Slapshots: Griffs sweep No. 20 Niagara, stay atop Atlantic Hockey



Dylan McLaughlin’s three-point effort aided the Griffs to their ninth straight win over Niagara on Saturday. (John McCreary/Champion City Sports)


By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

Beating a bitter rival has a great feeling to it.

Crushing them? That’s a whole different story.

Canisius used a five-goal first period distancing themselves from No. 20 ranked Niagara early, en route to an 8-2 drubbing of the Purple Eagles Saturday afternoon at KeyBank Rink at HarborCenter.

Expect Canisius to be ranked — or be a team that has received a good amount of votes — by Monday when the new poll will be released. The pair of wins over a nationally ranked opponent, regardless if they are No. 3 or No. 20, this weekend should be intruiging to the pollsters.

Dylan McLaughlin continued his impressive 10-game point streak, scoring twice and assisting on another Griffs goal, giving him an average of 1.67 points per game (25 points in 15 games). The junior was tied for the highest points per game average in the nation with Henrik Borgström, a first-round pick by the Florida Panthers (23rd overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. Borgström plays for the top-ranked team in the nation, Denver.

Scoring quickly: Canisius got out to a roaring start scoring on their first shot of the game just 1:09 into the contest. Grant Meyer received a nice pass by Matt Hoover, proceeding to take a nice wrist shot from the left circle finding its way passed Niagara goaltender Brian Wilson.

Adding insurance markers: 21 seconds after the halfway point, Casey Jerry scored his first goal of the season to increase the lead to 2-0 in favor of the Griffs. Defenseman Cameron Heath was credited with the lone assist. Just over four minutes later, McLaughlin scored his first goal of the night, a power-play goal, giving Canisius a nice three-goal advantage.

Wilson’s night cut short: After McLaughlin’s goal, Niagara head coach Jason Lammers went to his bench and brought in junior David Krejcik, making his Purple Eagles debut. Wilson stopped six shots on nine attempts in just the first 14:25 of the game.

Krejcik’s rough welcome: Lammers’ move didn’t bode well at the beginning as Mike Sabatini and McLaughlin each scored on the Griffs’ next two shot attempts, extending the Canisius lead to 5-0.

McLaughlin’s second goal of the night was a highlight-reel goal, scoring almost in a prone position on the ice.

Niagara scores, Canisius counters: Sam Rennaker started to make a Niagara comeback, scoring the Purple Eagles’ first goal just over seven minutes into the second period. Canisius, however, responded rather quickly with a goal of their own just nine seconds later. McLaughlin used the boards to his advantage lofting the puck off the glass enabling Ryan Schmelzer to make his way past a Niagara defender and roof a backhanded shot passed Krejcik.

Tempers flare: A skirmish in front of Niagara’s net led to multiple players receiving penalties, including two players receiving major penalties and game misconducts. Niagara’s Niko Kovachis and Canisius’ Hoover received five-minute facemasking majors and were sent to the showers just near the halfway mark of the game.

Purple Eagles stud scores: Derian Plouffe, arguably the star of the Purple Eagles squad, scored his 11th goal of the season trying to spark a comeback for his team. Defenseman Noah Delmas was credited with a primary assist on the goal, increasing his lead for assists (18) and points (19) by a defenseman in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.

Canisius responds with two more: Just 28 seconds after Plouffe’s goal, Nick Hutchison scored giving Canisius another five-goal lead. Six minutes later, Jesse Pereira scored off a snapshot from the left circle finding its way passed Guillaume Therien, Niagara’s third goaltender who was put in for Krejcik during a stoppage in the middle portion of the period.

Urbani solid in net: Canisius goaltender Daniel Urbani was solid in net for the Griffs making his seventh consecutive start. Urbani made at least 27 saves for the sixth consecutive game, staving away 31 Niagara shots in the win, including all 12 shots faced in the final stanza.

Next up: Canisius (10-5-1, 10-4-0 AHC) sits all alone in the Atlantic Hockey Standings after earning the sweep of Niagara (9-7-1, 8-4-1 AHC). The Griffs will have a break due to the impending exam week and holiday break. The road does not get any easier for Canisius as they will play four consecutive games against ECAC opponents, all being played on the road. Canisius will face Cornell on Dec. 30 before traveling up to Potsdam to take on Clarkson. The Golden Knights defeated the Griffs at home, 5-1, last Saturday. The New York State road trip will conclude with a two-game series at St. Lawrence on Jan. 4 and 5.


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