Hockey falls to rival Niagara

By Alex Beilman

Sports Reporter

The Canisius College Golden Griffins men’s ice hockey team opened the defense of its Atlantic Hockey championship title with a tough loss to the rival Niagara University Purple Eagles. The Griffs had two different three-goal leads, but four unanswered Niagara goals over the last two periods proved to be too much, and the Griffs fell to 0-1-0 in the young season.

“We as coaches were really happy with the open ice offense. We really felt that we exposed ourselves defensively. We were easy to play against,” Griffins head coach Dave Smith said. “The team, tough defense was not there.”

Tyler Wiseman opened the scoring for the Griffs with a shorthanded goal. After a turnover forced by Matthew Grazen at the Niagara blue line, Grazen hit Wiseman with a pass in the slot, who ripped it over Teichroeb’s shoulder.

Taylor Law continued the offensive show for the Griffs at the 9:00 mark of the first on the powerplay. Rookie Shane Conacher got a pass over to sophomore Ralph Cuddemi, who threw the puck at the net with Law on the doorstep. Teichroeb made the initial stop, but Law made no mistake when he jammed the puck into the net.

Returning leading scorer, senior Kyle Gibbons, kept the ball rolling just 2:02 later after another Niagara penalty. Gibbons took a short pass from Ben Danford in his own end and took over from there. He carried it down the left wing, walked right into the Niagara zone, and put his wrist shot top shelf from the high slot to put the Griffs up 3-0.

“It’s nice to get the monkey of your back in the first game, Gibbons said of notching his first goal so early this season. “We have some really good forwards. Shane [Conacher] I think he’s going to be good. You look at Tyler Wiseman, he’s ready to break out. [Matthew] Grazen is ready to break out. Anybody can score a lot of goals on this team.”

Niagara was not able to get one past Tony Capobianco until just about two minutes after Gibbons goal. Brock Edwards won a faceoff back to Matt Dineen in the Canisius end. Dineen, not seeing an open shooting lane, fired the puck off the back boards and the awkward bounce snuck behind Capobianco before he could react and it was 3-1.

However, it was less than two minutes later that Doug Beck got Canisius its three-goal lead back. After a lengthy possession in the Niagara end, Cuddemi attempted a wraparound. The shot was stopped, but junior Mitch McCranck got the puck to an open Wiseman in the slot, who fired it home.

With just under a minute to go, though, Niagara crept back within two as T.J. Sarcona tipped a Dineen wrist shot to end the period with Canisius leading 4-2.

That last minute goal seemed to be the spark the Purple Eagles needed. They had been outshooting the Griffs 17-8, but they’re outstanding conversion rate gave them a decent lead.

“We were dominating. First 11 minutes: we were outplaying them. They converted on almost every opportunity. When you’re playing like that, you forget about the scoreboard and just hope the scoreboard gets you through,” Purple Eagles head coach David Burkholder said.

“It felt like we were up, and it felt great. As coaches, what we want, and I know our players want it as well, is to battle, battle, battle,” Smith said. “We’ll learn the lesson, but we did not put ourselves in enough battles, in enough areas, to outnumber them, to win.”

Goaltender Adrian Ignagni started the second period for the Purple Eagles. He would end up being part of the remedy, stopping all 18 shots that he faced through two periods of play.

It was a too many men on the ice penalty four and a half minutes into the second period that put the Griffs on their second penalty kill. Just 20 seconds later, Kevin Ryan ripped a shot over Capobianco’s left shoulder with a screen in front and got the Purple Eagles within one.

With just 2:24 left in the second, Canisius got its sixth opportunity on the man advantage with a 4-3 lead. However, a turnover at center ice led to a two-on-two rush for Niagara. Chris Lochner got outside position and snuck a shot short side on Capobianco to tie the game at 4-4 with 25 seconds left in the period.

The Griffs got an opportunity to reopen a lead, as Patrick Divjak got whistled two minutes for cross checking Kyle Gibbons in front of the Niagara net. Instead, they found themselves trailing by the time the two minutes was up.

Defenseman Duncan McKellar attempted to keep in a Niagara clearing attempt. Rather than stopping in his skates, the puck took an incredibly wild bounce over McKellar and into the neutral zone, where Niagara’s Ryan Rishad was alone. He skated in and scored a goal on Capobianco’s short side. It was 5-4 25 seconds into the third period and that would prove to be enough. Niagara added an empty net goal with 13.5 seconds left to seal the 6-4 win.

Notes:

Freshman forward Shane Conacher left the game in the middle of the first period with an apparent facial injury after taking a high hit in the neutral zone. Smith had no updates on Conacher except that he had immediately gone to the hospital and that it was some type of facial injury.

The Griffs have a tough road ahead. Their next five games will be on the road, including games at Airforce, at Miami of Ohio, and at Robert Morris. Their first home game is not until Nov 9.

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