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  • Colton Pankiewicz

Hockey swept by nationally ranked RIT, will host Mercyhurst in AHA play-in game

By Colton Pankiewicz, Sports Editor

After getting squashed on the road 9–2 on Feb. 23, Canisius fell just short in the second game of a two game series against RIT, losing 3–2 on their senior night. 

Canisius claimed the first goal of the game on Feb. 16 when freshman Trey Funk scored on a breakaway. After that it was all RIT, with the Tigers scoring nine straight goals before Canisius junior Matt Vermaeten added a late tally. 

“We got absolutely crushed from the beginning of the game till the end. It’s really, really disappointing this time of year to year to have an effort like that,” said head coach Trevor Large.

Canisius fell in the second game of the series as well, making it a much closer contest than the night prior. The game that served as the Griffs’ senior night started off with a goal from graduate student David Melaragni on the man advantage. RIT responded less than two minutes later with a goal from Matthew Wilde. 

Knotted at one to end the first period, neither team took a lead in the second period, and it took until the 14:57 mark of the final frame to see either team score a goal. The Tigers were responsible for that tally and the next one, as their fans’ roars filled the arena, now up 3–1 on Canisius with less than three minutes remaining. 

“I told myself, I had to get a goal on this shift, we needed it,” freshman Matteo Giampa said. He did indeed score less than a minute later after putting his head down with the puck on his stick and beating both the RIT defender and goalie to cut the deficit to just one. The Griffs were presented with a golden opportunity — a five-on-three power play — with 28 seconds left on the clock and a faceoff in the offensive zone. Canisius won the draw but let time expire with the puck on their stick, and without registering a shot, losing in 3–2 fashion to close out the regular season.

A combined 26 penalties were committed in the 3–2 loss, the discontent between the two teams. Ethan Robertson made 40 saves in the regular-season finale, his second career 40-save game. “I thought he was really sharp. I thought he was able to control the play and generate whistles. I thought he was spectacular,” Large said. 

Robertson said his anticipation was the reason for the sharp play. “I was able to use my eyes to anticipate the play, while scanning to beat the pass,” he said. 

Rounding the season at 10–12–4 in conference play, the Griffs hold the eight seed and will host Mercyhurst in the play-in tournament game on March 2. Canisius is 1–1–1 against the Lakers this season, with their most recent game against them resulting in a 4–1 win. 

“Every team this time of year is playing their best hockey. It doesn’t matter the opponent, we just have to come and bring our best and we believe in the group we have. We have all the faith in the world,” Robertson said.

The last series the Griffs lost in the AHA postseason came at the hands of Mercyhurst during the quarterfinals in 2022.

“The reality is we’re in eighth place, I don’t need to count the wins but we [now] need a few wins to win the conference, that's our new goal,” said Large. “We’ve had moments of really strong hockey and obviously we’ve had moments where we didn't play really strong hockey. Whether you’re playing well or not, you have to win the game.”

Photo courtesy of Evan Richey - @RicheyProductions

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