By Sam Brouwere
In their last three conference games over the past two weekends, the Griffs’ hockey team made out with 3 points (win, loss, and tie) for their conference standings.
On Nov. 18, the Griffs hosted the AIC Yellow Jackets in the first of a two-game series. The Griffs had a convincing victory in the game, winning 4-0. Freshman Matt Hoover scored first for the Griffs at the end of the second period. This goal was the first goal in a big night for Hoover, as he would go on to score two more goals in the third period, giving him a hat trick for the game. Hoover spoke to what it was like getting his first collegiate hat trick. “It was awesome,” he said. “I was struggling the last few weeks before that and I kind of didn’t have my game. However, I played a little more confident and office-minded and was able to chip in a few goals, which was nice.”
The Griffs were also helped in the game by strong goaltending. Senior goaltender Charles Williams got the start in net for the Griffs, making 24 saves on the day and earning the shutout for the Griffs.
The next day, the Griffs were in a much closer game with the Yellow Jackets, as the game ended in a 1-1 draw. With 2:26 remaining in the second period, junior defenseman Dominic Racobaldo scored the first goal of the game for the Yellow Jackets. However. the Yellow Jackets didn’t hold the lead long. Freshman forward Nick Hutchinson tied the game up for the Griffs just 6:29 into the third period. Both times had opportunities to break the draw, but they were unable to in the end. The Griffs earned another strong goaltending performance, as Williams had 39 saves on the day. The Yellow Jackets also had a strong goaltending performance, as freshman goaltender Zackarias Skog stopped 33 shots in the game.
Senior defenseman Geoff Fortman gave his thoughts on the games against the Yellow Jackets. “We had a pretty good weekend against AIC,” he said. “I think we played well. We definitely wanted to have four points, but taking three helped us out in the standings. We’re happy about that, but we want to keep getting better every week.”
The following weekend, on Nov. 25, the Griffs hosted the Mercyhurst Lakers and lost by a score of 5-1. Freshman forward James Anderson scored first for the Lakers towards the end of the first period. Not that long after, junior forward Kane Elliot scored for the Lakers in the beginning of the second period to extend their lead to 2-0. Just a few minutes later, the Griffs were able to get on the board with a power play goal from freshman forward Jesse Pereira. However, that ended up being the only Griff goal on the day. The Lakers would go on to score three more goals in the third to seal the game. Williams got the start in between the pipes for the Griffs, allowing 4 goals and making 21 saves on the day. Junior goaltender Colin DeAugustine made 39 saves for the Lakers.
The Griffs have already played 15 games (nine conference) and are currently tied for fourth place with the Lakers in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The Griffs are within two points of the top team in the conference, the Army Black Knights, so they are definitely are performing fairly well for a team with a young roster. The Griffs are second in their conference in team defense, as they’ve only allowed 2.22 goals per game.
With 21 regular season games remaining, it should be expected that there are things that the Griffs would like to improve. One area where the Griffs need to improve is scoring. The Griffs are averaging 2.11 goals a game, which is last in their conference. Coach Dave Smith spoke to the things that he feels his team needs to improve on, saying, “We need to keep getting better from weekend to weekend. The obvious one is 5-on-5 scoring. We also want to continue to improve on our penalty kill, which is at 90 percent in the league. We want to improve on the power play and on team defense. Those are the hot buttons for the outside looking in, but for the inside looking out we want to just keep getting better in all areas.”
The Griffs will host the Bentley Falcons this weekend in a two-game series. The Falcons are currently tied for sixth in the Atlantic Hockey Conference with six points on the season. Coach Smith spoke to how he feels his team stacks up against the Falcons, saying, “Bentley is very similar to the other teams in Atlantic Hockey. They’ve got some veteran scoring, have had some very good out of conference games. If you don’t play well, you won’t win, so we’ve got to be prepared for two really tough games.”