Ice Griffs split against Niagara
By: Jon Skuza
As the classic battle of the bridge rivalry hit the ice, it was the away teams that came up victorious as Niagara invaded Harborcenter on Friday, and the Ice Griffs invaded Dwyer Arena on Saturday.
In game one, it was the Purple Eagles who stormed out of the gate and outplayed the Griffs. Niagara was faster than Canisius and outplayed them in several important facets of the game. Canisius scored first when Lee Lapid was able to surprise goaltender Chad Veltri after receiving a pass from the corner on the rush from Keaton Mastrodonato. As Veltri moved to his right, the puck went in the opposite direction and then to the back of the net.
Canisius held their 1–0 lead for the majority of the second period before Niagara finally broke through. The Purple Eagles tied the game with 4.1 seconds left in the second period on the powerplay when Ryan Cox deflected a point shot behind Barczewski.
Niagara took the momentum and ran with it, as Cox found himself on a breakaway just 36 seconds into the third period to give them a 2–1 lead. Canisius had a few chances to try and tie the game, but Veltri was solid, as he finished with 26 saves on 27 shots.
The game was finally put on ice when Chris Harpur added two insurance markers late: one on the powerplay, and one into an empty net. It was a brutal loss for the Griffs, and one of their most disappointing efforts on the year.
“The better team won,” head coach Trevor Large said. “It felt like we were not as connected as a group as we needed to be tonight, and overall you look at all areas they were better than us in: power play, penalty kill five-on-five, goaltending. We have some work to do. I believe in our group. I know we're going to be better off for it. The goal now is to be better by seven o'clock tomorrow.”
In the second game of the series, Canisius bounced back in a major way, taking it on the road 5–1. After a solid start for Barczewski in game one, the Griffs gave him the night off and called on John Hawthorne to start between the pipes.
That decision proved to be a great one as Hawthorne dominated the Purple Eagles, stopping 34 of 35.
Ryan Miotto, Mitchell Martan, Max Kouznetsov, Jake Witkowski and Daniel DiGrande all provided the goals for Canisius, while Zac Hermann provided the lone goal for Niagara.
The win was a big one for Canisius, as it put them back in sole possession of second place in the conference, and it held Niagara at bay, too. Another reason to feel good about this win is the team’s ability to rely on their backup goaltender.
“That was a really good team win; I'm extremely proud of John Hawthorne,” said Large. “He was spectacular in net tonight. Huge credit goes to our penalty kill as well. A great response from them. I really liked how we played together. I really liked our bench demeanor and communication. The guys scratched and clawed and played Canisius hockey tonight, so I'm extremely proud of everybody in our room.”