1 Holy Cross vs. No. 4 Sacred Heart
HC: 21-9-4 overall (17-4-3) SHU: 14-16-5 overall (12-8-4) Season series: Holy Cross leads 2-1-0 Crusader fact: Senior forward Tim Coskren
won the Atlantic Hockey Sportsmanship Award this year, partly
because he took just three penalties in 24 league games.
Offensively, Coskren has 7-13-20 for the Crusaders, and
he will set the school record by playing in his 137th career
game Saturday. Pioneer fact: Three is the magic number
for the Pioneers, who ranked third in Atlantic Hockey in
scoring offense, scoring defense, power play efficiency
and penalty minutes in league games this season. Now, they're
hoping for a third win in West Point to reach their first
Holy Cross wins: Score the first goal. Sacred Heart
is 12-3-4 when scoring first this year, but only 2-13-1
when the opponent takes the first lead. The Crusaders' senior
class – led by Coskren, Jeff Dams, Greg Kealey, J.R.
Walker and R.J. Irving – must get the squad pumped
up beforehand and have everybody come out flying. How Sacred Heart wins: With another sterling
performance by junior goaltender Kevin LaPointe, who shut
down two of the better offensive teams in the league –
Connecticut and Mercyhurst – last weekend. LaPointe,
who has held off Devils draft pick Jason Smith for the No.
1 netminding job all year, stopped 46 of 48 shots last week
at West Point. The Pioneers, without an offensive star,
also need a steady, balanced attack from at least three
lines against Holy Cross' formidable defense.
Dams was a freshman on the Holy Cross team that endured an 8-22-2
season in 2000-01. But now, just three years later, he stands
a win away from earning a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. It certainly
has been quite a turnaround for the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Dams and
the other senior Crusaders during their time in Worcester. From
also-rans to regular-season Atlantic Hockey champions, the Crusaders
have but one more goal to meet this season: claiming the Atlantic
Hockey tournament championship and the automatic NCAA Tournament
bid it entails.
To get it,
Holy Cross will have to beat No. 4 seed Sacred Heart in the championship
game Saturday in West Point. Earlier this week, Dams spoke with
Inside College Hockey about his hopes for the title game, his
feelings on Worcester and a certain postseason awards snub, among
College Hockey: As a senior, you've been through some not-so-hot
years at Holy Cross. Does that make you appreciate this season
Dams: Certainly, when we started, we were not very good
at all. This is, by far, the most talented team I've been on.
I think the biggest difference between the team I was on as a
freshman and this year's team is that we're winning all the close
games – the one-goal games, the overtime games. The 1-0
games were the ones we were losing when I was a freshman. I think
we lost nine or 10 one-goal games that year. But now, we have
confidence that we're going to win them.
Did it take a few wins for you guys to build that confidence?
It wasn't just magically there at the start of the year, was it?
I knew we were going to be pretty good, but we weren't picked
to be first in the league or anything. I didn't know we would
do that. But as soon as we beat some teams we had had a little
trouble with in the past, our confidence shot up. When we went
to Mercyhurst and beat them twice, I knew we had a legit team.
What were you expecting at the beginning of the year? Be honest.
Well, I knew we had a good group coming back. The freshman class
that came in was really good, and the sophomore class worked hard
over the summer. Everybody came back in pretty good shape, and
I could tell we had something good. I knew we were going to be
a force, but I wanted to win a championship. Nothing less than
Does it surprise you that you might be able to get that championship
without having to play Mercyhurst or Quinnipiac in the Atlantic
The Quinnipiac (vs. Canisius) game was before us (Saturday),
and we got there for overtime. When I saw (Canisius) score in
OT, we were like, "What?" It's definitely strange not
to play either of them. I think Mercyhurst had been in the championship
game every year before this. So it's a surprise we don't have
to play them. But we can't take Sacred Heart lightly. They'll
be a good test.
This will be the third straight team you've played that is coming
off a major upset – AIC over tournament host Army, Canisius
over Quinnipiac and now Sacred Heart over Mercyhurst. Do you find
that teams coming off upsets generally carry a lot of momentum
into the next game, or does it swing the other way?
I think it's really easy to take that momentum and run with it.
Teams can build on that success. We were actually on the bus on
the way home when we found out (Sacred Heart) won. Me, Greg (Kealey),
R.J. (Irving) and some of the other seniors were in the back of
the bus and we were just like, "You know, it doesn't really
matter. We just have to worry about ourselves and everything will
be all right." Hopefully, we can avoid another upset, eh?
You're from Manotick, Ontario. How did you wind up at Holy Cross?
Coach (Paul) Pearl was pretty much the only person recruiting
me my second year of juniors and senior year of high school. In
Grade 12, I was recruited a little by some Ivy Leagues, but nothing
really serious. When Coach Pearl came, I knew Holy Cross was a
good school. I knew the hockey program wasn't great at the time,
but I thought I could step in and play. I was just ready to be
done with juniors and high school.
No regrets, right?
No. I love it here. My teammates are great. School's a lot of
work, I guess. But pretty much everyone walks out of here with
a job if they want one. It's a good place to be. Worcester's not
the best town, though.
What do you mean?
It's no Boston (laughs).
Are you planning on playing after this season, or are you hanging
Oh, I want to play. I really want to play in Europe,
but I've been told that players in our league usually have to
play a few years in the Coast (ECHL) to build their names up first.
Players in the Big Four conferences – like the CCHA, WCHA,
Hockey East and ECAC – have the advantage because of their
prestige. So I'll have to get my name out there. But, ultimately,
I just want to see the world a bit. Hockey got me here. Hopefully,
it can take me to Europe for a few years.
Last thing. You were named to the All-Atlantic Hockey team this
year. Was that a big deal for you?
Our ultimate goal is to win that game this weekend. I'll be happiest
when I have that ring on my finger. But I was very happy about
it. I'm surprised Greg [Kealey] wasn't named to the team. But
it's nice to get individual honors – it lets you know at
least all that work isn't for nothing.
Of course, you weren't on Inside College Hockey's all-league team...