After spending his first 22 games of the year down in South Carolina of the ECHL, defenseman and 2007 second round pick Tommy Cross provided a spark in his return to the Providence Bruins Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center against the Connecticut Whale.
Not only was the former Boston College standout in the starting lineup pairing with Matt Bartkowski, but the ex-Eagle notched a key assist in the second period for his first career AHL point. Cross earned the secondary assist on Jamie Tardif’s first of two goals – on a double deflection – at 14:44 of the middle stanza to tie the game up at 2-2. Just 1:09 later, fellow defenseman David Warsofsky scored the game-winner; while Tardif gave the Baby B’s insurance at 5:15 of the third to complete the 4-2 triumph and snap the Whale’s four-game winning streak.
“That was just a throw it at the net play,” said Cross, who was originally credited for a goal on the tying marker in the second. “It hit a shinpad and then it Tardif tipped it, so it was a good play by him. It was a good play by that line, they grinded it down low and it got to the point. So all in all it was a great effort.
“It was great to get out there and get used to the pace and get a good win,” Cross added about his return. “I thought it was a well-played game from our team.”
While Cross was excited to get his first AHL point, he was even more satisfied when Warsofsky notched his second goal of the season just 69 seconds later to give the Baby B’s momentum heading into the third period.
“Plays like that [by Warsofsky], when you make those it certainly lifts the team,” said Cross, who had four shots on goal and was a plus-2 Friday. “It lifted the spirit of the team and it helped to put us ahead by a goal.”
It took awhile for Cross to return to Rhode Island’s capital but in his first game back he seems to be back in a comfort zone.
In 22 games with South Carolina, Cross tallied 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) and Baby Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was hopeful that he could display his offensive stats up to Providence. Certainly it took Cross to get back into the swing of things, but he, and fellow rookie Alden Hirschfeld, who scored his second goal in four games just 2:47 into the second period to tie the game at 1-1. both provided an offense spark to a team that had been struggling to score goals all year.
“Tommy was good tonight getting his shot through,” Cassidy said. “We don’t score four goals very often and when we do we usually get it from our top end talent. But good for us to score some goals and I think we were rewarded tonight.”
That said, Cassidy still sees some areas where Cross can improve.
“I thought he was battling in the tops of the circle in the defensive zone,” he said. “I thought there was a few plays in the neutral zone where he could have grabbed the puck and be a little more assertive. But I think that’s normal. It’s his first game back and you don’t want to be a go-getter and be too relaxed. So we’ll find that fine line for him.
“Offensively, he has added that down in South Carolina and we were hoping he’d bring that element and he got on the scoresheet today.”
At the start of the season, Cross’ intent was to play a full season in Providence and develop his game as a two-way defenseman. However, despite being ranked as the fourth best blue-liner in the Bruins system by Hockey’s Future, he wasn’t too demoralized when it was announced that he’d start the year in South Carolina.
Cross certainly did his part to shine in the ECHL, and hopes to continue his successful season up in Providence.
“I don’t think it threw me off much,” Cross said about starting the season with the Stingrays. “I think my intention was to start the season here [in Providence], but its part of the sport. I knew it was a possibility and when I found out I focused on what they told me. It’s all part of the game. I think if you ask anyone you don’t get caught up by surprise.”
If Friday was any indication, then Cross could have a prominent role on the Baby B’s back end for the 2012-13 season.