November 20, 2003
Goals in Green

By James Jahnke

 Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

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It was good to be Paul Pearl last week.

Holy Cross' head honcho steered the Crusaders to an improbable sweep at Mercyhurst – gaining first place in Atlantic Hockey in the process – and also watched his protégé Pat Rissmiller make his NHL debut with the San Jose Sharks.

The double dose of good news has the bench boss in a darn cheerful mood heading into weekend games against UConn and Sacred Heart. But he's also realistic.

"We're working our way toward becoming a good team," Pearl said. "But we're far, far from that right now.

"Mercyhurst is one of the top two teams in our league year in and year out, so the sweep should do a lot for the confidence of our guys and getting them to believe in the systems. When we did things the way we were supposed to, we had some pretty good success last weekend. When we didn't, the puck was in our net an awful lot."

Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl

The Crusaders' 5-2 and 6-5 (ot) wins over the Lakers marked the program's first ever victories at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. They also helped make the teams' all-time series record look a little more respectable, although the Lakers still lead 10-3-1. Most importantly, however, they helped Pearl's squad (6-3-1, 6-0-1) open a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Hockey standings. Granted, the Crusaders have played four more games than Quinnipiac and two more than Mercyhurst – the teams tied for second place – but it's still impressive for a team that was a bottom-feeder at the turn of the millennium.

"These eight seniors I have here have seen almost everything in the last four years," Pearl said. "They've seen long winning streaks. They've seen long losing streaks. There's really nothing that could happen that would get them scrambling. After where they were as freshmen, to finish third the last two years and to be where we are right now means a lot to them."

Still on Pearl's wish list this year is to eliminate sloppy turnovers and somehow get the power play revved up. Four of the players on his top unit – Greg Kealey, Andrew McKay, Jeff Dams and R.J. Irving – have been playing together on the PP for four years. Yet, they're clicking a scant 9.8 percent right now. Freshman Jimmy Sixsmith (2-4-6) was recently added to spice up the quartet, and he responded with a man-advantage goal in Friday's win.

"The power play has been terrible in results and execution," Pearl said. "But a lot of it is the teams we've been playing. Teams with a very good PK. I think we're getting a little better, but we still have a long way to go."


Johnny On The Spot – If a defensive defensemen gets three or four goals in a span of five or six games, people usually ask him how he got on his offensive hot streak. And, as you might expect, he usually can't explain why. He's doing the same things he always does, but, for some reason, the puck is finding its way into the net.

Right now, Bemidji State junior John Haider is feeling that way. Never a big scorer, Haider is tied for the team lead with four goals. Dating to last year, Haider has popped in six goals in his last 14 contests. That's after potting just two in his first 64 games of college hockey. So, John, what gives?

"I'm just doing my job and getting the puck on net," Haider said. "I'm on the power play this year, which helps, but it just seems like the puck has eyes right now."

Haider, a 5-foot-10, 204-pounder from Forest Lake, Minn., scored the tying goal and set up the game-winner in the Beavers' 3-1 win over rival Minnesota-Duluth on Friday. The win was the program's first ever over a ranked team.

"It was exciting. The rink was just packed," Haider said. "There was a lot of energy. It was pretty huge for us and for me. Being from Minnesota, playing against the Gophers at their place my freshman year was a highlight, but this win was right up there."

Haider was also glad the Beavers didn't have a meltdown like they did following a victory over Duluth last year. A day after winning at the DECC, Bemidji came home and got bombed, 12-0. This year, Bemidji dropped Saturday's rematch – and the inaugural Babe the Blue Ox traveling trophy – by a slim 3-2 margin. Haider thinks the Beavers were the better team for all but 30 minutes this weekend and should have swept the Bulldogs.

They'll have another chance to prove themselves this weekend, as they head east for a pair at Merrimack (a rematch of the 1984 Division II national title game, which Bemidji won) on Saturday and Sunday and then games at UConn next Tuesday and Friday. The Beavers will miss a couple of days of class for the eastern trek.

Bronco busters – Complementing the Beavers' win, Niagara furthered College Hockey America's growing reputation by splitting a home series against Western Michigan last weekend. After falling 3-2 on the first night, Niagara battled back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 on Saturday.

Freshman forward Jeremy Hall provided most of the offensive punch by scoring the first two goals of the comeback. With 6-3–9 at the moment, the rookie from Mays Landing, N.J., is second on Niagara's roster in both goals and points.

Justin Cross netted the game-winner with 1:33 remaining Saturday. The goal boosted the Purple Eagles, who entered the third period down 2-1, to their first win in 30 games after trailing during the second intermission.

Great Lakes, great games – The Mitten State will accommodate two intriguing non-conference series this weekend as Wayne State heads to Michigan State and Mercyhurst plays a pair at Western Michigan.

