Watertown, Mass. – Junior Mitch McCrank netted a hat trick and senior netminder Tony Capobianco stopped 38 shots to lead the seventh-seeded Canisius College hockey team to a 3-2 victory and 2-1 series win against second-seeded Bentley on Sunday night in the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals. The defending league champions, the Griffs now advance to the semifinals for the second-straight season with a 16-20-3 record. Bentley finishes the year with a 19-14-4 mark.
“Our physical play from the first puck drop on Friday to the final horn on Sunday was the ultimate difference in a really close weekend,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Both teams had opportunities to win the series in two games but I’m proud of our effort to earn the win in three against a very good Bentley team. Our depth, physical play and goaltending were the difference in the weekend.”
The win did not come easy as for the third-straight night, Bentley netted the game’s first goal when Brett Gensler scored with 8:56 remaining in the first. Gensler knocked in a rebound one second after a Falcons power play expired for the 1-0 lead.
The Griffs, however, would answer right back with McCrank’s fifth goal of the season just 52 seconds later. The junior won a faceoff back to senior defender Ben Danford, who fired the puck toward net. The shot was blocked in the right face-off circle but McCrank corralled the loose puck and sent it in for the 1-1 game.
The Falcons reclaimed their lead with 1:55 remaining in the opening frame, once again taking advantage on the power play. Alex Grieve knocked the puck in on the back door for the 2-1 edge through 20 minutes of action.
Canisius answered early in the second frame, taking advantage of a power play of its own. Junior defender Doug Jessey fired a shot toward net that was saved but the rebound squirted out to McCrank in the right face-off circle. The junior then buried his chance through traffic for his sixth goal of the season and to pull Canisius even at two. Sophomore Chris Rumble also registered an assist on the goal at the 3:59 mark of the second.
McCrank then completed his hat trick and gave Canisius the only lead it would require in the game, scoring with 11:08 remaining. On a 2-on-1 rush, sophomore Ralph Cuddemi fed the puck to McCrank in the slot and the junior knocked it for his seventh goal of the season and the 3-2 advantage. Freshman Shane Conacher added an assist for the Griffs on the game-winning tally.
The Canisius defense held from there behind the goaltending of Capobianco. The senior stopped all 14 shots he saw in the third period, including nine saves after Canisius took the lead, to preserve the one-goal victory for the Griffs.
Bentley finished the game with a 40-32 advantage in shots with both teams going 1-for-3 on the power play. Branden Komm recorded 29 saves for the Falcons in the defeat.
Canisius now prepares to face top-seeded Mercyhurst in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, a rematch of last year’s championship game – a 7-2 Griffs win. The schools are set to meet on Friday at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.
Game Notes: McCrank had four goals in the first 35 games of the season before his three-goal performance on Sunday … His hat trick is the second in the program’s Division I postseason history as Cody Freeman netted three goals last Saturday against Sacred Heart … It marked just the fifth time in conference history that the road team won a playoff series (40 attempts) and Canisius accomplished the feat for the third time … The Griffs won a game three in a playoff series for the first time in three attempts … Canisius also won a series for the first time after losing game one of a series (was 0-4).