Junior Cody Freeman netted the first postseason hat trick in the program’s Division I history and senior netminder Tony Capobianco stopped all 31 shots he saw to lead the Canisius College hockey team to a 5-0 victory over Sacred Heart on Saturday night, completing a sweep in a best 2-of-3 Atlantic Hockey First Round series. The Griffs improve to 14-19-3 and advance to the league’s quarterfinals, while the Pioneers conclude their season with a 12-24-0 record.
Freeman recorded his first career hat trick with his three tallies and the 14th overall in the program’s Division I history. Capobianco added to his school record that he set last night with his eighth career shutout and his third in eight postseason starts.
Junior Braeden Rigney and sophomore Ralph Cuddemi also added goals for the Griffs in the winning effort.
“It took a total team effort tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “It started with Tony Capobianco in goal and the defense set the tone with strong net-front play. Every goal is huge when it comes to the postseason but Cody Freeman’s short-handed tally in the second really turned things in our favor tonight.”
The Griffs opened the scoring 13:23 into the first period when Cuddemi netted his 11th goal of the season. On a rush, the sophomore fired a shot that bounced off the Sacred Heart goalie, over his shoulder and into the net. Senior Patrick Sullivan posted an assist on Cuddemi’s tally and the Griffs never looked back.
Freeman registered his first goal of the night with his first career short-handed tally 4:59 into the second frame. The junior intercepted a Sacred Heart clearing pass and buried his opportunity top shelf for the 2-0 Canisius advantage.
The Griffs then extended their lead to three when Rigney scored his ninth goal of the season. Junior defender Logan Roe forced a Sacred Heart turnover in its own zone and fired the puck off the boards behind the net. The puck bounced right to Rigney and the junior knocked it in with an open look for the goal with 8:27 remaining in the second.
Freeman then added two tallies in the final frame to complete his first career hat trick. His second goal of the night was set up by good puck possession down low with linemates Kyle Gibbons and Sullivan with Freeman finishing from the low slot for the 4-0 advantage with 13:40 remaining.
The junior then netted his third of the night with 5:35 left in regulation, knocking in a rebound with assists going to senior Ben Danford and Gibbons. Freeman’s 10th goal of the season was the final tally in the 5-0 Canisius victory.
Both teams finished the night with 31 shots but the Pioneers could not solve Capobianco in net during the weekend. Neither team was also able to score on the power play in seven chances for the Griffs and five for Sacred Heart.
Alex Vazzano took the loss in net for the Pioneers with 26 saves.
Canisius now awaits its opponent for a best 2-of-3 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series on the road next weekend. If Robert Morris defeats Army on Sunday night, the Griffs travel to face Bentley. If the Black Knights earn the victory, Canisius will square off with Air Force in Colorado. The quarterfinal series is set to begin on Friday.
Game Notes: In eight career Atlantic Hockey Tournament games, Capobianco owns three shutouts with a perfect 8-0-0 record. He has also posted a 1.50 goals against average and a .961 save percentage … Freeman’s hat trick was the first for the Griffs in 35 all-time Division I postseason games. A player had previously scored two goals in a game on 16 occasions for Canisius … With his two assists on the night, Gibbons now has 19 points in 12 career Atlantic Hockey Tournament games … Freeman now has nine goals in 10 Atlantic Hockey Tournament games during his career.