Atlantic Hockey Semifinals
Offense came from the strangest places
as Holy Cross and Bentley advanced
Cross 4, Connecticut 1
Bartlett, J. Landry
Solberg, S. Erickson
Napert-Frenette, R. Godfrey
Napert-Frenette, S. Nappo
Sixsmith, S. Nappo
Brad Smith, 58:34, 25 saves, 4 GA
Tony Quesada, 59:42, 37 saves, 1 GA
CT 6/12; HC 8/16
Plays: CT 0-7; HC 1-5
WORCESTER, Mass. – In a league chock
full of outstanding goal scorers, the name James “Bubba”
Sixsmith is not instantly recognizable. Sixsmith is Holy
Cross’ fireplug, a guy who kills penalties, works
hard and usually sets up more goals than he scores himself.
On Atlantic Hockey Semifinal Friday, however,
Sixsmith showed that he is someone to reckon with on the
ice. Sixsmith scored a short-handed goal, a power-play goal
and set up an even-strength tally by linemate Pierre Napert-Frenette
as top-seeded Holy Cross ran away from sixth-seeded Connecticut,
4-1, and gained a berth in the championship finals for the
second time in three seasons.
“Bubba is a great hockey player for
us,’’ praised coach Paul Pearl. “It was
nice to see him have success tonight.’’
Pearl wasn’t kidding when he said Sixsmith
was “snakebit” in the goal-scoring department
– he had just two goals in eight February games. March
is going a lot better for him. Two weeks ago, he scored
the tying goal and set up the game winner with 1:03 to play
to lift Holy Cross to a 3-2 win over Bentley, the same team
the Crusaders are playing in the title game.
Sixsmith had an assist in the season finale
with American International, and saved his best for the
Tied at 1-1 early in the second period, Sixsmith
made a half-ice dash and beat Connecticut goalie Brad Smith
to the short side with the short-handed goal and ultimate
game-winner at the 5:24 mark. Ninety-five seconds later,
Sixsmith positioned himself out front of Smith and knocked
in the rebound of a shot by Napert-Frenette for a 3-1 lead.
It was Sixsmith’s 100th career point.
Holy Cross survived a 5-on-3 penalty kill
late in the second period, thanks to the play of Matt Burke,
Blair Bartlett, Jon Landry and Marc Bianchi, and maintained
its 3-1 lead. Goalie Tony Quesada made five of his 37 stops
while two men down.
Sixsmith worked a 2-on-1 break with Napert-Frenette,
froze Smith and delivered the perfect pass for a shot that
beat Smith over his right shoulder for a 4-1 lead at 6:29
of the third.
Sixsmith was banged up a bit during the game
and was unavailable for comment afterwards.
“We started a little slow and then played
a very, very good second and third periods,’’
Pearl said. “I thought UConn took it to us a bit but
we were able to withstand it and go from there.’’
3, Mercyhurst 2 2OT
Borelli, S. Champagne
Dickhudt, P. Markarian
Dickhudt, J. Chase
Cottreau, D. Kirstein
Ray Jean, 80:58, 37 saves, 2 GA
Tyler Small, 80:58, 53 saves, 3 GA
BC 13/26; MC 14/28
Plays: BC 1-11; MC 0-10
When second-seeded Mercyhurst and fourth-seeded
Bentley headed into overtime knotted at 2-2, the Lakers
had history on their side. During last season’s playoffs,
Mercyhurst knocked off Holy Cross in the semifinals and
then nipped Quinnipiac in the finals – both were 3-2
scores and both came in overtime.
With no decision through 20 minutes, the edge
may have shifted to Bentley. Only six days earlier, the
Falcons needed 34-plus minutes of extra time to dispatch
Army in the quarterfinals.
Bentley didn’t wait that long this time
around. Jaye Judd scored just 58 seconds into the second
overtime to lift the Falcons into their first Atlantic Hockey
final and put an end to Mercyhurst’s quest to repeat
as league champion.
In a terrific goaltender battle, Mercyhurst
freshman Tyler Small made a tournament-record 53 saves and
Bentley junior Ray Jean made 37 stops.
Judd, a sophomore out of Manitoba, had not
scored a goal all season and he came up with two in the
“I don’t know … I guess
the puck had eyes on a couple of those,’’ Judd
said. “I try to do my best to get my shot through
and tonight I happened to get fortunate that two of them
Said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist: “For
him to score two goals and the double-overtime winner was
The winning goal came on a 3-on-2 break. Paul
Markarian fed Brett Murphy. Judd was calling for the puck
on the left side but his defense partner had the open shot
and took it. The shot was wide and caromed off the backboards
and came out on the right side.
|Jaye Judd's first two goals of
the season have Bentley one win away from the NCAA Tournament.
