By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor
Canisius stayed home last weekend for a two-game series against conference opponent Air Force in a stretch that handed the Griffs a 3–1 win on Friday before a 1–1 tie on Saturday.
In Friday's contest, the Falcons opened the scoring first, before freshman Jack Budd buried a cross-ice feed from Randy Hernandez to erase the one-goal deficit. The goal was the first of Budd’s career and opened scoring in the second period before Matt Vermaeten extended his goal streak to four after scoring on a short-handed breakaway. Matteo Giampa finished scoring for both sides on the day after burying an empty netter, handing the Griffs a much needed 3–1 victory. David Fessenden started in goal for the Griffs, making 24 saves on 25 shots.
Saturday's game was one that slipped through the hands of Canisius after scoring the lone goals each in the first and second periods by both Grant Porter and Kyle Haskins. The third period was one not in favor of the Griffs, with Airforce notching two goals. The Falcons’s game-tying goal came after a failed Canisius clear attempt turned into Air Force gaining possession of the puck and tying the game at two with under a minute remaining in regulation. The game going to overtime guaranteed the Griffs at least a point in the standings, although a point is all they would get as they ultimately fell in a shootout.
Despite the tie, coach Large gave praise to Fessenden, who started back-to-back nights for the team. “I'm not gonna call it a breakout performance, because we know that he's a highly skilled goaltender, but he was the best player on the ice for the majority of the weekend,” said head coach Trevor Large. Fessended finished with 41 saves on 43 shots and single-handedly kept Canisius in both games.
Another high-level performer across both games was Vermaeten, whose point streak was extended to five straight games after notching an assist in Saturday’s tie. “It’s mostly just [myself] trying to have more fun with it and focusing on doing the right things. When you do the right things, you’ll get those bounces coming your way a lot more, and it’s been a long time coming to see that happen,” said Vermaeten.
The AHA named Vermaeten and Fessenden both Player and Goaltender of the Week, while freshman Matteo Giampa was named as the conference's rookie and Player of the Month.
Canisius takes on Mercyhurst in a two-game series on Friday and Saturday to extend their point streak beyond the three-game mark.