In need of the elusive sweep

 

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Dylan McLaughlin will be without two of his linemates due to injury during this weekend’s series at Air Force. (Justin Fague/The Griffin)

 

By Canio Marasco III

Sports Reporter

The Canisius hockey team travels to play the Air Force Falcons this weekend, which is the penultimate conference series of the season.

Canisius entered last weekend’s series against the Army Black Knights with a great opportunity to distance themselves from the pack atop the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Despite matching up well with the Black Knights, the Griffs were only able to split the weekend, winning Friday’s game, 4-1, before dropping Saturday’s contest, 3-2.

The Griffs’ being unable to sweep their opponents has become a common theme this season. The Griffs have split their last five conference matchups. Despite this trend, they haven’t surrendered first place in the AHC. The Griffs now boast a two-point lead over Mercyhurst and Holy Cross, who are each tied for second.

This weekend series in Colorado Springs, Colo. is critical for the Griffs. Air Force was picked to be one of the best teams in the AHC this season. The Griffs, on the other hand, were picked to be a middle of the pack team. Instead, the Griffs have been one of the best teams in the AHC, while the Falcons have underwhelmed.

Although the Falcons have disappointed this year, traveling to Air Force is always a tough series. But, even further, the Falcons will be a tough matchup for the Griffs.

Canisius still boasts one of the best offenses in Atlantic Hockey, scoring the second-most goals this year in the AHC (94). The Falcons have had a tough time producing offense this season, with the third worst goal production in the conference (83).

The Falcons will be a tough test, however, because of their stout defense. The Falcons defense has been solid this year, and their goaltending has been some of the best in the conference. Billy Christopoulos has made the fourth most saves in the AHC this season, while boasting the second-best save percentage in Atlantic Hockey.

The Falcons offense has sputtered this season largely because they don’t have any one player to lean on. No Falcons player is in the top 15 in goals, assists or points in the conference. The Griffs, who haven’t had trouble producing offense this year, have been able to rely on Hobey Baker nominee Dylan McLaughlin and captain Ryan Schmelzer, who have 39 and 29 points, respectively.

The series might not come down to who’s playing, but rather who isn’t. The Griffs productive line of Schmelzer, McLaughlin and Jeff Murray slowly disintegrated last weekend against Army as the Griffs have dealt with a rash of injuries.

Murray, a consistent contributor for the Griffs as he totaled 17 points, was injured in Friday’s game with the Black Knights suffering an upper-body injury, which could potentially keep him out for the rest of the season.

Even more detrimental has been the injury of Schmelzer.

The captain of the Griffs did not appear in either game of last weekend’s series also due to an upper-body injury. Although Schmelzer could return before the playoffs, the situation continues to be day-to-day.

With Murray and possibly Schmelzer out, the Griffs will certainly have to grind out tough results down the stretch. With only a two-point lead in Atlantic Hockey, the Griffs need to break their streak of splitting games and sweep the Falcons, in order to bolster their place in the conference before the playoffs.

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