Despite being separated by less than 90 miles, the Warriors have never played MSU. They're catching the Spartans at a good time, what with all of the injury problems in East Lansing, but Wayne State's defense doesn't match up very well with MSU's firepower. This game marks the start of a 12-game road trip for WSU, which will also see it play Brown, Colorado College, Denver and, possibly, North Dakota.

As for the series in Kalamazoo, Western is coming off the aforementioned come-from-ahead loss to Niagara, so you know the Broncos will be ready. But will they become complacent because they're at home? They logged more than 9,300 miles on road trips the last three weekends. For its part, Mercyhurst has a bad taste in its mouth from the Holy Cross series. And remember, the Lakers beat Ohio State in its building earlier this season.

Great Weekend Getaways
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Holy Cross at UConn (Fri.), Quinnipiac at UConn (Sat.)
The first-place Crusaders roll into Storrs for a rivalry tilt Friday. They'll be looking to avoid a letdown after an emotional sweep of Mercyhurst last weekend. With 31 goals apiece, HC and UConn are the two highest-scoring teams in Atlantic Hockey. Saturday's game will be part two of the three-game chase for the "Heroes Hat" traveling trophy. Quinnipiac holds a 1-0 lead in the series.

While you're there: UConn boasts the top-rated men's and women's basketball teams in the country, and both squads are hosting other hockey-playing schools on the hardcourt this weekend. The men play Sacred Heart at the Hartford Civic Center Saturday and the women host Western Michigan at Gampel Pavilion Sunday.

Stick Salute

For the fourth consecutive year, Air Force will collect toys for sick Colorado youth at November home games. Fans attending the Falcons' series against Niagara on Friday and Saturday are encouraged to bring stuffed toys wrapped in plastic. The gifts are to be thrown onto the ice after the first Air Force goal each night, so the plastic is needed to protect them. The toys will be distributed to children at local hospitals and clinics during the holidays. With each toy donation, adult fans will gain admission to the game for half price and children will be admitted for $1. In the first three years of the program, the Academy has collected more than 1,400 toys for charity.

Bench Minor

To the 38 people who didn't make it to Tate Rink in West Point Friday, costing Army a sellout. The paid attendance of 2,610 was a season-high for the Black Knights, but you know coach Rob Riley would have liked to have played in front of a capacity crowd. Perhaps the extra 19 couples will show up Friday against Quinnipiac, as Riley goes for his 300th career victory.


• After calling out three Atlantic Hockey teams for being winless last week, two of them responded with victories during the weekend. Sacred Heart swept a home-and-home from Army to improve its record to 2-6-0 and Canisius took three points from a trip to Bentley. The Golden Griffins are now 1-6-4. The third winless team, American International, even posted a tie at home against UConn, giving the Yellow Jackets (0-9-1) their first point of the year.

• Speaking of Canisius, Brian Cavanaugh's squad has played six overtime periods already this season. The Griffs are 0-2-4 in the extra session.

• Another note on AIC: The Yellow Jackets have been outshot 417-227 in 10 games this season. Not to pile on, but that's way too close to being doubled up, and I bet AIC goalies Chad Davis and Frank Novello would be the first guys to tell you that.

• Star Niagara forward Joe Tallari, widely considered the best player in the CHA, finally registered his first goal of the season Friday. That's the good news. The bad news is that it came during 6-on-4 play with 10 seconds left in the game.

• Shame on Bemidji State goalie Grady Hunt for being so solid Friday. By holding Minnesota Duluth to one goal, he prevented all four of the CHA's big nonconference games (BSU-UMD, Niagara-WMU) from ending in 3-2 scores.

Sacred Heart senior left wing Mike Reagan had a four-goal weekend against Army (a hat trick Friday and a single tally Saturday). Not bad for a guy who had only five markers in 34 games last season.

Findlay captain Kris Wiebe registered a hat trick in the Oilers' 6-5 win over Wayne State on Sunday. Two of the tallies came with a man-advantage as Findlay went 3-for-3 on the power play. The Oilers are converting at a .222 clip, good for second in the conference.

• In my haste last week, I forgot to mention that CSTV will air the Air Force at Army game live from West Point at 8 p.m. Jan. 16 as part of its Friday night game-of-the-week programming.

• Prior to the Holy Cross series, Mercyhurst hadn't been swept at home
by a league opponent in nearly four years. Quinnipiac (Jan. 7-8, 2000) was the last to do it.

• The Canisius-Bentley game in Waltham on Saturday was delayed almost an hour because of miscommunication between Bentley and the game officials. The officials (and the Boston Globe, for that matter) thought the game started at 7 p.m. It was actually scheduled for 4 p.m. It took 45 minutes to get everything straightened out.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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