Cuddemi and Turner Help Griffs Stymy Air Force: Turner totals 81 saves on the weekend against Air Force

By Canio Marasco

Sports Reporter

The Griffs had a rather inconsistent weekend, a common theme this season, as they split their two games with Air Force.

In the first game against Air Force, the Griffs fell into an early deficit, conceding a goal in the first period. This deficit was doubled part way through the second period. However, freshman Cameron Heath pulled the Griffs back into the game, scoring a goal on a long shot quickly after Air Force’s second tally. The Griffs tied the game with little time left in the second period, with Shane Conacher burying a loose puck in front of the net. Air Force won the game in the third period with a late power play goal, a harsh outcome for the Griffs tenacious effort.

In this game, the Griffs fell due to a late power play goal by Air Force. Special teams have been a source of consternation for the Griffs this season. Coach Smith, on the late goal, stated, “After watching the video, the goal that we gave-up Friday night at Air Force was a puck that was thrown near the net, which bounced off of a stick, off the post and in. The penalty kill was fine. They got a goal off of the rush that was labeled as a power play goal. So, good on them, bad on us.”

Although the late goal for Air Force may have been an unlucky break for the Griffs, special teams have consistently been an issue this season. The Griffs have only scored five goals on the power play all year, despite having the man advantage forty-eight times. In comparison, they have allowed fourteen goals on fifty-seven attempts. Coach Smith, on the power play, stated, “The next night, if one looks at Air Force’s coach’s comments, we won the game because of special teams and goaltending. Our penalty kill was very good – we were aggressive and we got pucks down the ice. I’m happy with the penalty kill. Can we get better? Absolutely. I didn’t do anything with the power play, we have good player and they’ve been doing good things and they got us a huge goal on Saturday.”

Senior Ralph Cuddemi, one of the Griffs leading goal scorers, on the team’s poor production on the power play, stated, “We’ve been getting looks on both the power play and the penalty kill, but sometimes they don’t go in. We just have to stay with it, keep the same routine and just keep trying to produce every time we have the opportunity on the power play and penalty kill. It’s definitely a mindset – obviously we want to produce with every opportunity, but sometimes we just need some momentum and understand that they aren’t all going to go in.” The Griffs have been able to produce fifty-one shots on the power play, meaning they’ve had many opportunities, they simply haven’t been clinical.

In the Griffs second game against Air Force, the first period ended scoreless. However, Air Force opened the second period with a quick goal. The Griffs responded at the end of the period, with Daniel LaFontaine tallying his third goal of the season. Ralph Cuddemi gave the Griffs the lead at the end of the period, with a nice pass from Shane Conacher setting-up the goal. Air Force fought back, tying the game halfway through the third period. Seconds later the Griffs re-gained the lead with a goal from Conacher. The Griffs ensured the victory with a late goal by Cuddemi, on another nice pass, this time by Schmelzer.

Coach Smith, on the Griffs win against Air Force, stated, “I thought we played really well in the first game. They scored a goal with five minutes left on a bouncing puck to the net. I thought we showed tremendous resilience in both games. In the first game we came back to tie it. In the second game we had a great response after they tied it. We got a really great goal to go up by two. I thought our demeanor on the bench, our attitude, was stronger on Saturday, which allowed us to win. Air Force is good and we played really hard, we skated well and we produced a better effort.”

Ralph Cuddemi on his two goal game, stated, “I just try to do the same thing – stay in a routine. The two goals were both set-up by two great passes and they were pretty easy to just tap into the back of the net.” Being one of the veteran players on the team, Cuddemi has been pushed into a leadership role. Cuddemi, on taking advantage of this opportunity, stated, “It [taking on responsibility] was definitely something that I wanted to do. At the start of this year, I realized there was a lot of young guys and I wanted to guide them in the right way at all times. It’s been really good and I’ve been enjoying it so far. There are a lot of other strong leaders in the locker room, so that has definitely made it easier for me. With that being said, it has been amazing to see the guys step up this year.”

Possibly the story of the weekend, however, was the play of sophomore goaltender Reilly Turner. In the first game against Air Force he put forth a commendable effort, turning away thirty-nine shots. In the second game against Air Force he was able to top his performance from the night before totaling forty-two saves. Coach Smith, on the play of Turner, stated, “Air Force is a team that makes you stay in it as a goaltender. But also, we’ve been helping Turner by getting out of our zone quickly, staying in the offensive zone longer and we’ve been playing better on a nightly basis, which Turner has been benefiting from.” Coach Smith remarked that Turner had been rather inconsistent at the beginning of the season, but had shown flashes; however, over the past couple of games, he has been playing more confidently. Coach Smith even went as far to say that he thinks Turner has the ability to be one of the best goalies in the conference.


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