By Robert Janish
Senior Sports Writer
The annual Canisius-Niagara game is important more than ever this year. With each team currently 1-1 in the MAAC, this matchup is decisive for both teams and could be crucial in seeding should either one make the playoffs.
The two teams got off to its usual fast-paced start, and it was, for the most part, a back-and-forth clash of the two clubs with both teams getting good chances to capitalize and get on the board early. Canisius was able to get the first shot of the contest, trying to set the tone early in front of the home fans.
Throughout the first twenty minutes of the game, it was a seesaw battle where no team got a real upper hand on the other, with the only shot early on coming from Canisius’ Maddie Good. However, there was the usual tension in this game, as a yellow card was issued to Niagara’s Amanda Gallo with under 13 minutes left in the first half.
Despite a 3-0 edge in shots on goal for Canisius, the game was still tied 0-0 after 45 minutes of play between the Golden Griffins and Purple Eagles.
Very early on in the second half, freshman Gretta Dry had a great opportunity, but was stopped by Niagara goalkeeper Shangyne Samuels to keep the game tied at 0. In the 54th minute of the game, freshman Gretta Dry notched her 4th goal of the year, of an assist from Maddie Good to give the Griffs a 1-0 lead with still a lot of time to be played.
With about 25 minutes remaining, Niagara has not had many opportunities at the net and trail in shots 5-0, which could be a result of their 1-0 deficit and time winding down to tie it up again. Canisius received their own yellow flag in the second half, this time to Gretta Dry.
In the 65th minute, senior Sabrina Fitzgerald’s third goal of the year, assisted by Gretta Dry, gave her team a 2-0 lead. Just two minutes after, sophomore Emily Kuta, off a Fitzgerald assist, got her first goal of the year and put Canisius up a 3-0 commanding lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.
As the game wound down, Canisius did not let up and held a 7-0 lead in shots, really limiting Niagara’s offense in this game. Sophomore Emily Czechowski scored the team’s 4th goal of the night, and placed the exclamation point on this round of the rivalry. Along with a 8-1 edge in shots, this 4-0 shutout of Niagara was without a doubt the Golden Griffins most dominant performance thus far.
Sophomore Emily Kuta, who scored her first goal in this game, said “it was really nice.” She added how the team has earned this throughout their recent play. “It felt nice to score, not just for myself, but for my team as well and it just made it like a bonus that my family was here too.”
Kuta added how the team has not had those hot starts in the second half, but in a game such as Niagara, “we just came out and played super hard and the results, it paid off.” She said how this game showed what their team can do and will help boost their confidence and be more prepared for their next opponent, which in this case, is Manhattan this Saturday.
Head Coach Todd Clark said “the difference between us being successful and coming close, but not being successful, has been that last little bit of effort.” He continued by saying that while the team may be doing better, it’s not as significant unless they’re winning games.
“Confidence, and it needs to be guarding confidence,” Clark said about the team’s key to victory. However, he did say it’s tough to keep it going, and “we’re actually making a tougher road by alerting the rest of the conference, but that’s the challenge we’ll take all day long.”
“We worked on scoring directly, scoring quickly, striking quickly and the irony of it is that affects both sides of the ball,” Clark said. He also said how in recent games the team’s had two wins, and “a great first half against a very, very good Rider team and then we gave that game away, but 2-1 in the MAAC is something that hasn’t been done around here in a while, so we’re pretty excited about it.”
“The biggest difference was the effort in the second half was just a little bit better,” Clark said. He said how the team always plays well in the first half, and it just got even better as the game went on. Clark said how it’s important to just “come out with that last bit of aggression.”
The Griffs will stay at home this weekend to take on the Manhattan Jaspers and continue their recent wave of success and remain undefeated at home.