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Shipping back from Boston, Yacovone lifts Cross

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Holy Cross Coach Kevin Goodspeed was in the locker room at Abe Stark Rink still trying to figure out line combinations for a decisive third game of a best-of-three CHSHL Class B semifinal series against archrival St. Francis Prep.

That’s because first-line forward and alternative captain Anthony Yacovone was with the Long Island Gulls nationals, a travel hockey team, at a college showcase in Walpole, Mass.

Suddenly, the tension was broken and Goodspeed’s decision was made clear. The door swung open and in walked Yacovone.

“I didn’t know he was coming,” Goodspeed said. “It was a nice surprise when he showed up.”

Yacovone did more than just show up. He had a goal and two assists to help lead the Knights to a 4-2 victory Saturday night. Holy Cross advances to the CHSHL ‘B’ championship series against Xavier. Game 1 is scheduled for Monday at the World Ice Arena in Flushing. Xavier swept St. Joseph by the Sea in the other semifinal series.

“We’ll relax tomorrow and we’re back to work on Monday,” Yacovone said. “If we just play our game we’ll be fine.”

Yacovone left with the Gulls on Friday night to the Boston-area college showcase. On Saturday, he came right back, taking the four-hour drive to Coney Island and arriving just 15 minutes before the opening face-off.

“That’s why he has a letter on his jersey,” Goodspeed said. “He was really torn about it, but he made a last-minute decision to be with his team. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I can’t say enough about him. I think the whole team just rose up when they saw him walk in.”

And that emotional burst carried over to the ice. Just 35 seconds into the game, Yacovone set up John Pagano for the first of his two goals.

Holy Cross (14-2-2) led 2-1 heading into the third period, but Yacovone and Pagano put the game away with two shorthanded goals in an eight-second span midway through the period. Patrick Schule, who scored four goals and set up two others in the opening game, pushed in his own rebound with 2:52 left in the third. But it was too little, too late for the Terriers, which end the season with a 10-8-0 record.

“Once you get that one, you’re fired up, but when you get two, it was all we needed,” Pagano said. “That put them in a tough spot.”

The Knights have shown a pension for scoring shorthanded goals. The aggressive approach on the penalty kill is a result of Holy Cross’ speed up front.

“We thought our forwards were a lot faster than their defensemen, so we told our forwards if they have a chance to pinch, go ahead and pinch and see if you can make something happen,” Goodspeed said.

They did that and more as Holy Cross rallied from a 6-5 loss in the opening game and a 2-1 deficit heading into the third period in Game 2 to capture the final two games in the first playoff edition of the Battle of the Boulevard.

“We’d rather win a championsh­ip,” Pagano said. “But this was kind of a small championsh­ip.”

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