Once seemingly invincible, the Holy Cross Crusaders have suddenly lost six consecutive games, dropping from second in the Atlantic Hockey standings all the way to seventh. The precipitous fall can be tied directly to one player in senior goaltender Matt Ginn.
Ginn’s presence in net has served to help cloud the Crsuaders’ weakness on offense. On most nights, they barely need to supply two or three goals of support for him to win.
But with Ginn out since the first period of a Jan. 10 visit to Canisius, the Crusaders have allowed 13 goals in four full games while only scoring nine themselves. Through it all, they have gone empty in two pivotal series with Mercyhurst and Robert Morris.
There has been no official disclosure on what is going on with Ginn, who managed 8:23 of play before giving way to Paul Berrafato that night in Buffalo. But if he continues to miss time, this Holy Cross team will likely continue to plummet in the standings.
With important contests continuing to come, including weekend sets against Bentley and the Rochester Institute of Technology to start February, it may be time to push the panic button in Worcester.
Weekly power ranking
1. Robert Morris
The Colonials took care of business this weekend in Worcester, beating the aforementioned Crusaders in a pair of one-goal decisions, 4-3 and 2-1.
The top line of Cody Wydo, Scott Jacklin and Zac Lynch accounted for two goals in each game, and now they sit with 34, 23, and 28 points respectively.
With the sweep of regional rival Niagara, the Golden Griffins keep their second spot in the standings and now have a little separation between themselves and third-place Mercyhurst.
Both Ralph Cuddemi and Shane Conacher have been big-time players for the Griffins this season, each racking up 29 points to spur this revitalized offense through the first 26 games.
Much like Holy Cross, the Lakers are suddenly facing issues in net. Senior goaltender Jimmy Sarjeant has missed the past two weekends, and Mercyhurst has not been playing very well without him. That trend continued this past weekend, when it managed only one point out of four from Sacred Heart.
The Lakers have more offensive talent than Holy Cross, so they may not be in as much trouble as the Crusaders going forward. But without their top goaltender, they most assuredly will struggle.
4. Air Force
The Falcons have officially hit their stride, going 6-1-1 in their last eight games after a 5-12-2 start to the season. With a sweep weekend of American International, they have jumped from sixth to fourth in the Atlantic Hockey standings.
The key players of late have been Cole Gunner and the freshmen goaltender Connor Girard. The former supplied the overtime winner Friday night, while the latter has won each of his starts this season for a 3-0-0 record.
The Falcons split with RIT at home this past weekend, following a 2-1 win with a 5-2 loss and looking inconsistent throughout the six-period scope of the series.
A couple of weird bounces and poor plays by the Tigers goaltenders led to Bentley’s four goals. Gabe Antoni played well in net on Friday night but the onslaught of Matt Garbowsky and company was too much for him on Saturday night.
The key for Bentley will be their goaltending every week. They are going to score goals, but still need to settle the situation in net, where Antoni and Jayson Argue have each made nine starts, Blake Dougherty seven.
6. Rochester Institute of Technology
After salvaging a split with the Falcons on the road, the Tigers look more like a secondary fifth than a true No. 6 in the AHA rankings.
Garbowsky continues to play at a phenomenal level, and now has 32 points on the season to lead the team. Much like Bentley, though, the key for RIT is in the cage, where both Jordan Ruby and Mike Rotolo have seen their share of time and handled it well of late.
However, the problem that has plagued both of them is the soft goals they tend to give up, as was the case at times again this past weekend.
7. Holy Cross
The Crusaders plummet in the power rankings on the heels of enduring a third straight sweep by an Atlantic Hockey rival. The aforementioned woes in net are the root cause of these issues, and time will tell as to how Holy Cross adjusts.
8. Sacred Heart
The Pioneers remain in the hunt after taking three points from Mercyhurst. Alex Vazzano highlighted the weekend in net, backstopping the 2-2 tie on Friday, then adding an assist to his 38 saves on Saturday night in a 5-1 rout.
The Black Knights essentially had the weekend off, save for a Saturday night exhibition against the Royal Military Academy. They do have a contest coming up on Tuesday against a weak Princeton squad, though.
A victory against that opponent may not help much in terms of Atlantic Hockey’s interleague record, but it could not hurt.
10. American International
The Yellow Jackets could not hold out against an Air Force squad that was hungry and desperate for wins. They played very well Friday night forcing overtime before dropping the 2-1 decision, then sputtered Saturday for a 6-2 loss.
AIC sits only one point behind Army, meaning it still has an opportunity to move up in the standings. But with a seven-game winless streak, dating back to a home-and-home with those Black Knights, the Yellow Jackets may have to get used to being at the bottom.
Given how awful this season has been for Niagara, its fans were looking for mere solace in the form of a win against rival Canisius.
Alas, no relief is in sight. The Purple Eagles dropped both contests in the Battle of the Bridge set, continuing their descent.
Photo credit: Mark Seliger