Ice Griffs hoping to continue win streak in series against Mercyhurst
By: Jay Ashdown
As Canisius prepares for a home-and-home series this weekend against Mercyhurst, the team will look to get off to a fast start against the Lakers to try and get ahead early on the road. The Griffs come into the weekend with a record of 6–4–1, which includes a stellar conference record of 3–1.
The Lakers, on the other hand, come into the weekend at 2–4–4 with a conference record of 2–2–4. The Lakers have found a way to keep most of their conference games close, as they’ve gone to overtime a total of five times this season. In Mercyhust’s eight conference games so far, only twice has the final result been decided by two goals or more, so the Lakers are certainly used to playing close hockey games.
Mercyhurst is currently in first in the Atlantic Hockey standings, but the stats are incredibly deceiving. Mercyhurst has 12 points on the season, but they’ve done that in a total of eight games. Canisius is only three points behind them, and they’ve played in half as many conference games so far. In terms of points percentage, nobody in Atlantic Hockey ranks better than Canisius at 2.25 points per conference contest played.
While it is a small sample size, it is largely expected that the Griffs finish very high in the standings this year in the conference. Seeing the team have success early is a very good sign for the Griffs, and this weekend will provide another very good test in the young season to see where this hockey team is at.
Mercyhurst finished last campaign with an 8–12–1 record on the season as well as a 7–8–1 record in conference play. Mercyhurst is a fairly young team and they’ll rely on their young talent to lead the way this season for the Lakers.
The Lakers are led by sophomore stud Carson Briere offensively. Carson, son of former NHL star Danny Briere, leads the Lakers with eight goals and 12 points in 10 games. The Lakers will also rely heavily on two more sophomore studs in Dante Sheriff and Austin Heidemann, as Sheriff boasts 11 points in 10 games while Heidemann is a point-per-game player with exactly 10 points in 10 games.
The Lakers have the talent offensively in the top six, but where the Griffs can take advantage of the Lakers is in Canisius’s advantage in the bottom six of the forward group as well as a distinct advantage in between the pipes.
Jacob Barczewski is the clear-cut starter for Canisius, and he owns the crease by putting up a save percentage of .922% on the season with a goals-against average of 2.44. Point-blank, the kid is just hard to beat.
The Lakers, on the other hand, do not have a clear-cut starter, as they’ve split time between graduate student Hank Johnson and sophomore Kyle McClellan evenly at five starts apiece. Both goaltenders have struggled as McClellan has posted a save percentage of .894% on the season as well as an abysmal goals-against average of 3.91. Hank Johnson has more experience at the collegiate level, and he will probably be relied on slightly more than McClellan as the season continues, but he hasn’t been much better as he has posted a .900% save percentage as well as a goals-against average of 3.29.
Another area where Mercyhurst struggles is on the penalty kill. The Lakers powerplay is lethal, scoring at a 23.7% clip on the season, but their penalty kill is converting at a horrifically bad 67.6%. The Griffs’ power play came to life last weekend against RIT, so it will be interesting to see how their powerplay fares against one of the worst penalty kill units in the nation.
The Griffs have the edge in this series talentwise, but as it goes for all sports, the games must be played. The Griffs should at minimum split this series, but a sweep shouldn’t be out of the realm of expectations by any means. Sweeps are hard to come by in college hockey, but the Griffs have what it takes to get it done, they just showed it last week by sweeping a team that’s very similar to Mercyhurst in RIT.