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  • Colton Pankiewicz

Hockey’s split with Air Force, and how it sharpened them ahead of Niagara

By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor

After splitting their Air Force series on Friday and Saturday, Golden Griffins’ head hockey coach Trevor Large says he's not “recreating” anything. Instead he’s “re-emphasizing what it means to wear the blue and gold.”

Canisius headed into their weekend against Air Force after being swept by rival Niagara by scores of 4–2 and 6–4 in their home-and-home series. Their Friday night against Air Force went similarly to the last two, losing 5–1 to the AHA opponent. Air Force started off with the hot hand in Colorado, scoring four straight in the first 25 minutes of regulation to hop out to a four-goal lead. Air Force's Will Gavin notched a hat trick in the effort, while Canisius’s Oliver Tarr was the only Griff to tally a goal in a contest where the Blue and Gold were outshot 38–13. 

Large says that Canisius had just a “handful” of players that played hard on Friday night: “That’s not good enough against most teams, and it's sure not good enough against good teams.”

 “Friday we were absolutely terrible. That was three straight losses that we had, so we had a bunch of meetings after the game, and a nice meeting the next morning with Biggie [Large], and he ripped into us,” said defenseman David Melaragni. The fifth-year senior added that Large isn’t ordinarily someone who “rips” into the team, but that the message was received. 

Canisius responded accordingly on Saturday, jumping out to a two-goal lead thanks to the efforts of Jackson Decker and Matteo Giampa. The Golden Griffins allowed the Falcons to knot the game at two after allowing two straight goals towards the end of the first frame. Canisius controlled the scoring after that, re-creating a two-goal lead after freshman Trey Funk and senior Randy Hernandez found the back of the net. Air Force went on to cut the lead to one, but sophomore Stefano Bottini’s empty-netter ended any possibility of a Falcons’ comeback. Freshman goaltender Ethan Robertson made 26 saves in the 5–3 win, marking his fourth career win.

“My expectations as head coach is that [Saturday's game] will not be a one-off. That will be the way we play moving forward: they’ve set a new standard going forward,” said Large. 

Canisius’s next game will be on Tuesday against their most familiar foe, Niagara, in what may be a chance to get their revenge after falling to the Purple Eagles in their last two contests. The Griffs look to avoid losing their third straight against the Purple and White, as it would tie their longest losing streak against Niagara since 1997.

“I want to say that every game is the same, but I think it’s a little different that they swept us two weeks ago. We have to show our fans we’re a way better hockey team than that. I think we’ve regrouped and can’t wait until Tuesday,” said Melaragni, who has suited up 11 times against the Purple Eagles in his five-year career at Canisius.

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