Ousted in Rochester: Griffs’ season ends with 2-1 loss to RIT

by CJ Gates

Sports Editor

There were a lot things for the Griffs to overcome last Friday night as they took on the lower-seeded Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers.

First, the Griffs were technically considered the home team in the matchup because they came into the game as the higher-seed. But, as always the final two rounds of the Atlantic Hockey tournament are played at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.. So when the Griffs drew the Tigers as their semi-final opponent, it was clear that Griffs would be in enemy territory for the game despite it taking place at a “neutral venue.”

The first period looked like it would end in a scoreless tie, however with less than 30 seconds to play in the period, RIT opened the scoring when their top line, consisting of Brad McGowan, Josh Mitchell, and Matt Garbowsky, combined to beat Griffs goalie Keegan Asmundson late in the first period.

It’s no surprise that that trio combined on the tally as all three of RIT’s first line skaters rank in the top-12 in scoring in college hockey.

Canisius was able to tie the game midway through the second period when Shane Conacher corralled a rebound given up by Tigers goalie Jordan Ruby and fired it past the keeper to knot the game at one.

The game would remain tied until the later stages of the second period when RIT controversially took the lead. Carrying the puck down the right wing, Tigers forward Andrew Miller seemed to enter the zone after teammate Danny Smith, which should have resulted in the play being ruled offside. However, play was allowed to continue and the Tigers scored a goal immediately after entering the zone on the non-call by the linesman.

Normally, a play like that is reviewable, however before the game both team’s were alerted that that exact play would not be reviewable for this game as there was a malfunction with the cameras in the arena.

“The league and the commissioner came to us before the game and said offsides are not going to be reviewable because there was a camera malfunction in the building,” Head Coach Dave Smith said after the game. “So as soon as that happens you know you think well I hope that doesn’t happen in the game. It was extremely close. It’s one of those things that can happen in game that’s out of your control. I don’t think the linesman said, ‘you know what I think I’m going to let this one go; it’s close enough, we’ll just let it go.’ I don’t think that happened.  I think that in a game where human error and human excellence is a fine fine line and that one snuck up on us and went the wrong way.”

The Griffs couldn’t get the tying goal in the final frame despite putting 10 shots on net as Tigers put an end to the Griffs 2014-15 campaign, stopping the team short of making it back to the Atlantic Hockey Championship game for the third straight season.

Despite the loss, Smith was immensely proud of the effort his team put forth, specifically praising the senior class and what they brought to the team, not only for the semi-final game, but for the entire season.

“We’ve got 10 seniors, none of which are 100 point scorers, there’s no perennial all-stars in that group. They’re all academic: our GPA is still 3.6 and what they did is they brought a passion to win. Our goal as coaches is to be the hardest team to play against and I think if you ask RIT we were pretty hard to play against especially in the second and the third period. They’re a group that bought in to what we were trying to do. So, in a moment like this, I think of how important the team is to those guys. Because those 10, they set the tone in the room. This senior team created the legacy of do the right things, play hard as a team, accept your role and you can get to the tournament and win a championship or come close to it. Unfortunately we were close and any of the four teams could have won any of these games tonight we came up a little bit short.”

With the season now over senior members of the team are free to explore their athletic options outside of the college world. Team captain Doug Jessey wasted little time deciding what his next step was as it was announced Thursday afternoon that Jessey signed with the Indy Fuel of the East Coast Hockey League. The Fuel are the ECHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.

As of now, Jessey is the only member of the team to officially sign on with a professional team, although It’s likely that other members of the roster will follow suit in the coming days and weeks.  A majority of the senior class from last season signed deals after the season ended with others waiting until the school year had finished before signing deals to play overseas.

With the Griffs needing to replace a large chunk of their roster for next season, the team will have to overcome yet another obstacle if they want to make it back to the final weekend of the Atlantic Hockey tournament.

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