Improving offense can’t stop slump: Depth Scoring Hindered by Special Teams

By Canio Marasco

Sports Reporter

Over the past four games the Griffs have continued to play inconsistently, going 1-2-1, prompting Coach Smith and the Griffs to reassess their game plan heading into the thick of their schedule.

On Nov. 20, the Griffs hosted the Mercyhurst Lakers. In the second period the Griffs erupted for three goals, all in quick succession. The goals were scored by Ryan Schmelzer, Felix Chamberland and Ralph Cuddemi. The offensive output was slightly tarnished when the Griffs gave up a goal as the period came to a close. To begin the third period the Griffs let a once commanding lead slip away by conceding two goals, and allowing Mercyhurst to knot the game. The Griffs then staved off near disaster after Mike Sabatini tallied the game winner with five minutes left in the third period, to secure the victory.

Coach Smith, on his team’s inconsistent, albeit exciting win, stated, “It was easy [to keep the guys motivated]. Our guys are very motivated and we know that the game is always back and forth. Mercyhurst is very talented, they are the first place team in the league, so we knew there would be a pushback. We were prepared for that and Mike Sabatini was able to score a big goal in the third period.”

The Griffs were able to win against a very talented opponent: The Lakers entered the game with a 5-1-0 conference record, which placed them near the top of the Atlantic Hockey Association.

In the Griffs second match-up against Mercyhurst, the Lakers came away victorious with a rather convincing win. The Lakers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, thanks in part to a sloppy penalty kill by the Griffs. Mike Sabatini was able to score at the beginning of the second period, but the Lakers responded with two more goals, one on the power play, to secure the result. The Lakers ended the night having scored twice on four opportunities with the man advantage.

The loss was certainly defeating for the Griffs, after having played so well the night before. Coach Smith, on the loss, said, “They were able to get out to the lead, they had a power play goal and they hung on. But, I thought we played pretty well, we just weren’t able to comeback from the deficit. Simply, Mercyhurst scored early and held on to the lead.” The Lakers were able to score two goals within the first ten minutes of the game; a nightmare start for the Griffs.

Special teams has been a source of concern and tribulation for the Griffs this season. In their loss against the Lakers, special team play contributed to the Griffs inability to mount a comeback, as they gave-up two crucial goals while on the penalty kill. Compounding their struggles on the penalty kill, this season the Griffs have only scored four goals on 43 attempts with the man advantage; while their opponents have scored an astounding 13 goals on 47 power-plays this season. For comparison, the Lakers have tallied twelve goals this season on the power-play, while holding their opponents to nine goals on 62 attempts. The Lakers have taken 15 more penalties this season and have still allowed four less goals than the Griffs.

Special teams would appear to be an area of weakness for the Griffs; however, Coach Smith stated, “I don’t think that anything has been going wrong [with special teams]. We haven’t scored as much as we would like, but we’re getting good chances and good looks. We just need to continue to work to attack the net together and just find greasy goal around the net. I feel that we’re close to converting on some of those chances.”

One area of positivity over the past four games has been the Griffs depth scoring. Over the four games with the Lakers and Army, the Griffs were able to find consistent secondary scoring in Mike Sabatini, Felix Chamberland and Dylan McLaughlin, while still receiving consistent point production from Ralph Cuddemi, Shane Conacher and Ryan Schmelzer.

Coach Smith, on the team’s secondary scoring, stated, “We want all four lines to play hard defense and all four lines to score. The more we get of that, the better everyone is…We really like the work ethic of the team and they bring something to the table even when they’re not scoring. As long as they work hard, and chip in the occasional goal, I think we’re a really good team.”  

Over the past weekend the Griffs played Army West Point twice. In the first game, Army scored two goals towards the end of the second period, in quick succession. The Griffs responded with a goal of their own, tallied by Dylan McLaughlin, but were unable to complete the comeback and fell 3-1.

In the second game of the weekend, the Griffs and Army tied 2-2. The Griffs opened the game with two goals, scored by Jeff Murray and Shane Conacher; however, they saw this lead evaporate as Army scored a goal in the second and third period.

Both of these games were disappointing results, as Army came into the weekend with a 1-6-3. Coach Smith, on the two disappointing results, stated, “Army is a really good team and I think their record is a little misleading. I want to win every game, as do our players. Sure, I was upset and disappointed. But we plan and prepare to win every game and that just didn’t happen, so we need to re-attack and know that our effort and attitude are positive, we just have to attack the game in a different way.”

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