Canisius uses losses against Michigan State to grow before their home opener.
By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor
Canisius lost by three goals in their 6–3 game last Thursday, then on Thursday by one goal in a 4–3 loss last Friday. Both losses came at the hands of Michigan State, which is ranked eighth in the country. While the expectations for this season are as high as they’ve ever been, the Griffs are winless through four games. Those losses, however, don't show their improvement during this young season.
In Thursday's game, the Griffs started off slow, trailing 5–1 after 40 minutes. After captain Max Kouznetsov buried the Griffs first goal, senior superstar Randy Hernandez refused to roll over, notching two goals in the games last frame, softening the blow to the 6–3 final. Senior David Fessenden started the night in net, but after allowing four goals on 18 shots, Canisius let freshman Ethan Robertson see the first action of his career. In his time in net, Robertson allowed just one goal on 17 shots faced. Canisius didn’t come up victorious in the final score, but they did so in the shots on goal category with a 47–33 advantage, highlighting their aggressive play.
Robertson got his first career start on Friday in the second game of the series and contributed greatly in what was a much improved outing overall from the team. The Griffs once again were outscored early, but slowed the Spartans’ attack, trailing just 2–1 after two periods. Michigan State extended their lead to three after two goals in the third period, but Canisius regained life once again in the third period, this time from freshman Matteo Giampa who was rewarded not once but twice for battling next to the net. The Griffs came up short once again against the Spartans, but this time moving the needle to just a single goal as the difference maker. Robertson made the most of his first start, making 43 saves in the loss.
Canisius captain Max Kouznetsov referred to the slow start as “newcomer lag” and said that the beginning of this season has included too much thinking, when the team should focus more on reacting. Despite Canisius’s winless record, there has been a lot of promise from the program. Forward Randy Hernandez has a motor that doesn't stop, and that contributes a lot to the output of five points (a team high) through four games. Freshman Matteo Giampa could be on track to win AHA Rookie of the Year, averaging a point per game. Giampa reflected on the start to his collegiate career, “Everybody’s made this place feel like home,” he said. “Starting against Michigan State was the experience of a lifetime. My goals there just came from being at the right place at the right time.” Head Coach Trevor Large praised Giampa, saying, “The future for Matteo Giampa in a Griffs jersey is as bright as it comes.”
Canisius now heads into a gameweek against Holycross, who was the team on the wrong side of things in the AHA Championship last season. The Griffs will receive their championship rings next Friday before playing at home for the first time this fall.