The Takeaway: Holy Cross continues Atlantic Hockey challenge with win over Niagara

Posted by: Michael King

WORCESTER — Holy Cross defeated Atlantic Hockey leading Niagara Friday night at the Hart Center, 5-3. The loss ended a run of form for the visitors, which yielded 11 wins in 13 games and sent the Purple Eagles to the top of the league standings.

The Crusaders dominated puck possession at times and exposed a poor goaltending performance from the Purple Eagles. Senior Brandon Nubb scored two goals for Holy Cross and sophomore Matt Ginn made 38 saves for the victors.

What I Saw

The second period was marked by unusual goals — and certainly ones that the goalies from each team would like the chance to stop again. Early in the frame, Albers attempted to insert the puck into the offensive zone from the near blue line seconds before a line change. It bounced awkwardly into the crease and through Ginn’s legs. Then immediately before the end of the period, the Crusaders experienced luck of their own. Nunn took the puck into the zone and sent it towards Chubak. Just as before on the opposite end, the junior let the puck slowly slide through his legs.

“Each goalie probably had one goal they’d like to have back,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said. “It looks like an easy save, but [the Niagara goal] likely took a funny hop as it reached the net.”

In the first period, Holy Cross jumped out to an early 2-0 lead behind goals from Kaplan and Bolton. The freshmen defensive pairing created the opportunities from the point, with each launching shots towards a primarily-shielded Purple Eagle goalie. Chubak struggled with this lack of vision early, stopping only five of seven shots faced in the stanza.

What I Thought

With better goaltending for the Purple Eagles, a different result was likely. Starter Carsen Chubak began the third period on the bench after Niagara coach Dave Burkholder inserted junior Cody Campbell to give his team a lift. Chubak started the season with strong play, allowing one goal or less nine times over his first 12 games. However, during the next eight — including Friday night — he’s allowed one goal or less only once. The Purple  Eagles need to get their goaltending situation solved if they hope to maintain their grasp on the conference standings.

The Crusaders have played well against some of the better teams in the nation this season. They defeated Yale on December 30, then played competitive hockey against North Dakota the next weekend. From their play last night, it was clear the team has a very good chance of winning Atlantic Hockey. Though the remaining schedule is difficult, the Crusaders have the experience and talent to take the league title.

What They Said

Pearl on his team’s defensive performance: “I thought we did a good job of getting back above the puck, so when they got breaks we had numbers back.”

Pearl on the second half of the two-game series against the Purple Eagles: “I think going forward we have to act like tonight didn’t happen. Tomorrow I’m sure they will come out with even more so definite determination, especially since it was their first loss in the league.

Pearl on the challenge of Atlantic Hockey’s depth: “The last few years the standings have come down to a bunch of teams bunched up near the top. So every point is important and we need to come back and get two more points tomorrow.

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