In a rematch of the 2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship, the Canisius College hockey once again prevailed, scoring two third-period goals to rally for a 4-3 victory against Mercyhurst in its home opener on Saturday night. With the win, the Griffs improve to 2-5-0 on the season and 1-3-0 in Atlantic Hockey play, while the Lakers drop to 3-6-1 and 2-1-0 against league foes.
“It was a gutsy effort by everybody today,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We came up with a huge penalty kill at the end of the game. The line of Braeden Rigney, Matthew Grazen and Patrick Sullivan was also excellent with four even-strength goals and really provided a huge spark for us.”
The line of senior Patrick Sullivan and juniors Matthew Grazen and Braeden Rigney dominated the game for the Griffs, contributing to all four Canisius tallies. Sullivan matched his career highs with three points and two goals, while Grazen tallied a personal-best three points with three assists. Rigney also matched his career high with two points, scoring a goal to go along with one assist.
Sophomore defender Chris Rumble also added a goal for Canisius in the winning effort.
Junior Keegan Asmundson earned the victory in net with 31 saves.
Mercyhurst opened the scoring 12:40 into the contest when Daniel O’Donoghue tallied a power-play goal. A loose puck popped right to O’Donoghue in the left face-off circle and he found the back of the net with a wrist shot for the 1-0 lead.
Canisius answered back when Rumble netted his first goal of the campaign. The sophomore defender sent the puck in from the point with 4:36 remaining to knot the contest at one. Rigney and Grazen both registered assists on the goal.
The Griffs claimed their first lead of the day 1:15 into the second frame. Sullivan intercepted a clearing pass and finished high stick-side for his second goal of the season.
The Canisius lead, however, would be short-lived as Mercyhurst tied the game just 31 seconds later. Nardo Nagtzaam knocked a loose puck in from close range as the schools were once again even. The Lakers would then reclaim its lead with 7:41 remaining in the second when Stephen Hrehoriak finished a 2-on-1 for a short-handed goal.
In the third period, the Rigney-Grazen-Sullivan line took control and led the Griffs to the win. Rigney started the rally with his first goal of the season 4:53 into the period, jamming a puck in from close range. Both Grazen and Sullivan registered the assists on the game-tying goal.
Sullivan then put the Griffs ahead with his second tally of the game and third of the season. The senior tipped a shot from defender Doug Jessey into the back of the net with 7:32 remaining in regulation for the 4-3 advantage. Grazen registered his career-best third assist on the goal.
The victory did not come easy in the last seven-plus minutes, however, as Canisius was whistled for a five-minute major penalty with 3:39 remaining. The Griffs, though, would respond with the kill, including a save by Asmundson in the dying seconds, to preserve their first conference victory of the year.
Mercyhurst finished the contest with a 34-31 edge in shots on the night. The Lakers were also 1-for-2 on the power play, while killing the only Canisius extra-man chance of the night.
Canisius takes a break from conference action next weekend for a two-game series with Ohio State. The schools meet in Columbus with the series beginning on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Canisius unveiled its 2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship and 2013 NCAA Tournament banners prior to the contest … The Griffs defeated the Lakers, 7-2, in the championship game last season … Sophomore Stephen Miller also received his 2013 Atlantic Hockey Top-Scholar Athlete award prior to the contest … The Canisius women’s lacrosse team received their championship rings for winning the 2013 MAAC Championship at the first intermission … The Griffs have allowed at least one power-play goal in all seven games this season … The home team has won the last six meetings between the two rivals … Canisius was the last team in the NCAA to host a game during the 2013-14 season.