Lewiston, N.Y. – The Canisius College rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to earn a 4-4 draw at rival Niagara on Thursday night. The Griffs are now 10-14-3 on the season and 9-8-3 in Atlantic Hockey play, while the Purple Eagles are 8-15-4 and 8-8-4 versus league foes.
“In a real physical game, we worked really hard for a tie and to earn a point tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We played well after Niagara came out with high energy in the beginning of the game and the beginning of each period. Our effort put us in position to keep the game where we wanted it to be and we did a good job of overcoming some adversity down two goals to earn a crucial Atlantic Hockey point,”
Seniors Ben Danford and Kyle Gibbons and juniors Matthew Grazen and Doug Jessey all scored for the Griffs in the tie.
Junior Keegan Asmundson finished with 25 saves to anchor the Canisius defense.
Canisius grabbed the early thanks to Gibbons’ team-leading 13th tally of the season and his eighth on the power play. Freshman Shane Conacher found junior Cody Freeman open ahead in the neutral zone. Freeman then fed Gibbons to his left and the senior got a step on his defender and beat the goalie, high glove-side, for the 1-0 lead with 5:40 remaining in the opening period.
Niagara, however, answered right back and scored just 57 seconds later. The Purple Eagles were able to take advantage of a Canisius turnover in its own zone and Brock Edwards finished from right in front to knot the game at one with 4:43 remaining in the first.
The Purple Eagles then grabbed their first lead of the night just 14 seconds into the second frame. Hugo Turcotte skated past a Canisius defender on a rush and finished from right outside the goal crease for the 2-1 advantage.
Canisius knotted the game at two when Grazen tallied his first goal of the season. The junior scored after missing the last 12 games with an injury off a nice pass from sophomore Ralph Cuddemi from behind the net. Grazen was open in front and finished high to pull Canisius even, 2-2. Conacher also registered his second assist of the night on the goal with 7:11 remaining in the second.
The Purple Eagles once again took advantage of a Canisius turnover in its own zone to reclaim the lead when TJ Sarcona scored with 2:18 remaining in the second for a 3-2 advantage. Niagara then extended its lead to two when Matt Williams blasted a shot into the back of the net just 43 seconds into the third frame for a 4-2 advantage.
Jessey started the Canisius rally with his sixth goal of the season. The junior defender fought for the puck along the boards, skated toward net and then slipped the puck past the Niagara goalie to pull the Griffs within one, 4-3. Freeman and Gibbons both registered assists on the goal with 13:55 remaining in regulation.
Danford then squared the contest at four with 6:42 remaining in the third period. Off a face-off victory, the senior defender’s shot fluttered into the back of the net for his fourth tally of the season. Cuddemi and junior Mitch McCrank both recorded assists on the game-tying goal.
The schools then played even for the final 11-plus minutes as each team earned a crucial point in the final stretch of the season.
Canisius finished with a 44-29 advantage in shots in the draw. The Griffs also went 1-for-4 on the power play, while killing the only two extra-man chances for Niagara.
Jackson Teichroeb recorded 40 saves for the Purple Eagles.
The schools wrap up the season series on Saturday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Gibbons now ranks fifth nationally with eight power-play goals this season … Gibbons is also tied for fourth in the program’s Division I history with 119 career points, matching David Deeves (1998-02) … Jessey’s goal was his first even-strength tally of the season. He entered the game with five goals this year – all coming on the power play … Jessey has recorded at least one point in a career-best four-straight games … Canisius has outshot its opponent in the last four games, a first for the team since going seven-straight games from Nov. 1 to Nov. 21, 2009 … Canisius now leads the Battle of the Bridge series, an all-sports competition between the two rivals, 8.5-7.5