Holy Cross men’s hockey team breaks into national rankings

These are heady times for the Holy Cross hockey team. The Crusaders (10-4-2) are one of just two teams in Atlantic Hockey to crack double digits in victories so far.

And in this week’s USCHO.com Division 1 poll, Holy Cross moved into No. 20 — the school’s first ranking since March 13, 2006.

The team has lost back-to-back games only once this season — on Nov. 25 and 30 — but since then, it has put together a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1). The Crusaders’ latest victory was a 5-4 thriller over Yale at home Dec. 30.

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Next up is a tough assignment: a two-game set at No. 7 North Dakota Friday and Saturday, followed by two at Mercyhurst, which is tied for second with Holy Cross and Army in the conference standings.

Holy Cross hasn’t relied on one player or one line for scoring. Seven Crusaders have 10 or more points. And sophomore goaltender Matt Ginn has been a stable presence in net with a 9-3-2 record, a 2.90 goals-against average, and a .909 save percentage.

Coach Paul Pearl said one area where the team has improved is on the man advantage.

“Our power play is getting better,’’ said Pearl. “If we don’t score three power-play goals [against Yale], we don’t score five overall, so that’s been very helpful.’’

Holy Cross has converted on seven of its last 20 power plays in the last three games, all wins.

At even strength, Pearl said, the Crusaders are getting contributions from everyone.

“We’ve really got three top lines, and our fourth group is younger but also pretty good, so we’re able to roll out [four] so you don’t wear out your top guys,’’ said Pearl. “We’ve got either three or four freshman defensemen playing every night and I think those guys have really come along and played pretty well.”

Pearl said the young blue liners have been aided by Ginn’s strong puck-handling skills.

“He’s been solid throughout the season,’’ said the coach. “His ability to get out and make plays with the puck for us really takes some heat off of our [defense].”

Pearl said being ranked is good for the Crusaders’ confidence.

“Program-wise, it’s always great,’’ he said. “It gets your name in the paper more often and next to some really good clubs.

“It certainly is fantastic and it’s a good bonus for how hard my guys have worked this season and in past seasons.’’

Pearl said the fact that No. 18 (Niagara) and No. 19 (Robert Morris) are also from Holy Cross’s conference says a lot about Atlantic Hockey.

“It shows that our league is getting better,’’ he said. “I don’t think anyone is going to confuse us [with] Hockey East any time soon, but at the same time, we’re competitive with everybody in the country and certainly that continues to just get better each season.’’

For captain Erik Vos, a senior forward, this year’s ride has been a special one so far. The ranking, he said, has spurred their enthusiasm.

“I think it’s really exciting for the guys,’’ said Vos, native of Carlisle, Ontario. “Personally, for the seniors, we’ve never seen ourselves ranked in the top 20. We’ve gotten close a couple of times but to crack it is pretty exciting for us.

“It’s also a good confidence builder not only for the senior class but for the rest of the classes. Beating Yale gave us an extra boost of confidence as well going into this weekend, playing another ranked team.’’

Kick in the pants

Boston College suffered a serious blow to its defensive corps when senior Patch Alber injured his right knee last Saturday during the team’s pregame soccer match, which players use to warm up. Alber underwent surgery to repair a displaced lateral meniscus and will be sidelined three months. Junior Isaac MacLeod missed last weekend because of a shoulder injury suffered against Providence Dec. 7. The No. 2 Eagles (12-3-1) will look to rebound from an 8-1 loss to Minnesota Sunday when they host Yale (7-4-2) Friday night. On a happier note, senior forward Steven Whitney has 101 career points, joining older brother Joe Whitney in the Eagles’ 100-point club. The Whitneys are the second set of siblings under coach Jerry York to reach that milestone. The first was Ben and Patrick Eaves . . . Quinnipiac puts its 8-0 conference record on the line against Dartmouth Friday night. The Bobcats (14-3-2) are coming off a pair of nonconference victories over Nebraska-Omaha. Quinnipiac is led by senior forward Jeremy Langlois, who has 10 goals and 10 assists in 18 contests. Senior Eric Hartzell has been stellar in goal with a 14-2-2 record, a 1.43 goals-against average, and a .935 save percentage. The Bobcats have given up just nine goals in league action, fewest in ECAC play, and have scored a league-best 31 in eight outings.

BU streak is over

Boston University was shut down by Denver, 6-0, in its first outing after the break. That ended the Terriers’ streak of not being shut out at 125 games, which was the longest streak in the country. Minnesota now has the longest at 62 . . . New Hampshire heads into the weekend with the nation’s top penalty-killing team at 94.9 percent . . . Northeastern’s victory at Harvard Saturday marked the first time in six trips the Huskies had won there. It was their first win over the Crimson since Jan. 12, 1978. It was NU’s first trip to Bright Hockey Center since Dec. 19, 1999.