By: Jay Ashdown
In a back-and-forth game between the Canisius Golden Griffins and the Mercyhurst Lakers, both goaltenders Kyle McClellan and Jacob Barczewski stole the show in front of a packed HarborCenter crowd.
Then the spotlight was taken away.
Three minutes into the second overtime of a tightly contested battle, Canisius’s Keaton Mastrodonato was assessed a two-minute minor for goaltender interference after being shoved into Lakers’ goaltender McClellan who was out on top of his crease to aggressively face the shooter. It was a brutal call on the team, and it was met with loud booing from the fans inside the arena.
The Griffs penalty kill, solid all night for the team, couldn’t kill it off this time, and Owen Norton found a way to beat Barczewski five-hole to give Mercyhurst a 2-1 win and a 1-0 series lead.
“Really good college hockey game,” said head coach Trevor Large. “Tough to win scoring only one goal. We have to get more pucks behind their goalie. We’re gonna lick our wounds very quickly because tomorrow is the most important game, so our guys are going to try to recover very quickly physically and mentally and get ready for a game tomorrow that is a must win for us.”
From now on, every game is an elimination game for the Griffs, as they will have to win both games two and three in order to successfully advance to the semifinals, where the playoffs become a single elimination battle.
While the result is heart-breaking for the Griffs tonight, the team must regroup if they want to keep their season alive with a win tomorrow, and while the team has a few areas they want to fix for tomorrow, there were also several things the team excelled at tonight.
“The guys were dialed in the way they needed to be,” said Large. “We had a very clear focus. The guys were communicating in a positive way. I loved the bench demeanor. There were moments of the game where it was helping us. The communication was great. We just didn't get that last goal.”
The first period saw both teams skate fast and hard out the gate, but scoring chances were tough to come by. Mercyhurst outshot Canisius 8-2 in the first, but neither team found the back of the net.
The Lakers struck first after a turnover at the Griffs offensive blue line led to an odd-man rush for Mercyhurst. Rylee St. Onge fed the puck across the slot to an open Garrett Dahm who went to his backhand but couldn’t finish. The move Dahm made got goaltender Barczewski to bite and took him out of the play, and Dahm then fed the puck from behind the net back out in front to a wide open Austin Heidemann who had a yawning cage to shoot at.
The lead didn’t last long for Mercyhurst, as the Griffs worked the puck into the offensive zone and cycled it well, leading to Cooper Haar finding an open Cory Thomas at the point. Thomas’ shot found its way through traffic, and the Griffs tied the game at one apiece.
The Griffs were much stronger in the second period outside of the breakdown that led to the opening goal, as they outshot the Lakers 13-8.
The third period was a chippy one for both sides, and the Lakers outshot Canisius 10-4 trying to find the go-ahead goal. Despite a slashing call on Canisius leading to the Lakers having the only powerplay opportunity in the third period, the Griffs killed it off, keeping the score tied at one going into sudden-death overtime.
The first overtime period was largely dominated by Canisius, as the Griffs outshot the Lakers 13-5, and controlled a significant portion of the action offensively. Canisius took two penalties in the first overtime when they were assessed a bench minor for too many men on the ice, and when they received a boarding penalty with 56 seconds left in the period. The Griffs killed both penalties off, but also failed to convert on their sole chance when Dahm took a holding penalty earlier in the stanza.
The second overtime didn’t last long, as the Griffs came out hot, continuing their momentum from killing off another penalty, and looking for the game-winning goal. Their momentum was halted when they were assessed the minor penalty for goaltender interference.
With the crowd enraged from the call, the Lakers rallied, taking advantage of their opportunity, putting Canisius on the brink of elimination.
With the win, the Lakers have now won six games in a row and eight of their last nine. Since January 28th, the Lakers are 10-3-0, which is the best record in the Atlantic Hockey Association since that point.
Game two is tomorrow at LECOM HarborCenter at 8 p.m. If the Griffs win, game three will take place on Sunday at 7 p.m.