Niagara scored the final five goals of the game to rally for a 6-4 victory against the Canisius College hockey team on Saturday night. The 20th-ranked Purple Eagles improve to 1-2-0 on the season, while the Griffs fall in their season opener
“It was an exciting game from a fan’s perspective but unfortunately, from a coach’s perspective, we need to find a way to get into more battles and dictate the flow of the game,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We also need to do a better job of working together in all three zones. We’ll learn from it and get better.”
Seniors Kyle Gibbons and Taylor Law and juniors Doug Beck and Tyler Wiseman all scored for the Griffs in the loss.
The Griffs came out of the gates quickly thanks to three special-teams goals. Wiseman netted the team’s first goal of the 2013-14 season with a short-handed tally 3:14 into the contest. Junior Matthew Grazen fed Wiseman the puck on a 2-on-1 break and the junior knocked it in for the early 1-0 lead. Senior defender Ben Danford also registered an assist on the score.
Law then stretched the Canisius lead to two with a power-play goal nine minutes into the game. The senior knocked in a rebound from right in front off a shot from sophomore Ralph Cuddemi. Freshman Shane Conacher registered his first career point with an assist on the extra-man goal.
Gibbons then gave the Griffs a 3-0 lead with his first tally of the season. The nation’s 12th-ranked scorer from a season ago skated end-to-end and then sent a wrist shot into the back of the net for the power-play goal. Danford and junior Mitch McCrank both registered assists as Canisius took the three-goal lead 11:02 into the contest.
Niagara got one goal back with 6:14 left in the opening frame, taking advantage when the puck went off the boards and took an awkward bounce into the net. However, Canisius answered right back when Beck netted his first of the season less than two minutes later. The junior connected on a turnaround shot for a 4-1 lead with the assists going to McCrank and Cuddemi.
The Purple Eagles finished the scoring in the six-goal first period when TJ Sarcona tipped in a shot at the 19:02 mark for the 4-2 Canisius lead after one.
The Griffs fortunes, however, turned in the second period. Canisius hit two posts early in the frame and Niagara took advantage with a power-play goal of its own to pull within one. Kevin Ryan ripped a shot into back of the net from the blue line 4:52 into the period for the 4-3 score.
The Purple Eagles then knotted the contest with just 25 seconds left in the second, taking advantage of a Canisius turnover in the neutral zone and scoring short-handed. Chris Lochner netted the unassisted goal for a 4-4 score after 40 minutes of action.
The Niagara momentum carried over into the third period with its second short-handed goal of the game. The puck popped into the air and Ryan Rashid was the first to locate it. He then skated down the ice and finished for the 5-4 lead 1:53 into the period.
Canisius was unable to find the equalizer in the final 18-plus minutes and the Purple Eagles sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 13 ticks remaining for the 6-4 win.
Niagara finished the game with a 43-27 advantage in shots. Senior Tony Capobianco posted 37 saves for the Griffs with Jackson Teichroeb and Adrian Ignagni combining for 23 saves for Niagara. The Griffs were also 2-for-7 on the power play, while the Purple Eagles finished 1-for-5.
The Griffs return to action on Friday, Oct. 25, playing at conference foe Air Force. Game time is set for 9:05 p.m. ET.
Game Notes: The Griffs last lost a game when holding a three-goal lead on Nov. 17, 2000 against AIC. Canisius led 3-0 before falling 7-4 to the Yellow Jackets …. Gibbons has now recorded a point in a career-best 11-straight games dating back to last season … Taylor Law scored in his first appearance since Dec. 1 after missing most of the 2012-13 season with an injury … Niagara now leads the Battle of the Bridge series – an all-sports competition between the two schools – 3-1.