Falcons soar past Griffs in semifinals; Stander, Schmelzer sign professional contracts

 

Stander_Schmelzer

Jack Stander and Ryan Schmelzer each inked professional contracts this past week after losing in the semifinals to Air Force. (Photos by Justin Fague and Marshall Haim/The Griffin; Graphic by Marshall Haim)

 

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

For the second year in a row, the Air Force Falcons are the champions of Atlantic Hockey.

The No. 5 seeded Falcons in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament defeated No. 7 Robert Morris, 5-1, in the championship game last Saturday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

It is the sixth championship for Air Force since joining the conference in 2006. They will play the No. 1 overall seed St. Cloud State in the NCAA Tournament Friday at 4 p.m. in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Air Force defeated No. 2 Canisius in the semifinals last Friday, 3-0, to advance to the championship game. They have yet to lose in an Atlantic Hockey championship game.

Following a scoreless first period, the Falcons would score twice in the second period before adding an insurance marker five minutes into the third period.

Canisius was outshot 37-24 in the loss.

“Obviously, it was not our night tonight. Offense was at a premium,” head coach Trevor Large told GoGriffs.com. “I thought we had a really good first period. It became a special teams battle in the second and then we were trying and trying to push in the third, we just couldn’t find any offense tonight.”

There were five minor penalties called in the second period after the first period had zero infractions. Air Force capitalized on their first power play opportunity, scoring their first goal of the game 1:24 into the extra-man opportunity.

The Falcons finished 1-for-3 on the night on the power play. Canisius had four power play opportunities.

Matt Hoover led the Griffs in shots on goal with four. Ryan Schmelzer, Grant Meyer and Félix Chamberland each recorded three shots on net.

Daniel Urbani made 34 saves for the Griffs in the loss. Billy Christopolous made 24 saves en route to his fifth shutout of the season for Air Force.

It was the third time in the last four seasons that Canisius has appeared in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals and lost.

◆ ◆ ◆

On Wednesday afternoon it was announced that senior defenseman Jack Stander signed a contract with the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL. Atlanta is an affiliate of the Boston Bruins.

Stander, a 6-foot-2 blueliner, played in all 37 games for Canisius this season recording 10 points. In 137 career appearances with the Blue and Gold, Stander had 29 points (six goals, 23 assists).

A familiar face is currently on Atlanta’s roster as Ben Danforth, a 2013 alumnus, is also on the Gladiators.

On Thursday, the Adirondack Thunder announced they signed Schmelzer to a standard player contract. The Glens Falls-based team is the ECHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.

Schmelzer, who amassed 106 points in 143 career games with Canisius, will also be joining a team with a Canisius alumnus.

Shane Conacher is currently the Thunder’s leading scorer with 55 points (15 goals, 40 assists).

With the signings, Canisius now has had 36 players sign pro contracts over the last 13 years. Stander and Schmelzer are the 14th and 15th players to sign a pro contract in the last five years.

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