"Tonight was an excellent win in a tough building against a very good hockey team," said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. "We stuck to our game plan and played a very disciplined match."
Seniors Eric Rex and Vincent Scarsella led the Griffs with two goals apiece. Rex also added an assist to match his career high with three points on the night. Junior Scott Moser and sophomore Preston Shupe rounded out the scoring for Canisius, each adding a goal.
"Obviously, it is a big win for us tonight," Scarsella said. "We played very well and stuck to our game plan like we did two weeks ago when we won here. We kept it simple, made the easy plays and nobody tried to do too much."
Freshman Ben Danford was one of three Griffs with multiple assists on the night, pacing the offense with a team-leading three helpers. The freshman now owns the program's single-season record for assists by a blueliner with 23.
Junior goaltender Dan Morrison played strong in net, recording 48 saves to earn his third career postseason victory. The 48 stops by the junior netminder is a new program record for a postseason game, topping his own mark of 44.
The Griffs wasted no time finding the back of the net, scoring 68 seconds into the contest. Moser fired a shot on goal and the rebound went right to Rex. The senior then scored on the open net for his eighth goal of the season and the early 1-0 advantage. Sophomore Wes Love also registered an assist on the goal.
Just a minute later, it was the Canisius defense's turn to shine. Bryan Haczyk, the nation's third-leading goal scorer, skated in on a breakaway but Morrison was there to make the save.
Niagara, however, eventually did find the back of the net when Derek Foam scored on the power play with 23.6 seconds left in the opening period.
Canisius came back in the second frame and dominated the scoreboard during the stanza, outscoring the Purple Eagles, 4-0. Scarsella got things started on the power play, sending a wrist shot in from the blue line for the go-ahead score. Danford and Shupe both registered assists on the goal at the 6:52 mark.
Shupe then stretched the Griffs' lead to two, scoring with a two-man advantage. Senior Cory Conacher one-timed a shot toward the goal that rang off the pipe. Shupe then gathered the rebound and scored for his 10th goal of the season. Danford also posted an assist on the power-play goal at the 9:34 mark of the period.
Two minutes later, Moser gave Canisius a 4-1 lead. Rex sent a shot in from the blue line and Moser redirected the puck past the Niagara goaltender for the three-goal advantage. Danford recorded his third assist of the period on the goal.
Scarsella then netted his second tally of the night to round out the scoring in the second period. Shupe and Scarsella entered the zone on a 2-on-1 rush and Shupe sent a shot on goal that was partially saved. The puck sat in the crease behind the Niagara goaltender and Scarsella finished it off for his 12th goal of his senior season. Sophomore Torrey Lindsay also posted an assist on the goal.
Morrison was the anchor for the Griffs in net during the period, stopping all 21 shots on goal to help the Griffs take a four-goal lead into the third.
The Purple Eagles attempted a comeback in the final period, scoring two goals 1:41 apart. Giancarlo Iuorio started the rally with a rebound goal at the 5:58 mark, while Haczyk netted a power-play score at the 7:39 mark.
The defense clamped down from there and Rex then sealed the victory with his second goal of the night with 3:08 remaining. Conacher stole the puck in the Niagara zone and then fed Rex, who knocked it in for the three-goal advantage.
Niagara outshot the Griffs, 51-28, in the contest but Morrison was there to anchor the defense. Canisius was 2-for-9 with the extra-man advantage, while the Purple Eagles went 2-for-4 on the power play.
Cody Campbell started the game for Niagara, stopping 13-of-17 shots on goal, while Chris Noonan recorded nine saves on 11 shots in relief.
Canisius and Holy Cross now meet next weekend in Worcester, Mass. for a best 2-of-3 series. The first game of the series is scheduled for Friday night at 7:05 p.m. Ticket information will be available on GoGriffs.com on Monday.
Game Notes: Rex played in his 100th career game ... Rex has now recorded 27 points during his senior season (9g, 18a), more than double his career total from his first three seasons combined (13 points) ... Shupe also matched his career high with three points in the victory ... Morrison recorded the previous school record of 44 saves in a double-overtime victory at Mercyhurst last season ... Danford entered the night tied with Derek Gilham (1998-99) and Carl Hudson (2009-10) for the most assists in a single-season by a defender ... Sophomore Ben Parker, the team's plus/minus leader entering the contest, made his first appearance after missing the last 15 games due to injury.