Watertown, Mass. – The Canisius College hockey team rallied from a three-goal third-period deficit to earn a 5-4 double-overtime victory over second-seeded Bentley on Saturday night, extending its season and forcing a game three for a best 2-of-3 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series on Sunday. The Griffs improved to 15-20-3 on the season with the win, while the Falcons drop to 19-13-4.
Senior Kyle Gibbons scored 6:59 into the second overtime to give the Griffs the victory in a must-win game. Junior Tyler Wiseman back-handed the puck to Gibbons in the right face-off circle from behind the net and Gibbons one-timed it in for the game-winning tally. Sophomore Mathew Backhouse also recorded an assist to force a deciding game three.
“As the game went on, we played more and more as a team,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “It took a total team effort to get it done with our back against the wall and I’m proud of how we responded in the third period.”
Sophomore Ralph Cuddemi led the Griffs with two goals on the night, while senior Ben Danford and freshman Shane Conacher also scored for Canisius in the win.
Senior Tony Capobianco finished with a season-high 42 saves to earn the victory in goal.
For the second-straight night, Bentley opened the game with two first-period goals to seize the early momentum. Brett Gensler scored 9:46 into the game from the low slot for the 1-0 lead before Tyler Deresky knocked a rebound in with 53.3 seconds remaining in the period.
Canisius cut its deficit in half when Cuddemi netted his 12th goal of the season. The Bentley defense lost Cuddemi in its zone and after a pass from Conacher at the blue line, the sophomore skated in 1-on-1 and his shot trickled past the goal line for the 2-1 game. Junior Mitch McCrank also added an assist on the goal just 94 seconds into the period.
Bentley, however, answered back with two more goals in the second frame. After a Canisius turnover in its own zone, Brett Switzer knocked a rebound in with 12:52 remaining in the period for the 3-1 lead. Alex Grieve then scored off a rush with just 1:30 left for the 4-1 advantage through 40 minutes.
Canisius began its rally and pulled to within two when Danford netted a goal with 14:55 remaining in regulation. The senior fired a shot in from the high slot off passes from Backhouse and Gibbons for his fifth goal of the season.
Cuddemi then cut the deficit to one with 8:41 remaining, scoring his second of the day and 13th of the season. On the power play, Danford faked a shot from the slot and fed the puck to Cuddemi, who buried his chance down low to the left of the goalie for the 4-3 score. Conacher added an assist on the tally for the only power-play score of the game.
Canisius then pulled even when Conacher netted his fifth goal of the season with just 4:05 left in regulation. Junior defender Doug Jessey made a spin move to get by his defender and then found Conacher open on the other side. The rookie buried his chance high to bring Canisius even at four. McCrank added his second assist of the night on the goal.
The rally led to Gibbons’ late heroics but not before Capobianco made a pair of saves to rob Bentley of the sweep. Just over 30 seconds into the first overtime, Steve Weinstein fired a shot on net off a rush but the senior netminder made a kick save to keep the game tied at four. Capobianco was then called upon again early in the second overtime but stopped Grieve on a rush, setting up Gibbons late game-winning goal.
Bentley finished the contest with a slight edge in shots, 46-45. Canisius was 1-for-2 with the extra-man advantage, while killing both of Bentley’s power-play chances.
The schools now face a deciding game three tomorrow night. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: The game was 86:59 long and one second short of the longest game in the program’s history … Canisius played 87:00 in game two of the 2010 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals, also rallying from a 4-1 deficit for a 5-4 double overtime victory … That was also the last time that Canisius rallied from a three-goal deficit to earn a win … Gibbons’ goal was the third overtime goal of his career and his second in the postseason (also scored in game two of the 2011 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals against Holy Cross) … Conacher had a career-high three points, while Backhouse registered two assists in a game for the first time in his career.