“It was rolling on its side,’’
Judd noted, “and I felt the goalie was trying to get
across so I just put everything I had into it. I think it
hit the side of his shoulder and went into the top corner.
… I was basically scrambling to get to the puck as
quick as I could before goalie got a chance to get set up
Asked if he would petition to play forward
in the future, Judd politely declined.
“I would be clueless up there, running
around like a chicken with his head cut off,’’
Both teams had scoring chances through the
first 40 minutes but the only tally came from Atlantic Hockey
Player of the Year Jamie Hunt. The defenseman was behind
the goal and tried a jam shot. Jean stuffed the first attempt
but Hunt persevered and poked in a rebound at 16:55 of the
Judd tied the score at 2:55 of the third period
on a slap shot from the point that may have nipped Small’s
shoulder and snuck under the crossbar while Small was hunched
trying to see his way through traffic.
Marc Zwicky gave the Falcons a lead at 7:53
when he chased down a rebound and threw a puck out front
which appeared to deflect off the skate of Scott Champagne
in front. Denis Kirstein set up Mercyhurst’s tying
goal with 4:23 to play when he pinched in from his defensive
position and threw a no-look pass to Ben Cottreau. His pass
toward the side of the net was poked in by Champagne.
Soderquist said it was a beautiful goal but
noted his skaters were on the ice for a long shift because
they failed to clear the zone.
INCH's Three Stars of the Night
Tony Quesada, Holy Cross
award season so it must be time to hand out the “Tony’s.”
Quesada continues to show why he is a big-money goaltender
with his 37-save performance against Connecticut.
James Sixsmith, Holy Cross
“Bubba” produced a short-handed
goal, a power play goal and assisted on another to
lift the Crusaders over Connecticut.
Jaye Judd, Bentley
Are you kidding us? Judd entered the semifinal
playoff with no goals … oh-for-the season, none,
nada, zip (you get the point). In Bentley’s
biggest playoff game in history, Judd scores a pair,
including the double-overtime winner.
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE HART CENTER
• A Harty crowd: The crowd was lined
three-deep around the boards and the stands were full at
the Hart Center. The pro-Crusader crowd was very boisterous,
especially when a slew of Holy Cross players were headed
to the box, prompting rants at the officials.
“It was unbelievable,’’
Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said. “It was a pretty
great atmosphere and rocking from the beginning. That was
a nice thing, a good home-ice advantage.’’
• Getting the call: The referee assignments
went to Brian Panek (first game) and Ed Boyle (second game).
• Calls them as he sees them: Ed Boyle
wasn’t afraid to use the whistle – he doled
out 27 minor infractions, including five in the first overtime
period. Neither power play unit did themselves proud –
ninth-ranked Bentley was 1-for-11 with the man advantage
and top-ranked Mercyhurst was 0-for-10.
• Falcon props: Bentley hero Jaye Judd
said he has “never won anything big like this,’’
though his Canadian junior team lost in the league finals.
“This is huge,’’ Judd said
of Bentley’s ride to the finals. “Everyone had
written us off at the start of the year and start of playoffs.’’
• Off the air: Technical difficulties
kept two of the three radio broadcasts off the air for the
first period of their respective games. Things didn’t
get much better for the Connecticut student radio station,
WHUS, whose play-by-play announcer was befuddled by missing
numbers on the Holy Cross roster. The confusion was his
own because he was using the Mercyhurst roster until he
was corrected by his studio mates between the second and
Bentley and Holy Cross met just two weeks
ago. Both were tightly contested one-goal decisions. Tony
Quesada won a 1-0 duel on March 3 and Pierre Napert-Frenette
picked up a power play goal with 63 second to go to lift
the Crusaders to the 3-2 win on March 4. Holy Cross also
prevailed over Bentley, 2-1 and 4-1, on Feb. 3-4.
“We’re excited about the matchup,’’
Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist said. “We match up extremely
well with Holy Cross.’’
Pearl said his team will have to do a good
job in its own zone because Bentley forechecks hard. The
Falcons like to send the puck deep and work off the backboards
– much the way they produced the game-winner in overtime
“You have to be very, very thorough
in your zone against those guys,’’ Pearl said.
A victory for Bentley would bring its first
championship. Holy Cross is shooting for its third.
“It’s a great hallmark for your
program,’’ said Pearl, referring to what a championship
would mean. “To be able to win and beat some really
good teams to get there, we would be very proud. Our big
thing is we like to be in the hunt every year. For five
straight years we’ve been in the hunt. We have this
last game and we would like to do well with it.’’