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  • Colton Pankiewicz

Hockey delivers in elimination game, off to Holy Cross for the AHA quarterfinals

By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor

With the season hanging in the balance Canisius cashed in on a 5-2 victory over the Lakers, advancing to the next round in the AHA tournament.

The Golden Griffins outscored Mercyhurst 4-0 in the first two frames with tallies from Griffin Loughran, Stefano Bottini, Erik Urbank, and Kyle Haskins. After the Lakers scored two power-play goals in the third period, Powell Connor ripped a puck down the entirety of the ice, and into the empty net. The goal was Connors first of his career and came shorthanded, ultimately closing out the 5-2 final.

The victory did more than just continue the Griffs season as it gave head coach Trevor Large his 100th career win. He is just the third head coach in program history to reach that mark, along with Dave Smith and Brian Cavanaugh. 

“It means a lot because it's not just 100 wins but a length of time. I think every good coach would say it’s about the players and in those 100 wins there's a lot of guys that mean a lot to me,” Large said

Haskins and Connor both received honors for their performances with Haskins winning AHA Player of the week, and Connor winning AHA Defensive Player of the week. Both of those players, along with Bottini posted double-digit points on the night.

Through the first 40 minutes of action Canisius held their opponents to just 12 shots on goal. Much of this defensive success came with the Griffs stingy play in the neutral zone, which was their plan all along. “We gotta clog up the neutral zone and be stingy to play against–Mercyhurst is really good on the rush so we need to limit those chances,” Large said. 

David Fessenden got the nod in net and made 22 stops on 24 attempts, good enough for his seventh win of the season. 

Canisius now heads to Worcester, MA. for a three-game series against Holy Cross. The Griffs went 1-0-1 against the Crusaders in the regular season, but haven’t played them on the road in over a year. 

The game provides an opportunity for Holycross to get revenge after Canisius defeated them in the 2023 AHA championship. These two teams have met two other times in postseason history, with the Crusaders winning in both 2004 and 2011.

Large keyed the importance of the neutral zone again saying that unlike Mercyhurst who find their momentum on rushes, Holycross relies on stretch passes to create much of their offense. 

It's expected that both Fessenden and freshman goaltender Ethan Robertson to see time between the pipes in the series. A few weeks ago Large alluded to the idea of Fessenden playing the first game in the series before Robertson possibly playing the second. Much of this decision may come because of Fessenden’s sweating condition, known as hyperhidrosis. This makes it tough for him to stay hydrated, and has been seen during games consuming salt to avoid cramps. Playing in back-to-back scenarios is almost impossible for the senior.

A series loss could mean the end for up to 15 seniors and graduate students wearing the blue and gold sweater. 

“We’ve talked about it, and we’re not afraid of it. If you don't bring it up, it means you're afraid of it and we're not. These guys are ready to go out and play, and hope to end someone else’s career (not their own),” said Large. 

A series win would mark a second consecutive trip to the semifinal round for Canisius.

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