The Canisius College hockey team secured home ice for an Atlantic Hockey First Round series after finishing off a weekend sweep against RIT, 4-2, on Senior Night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. The Griffs earned the seven seed for the league's tournament with a 12-13-2 Atlantic Hockey record and a 13-18-5 overall mark. The Tigers finish the regular season at 13-16-5 overall and 11-12-4 in league play.
"It was a complete effort from everybody tonight," said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. "Our focus was excellent and once again, we scored timely goals today. We showed a great amount of character to grind out a crucial victory."
Senior Ben Parker, junior Kyle Gibbons and sophomores Mitch McCrank and Cody Freeman all scored for the Griffs in the winning effort.
Junior Tony Capobianco recorded 36 saves to earn the victory in goal.
RIT struck first in the contest thanks to a miscue by the Canisius defense. Brad McGowan intercepted a pass in the Griffs zone and Matt Garbowsky scored for the early 1-0 lead 6:52 into the contest.
Canisius answered back and quickly turned the momentum in its favor thanks to a pair of scores 22 seconds apart. Parker netted his first goal of the season at the 10:41 mark of the opening frame. Sophomore Matthew Grazen slid the puck back to Parker at the blue line and the senior defender found an opening for his first tally in nearly three years. Senior Preston Shupe also registered an assist on the game-tying tally.
The Griffs then wasted no time grabbing the lead. Off a rush, Gibbons got a step on the RIT defense and then scored off his backhand for his team-leading 16th goal of the season. McCrank and freshman Stephen Miller both recorded assists on the go-ahead tally.
After a scoreless second frame, the Griffs stretched their lead to two with a power-play tally 4:01 into the third. From the left boards, junior Patrick Sullivan sent a nice pass to McCrank right in front. The sophomore then tipped the puck in on an open net for his fifth score of the season. Gibbons added an assist to give the Griffs a 3-1 lead.
RIT did not go down quietly and pulled to within one with 13:12 remaining in the game. On a rush, McGowan's shot hit off a stick in front and into the net for the 3-2 score.
Canisius, however, once again answered, sealing the victory with 8:29 remaining in the contest with Freeman's seventh goal of the season. Taking advantage of another rush, Gibbons found Freeman open in the slot and the sophomore sent a wrist shot into the net for the two-goal lead. Parker added an assist as the Griffs secured the victory and home-ice advantage in the first round.
RIT held a 38-33 edge in shots on the night but Canisius won the special-teams battle. The Griffs were 1-for-4 on the power play, while killing both of the Tigers' extra-man chances.
Jordan Ruby recorded 29 saves in a losing effort for the Tigers.
Canisius now turns its attention toward the postseason where the Griffs will host 10th-seeded Bentley in a best 2-of-3 series. The schools are set to begin the series on Friday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena at 7:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Bentley swept a pair of games in Waltham, Mass. earlier in the season ... Canisius swept a weekend series with RIT for the first time in the program's history and has now won three-straight against the Tigers for the first time in the 61-game series ... Parker's goal was the first for the senior defender since scoring in double overtime of game two of the 2010 Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals against Mercyhurst (March 13, 2010) ... Parker also matched a career high with two points (had two assists against Army on Jan. 6, 2012) ... Canisius has now won its last four Senior Night contests ... Freeman has 11 points in his last 12 games after recording seven in his first 38 career contests.
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