against Minnesota-Duluth having won 16 consecutive games, allowing 1.18 goals per game in that stretch.
Despite the high stakes of tomorrow’s matchup, MacLeod said Cross' style of leading the team never comes off as overbearing, and allows each player to add something to the Eagles' collective mindset.
"He knows when he needs to lead, and he knows when he needs to let others lead, which is a positive," MacLeod said. "If other people have something to say or need to say something, he's willing to let them take the lead for a second and sit in the shadows, but when he needs to be there, he's there."