Griffs return home after dropping two to Penn State

By Sam Brouwere

Sports Reporter

The Griffs’ hockey team will be returning home this Friday to play a conference rival, the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers, after travelling last weekend to State College, PA to play the Penn State Nittany Lions, who were ranked 19 in the nation.

On Friday, the Griffs played their first game in a two-game series against the Nittany Lions, losing 4-1. The Nittany Lions were able to score first with 8:06 into the first period off a power-play goal by Brandon Biro. The Nittany Lions extended their lead with yet another power-play goal by Vince Pedrie with four seconds remaining in the first period.

The Nittany Lions furthered their lead with a goal from Chase Berger with 2:53 into the second stanza, giving the Penn State a comfortable 3-0 lead. The Griffs were able to get their first goal of the game with 1:13 remaining in the second period. The goal came from sophomore forward Dylan McLaughlin, scoring his second goal on the season. The late comeback attempt was unsuccessful as the Nittany Lions netted a goal from Denis Smirnov on an empty net with 2:08 left to seal the win.

Freshman Daniel Urbani started between the pipes for the Griffs on Friday, tying a Canisius record for saves in a game with 61. The record was originally set by Andrew Loewen when he stopped 61 shots against the Miami University Redhawks on Oct. 14, 2006.

The following night, the Griffs lost to the Nittany Lions by a score of 4-2. The Griffs were able to start off with the lead, following freshman forward Jesse Pereira scoring a goal 3:47 into the game. The Griffs weren’t able to hold the lead long, as the Nittany Lions tied it up on a goal by Kevin Kerr. Penn State’s Andrew Sturtz, a native of Buffalo, scored in the later stages of the first period to give the Nittany Lions a 2-1 lead. Smirnov scored in the second consecutive night for the Nittany Lions, this time giving Penn State a 3-1 lead.

The Griffs weren’t going down easy as Pereira scored to trim the Nittany Lions lead, scoring his second goal of the game. The comeback attempt for the Griffs was unsuccessful, again, as Chase Berger netted a power play, sealing the win for the Nittany Lions. Senior goaltender Charles Williams got the start in net for the Griffs, stopping 43 shots.

The Griffs and the Nittany Lions may appear to not have any similarities other than they are both Division One hockey teams, but they have a connection with Terry Pegula. Pegula, an alumnus of Penn State University, helped create their hockey program; their arena, the Pegula Ice Arena, is named after him. He also owns HARBORCENTER, where the Griffs play their home games, along with owning the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills.

Coach Dave Smith spoke to playing another team that associated with Pegula. “It was great,” he said. “It was a great building and it was fun to have a team that has a connection to Terry Pegula play against a team that has a connection to Terry Pegula.”

Up next for the Griffs is a home-and-home series with RIT. The Griffs will hosting the Tigers on Friday night before traveling to Rochester to play at RIT on Saturday night. The game against the Tigers is a big game for the Griffs, as all conference games from here on out are very important in determining where the Griffs finish in the conference standings.

The Tigers are coming into the games with a 3-1-0 record in Atlantic Hockey play, good enough for second in the conference. The Griffs hold a 1-0-1 conference record and are sixth in Atlantic Hockey.

“It’s another opponent,” Coach Smith said about the upcoming opponent. “It’s in conference and in conference is different- different in a good way- that there is a fight and a passion for those two points that you’ve got to be dialed in and focused on to get them. They’re a very good team, they are two-time defending champs in our league, and they play hard.”

Playing at home on Friday night is definitely an advantage for the Griffs, as their current conference record came while hosting Robert Morris two weeks ago. Senior defenseman Geoff Fortman believes playing at home will help the Griffs on Friday night.

“It helps a lot,” he said. “It’s always fun being at home, not being able to travel always helps us stay fresh and playing in front of our home crowd always helps us get excited for the game. So it will be a good start to the weekend.”

The Griffs definitely will have a big test when they play the Tigers this weekend, but the Griffs will need to come out on top in games like these if they want to finish at the top in the conference.

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