Griffs eliminated by UConn in AHA playoffs

Going into the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs against Connecticut, the Canisius College hockey team knew that they had to keep the Huskies’ leading scorer, Cole Schneider, in check. The Williamsville native, who had three goals and four points against the Griffs in the regular season, continued to be a thorn in their side, scoring two goals and four points in a 4-3 overtime win and a 4-0 shutout to lead UConn into the second round.

Canisius was off to a solid start in the first game of the series last Friday, as freshman Cody Freeman scored his first collegiate goal right after a faceoff win by sophomore Patrick Sullivan. However, momentum was quickly lost, as 30 seconds later, freshman Stephen Farrell took an interference penalty. It didn’t take long for the Huskies first-ranked power play to answer back, as Schneider set up Billy Latta for the tying marker a minute and a half into the man advantage. UConn extended their lead at the 10:02 mark of the first period to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot by Canisius 13-9 in the frame.

The Griffs’ work ethic did not waver and as a result, freshman Mitch McCrank buried his third goal of the year four minutes in to the second period. Freshman Tyler Wiseman and sophomore Taylor Law picked up assists on the goal. That line would get the Griffs up 3-2 six minutes later, as Wiseman got his fourth goal from McCrank and Law at the halfway point of the game. However, a long pass from UConn defenseman Jacob Poe sent Schneider in alone on Canisius senior Dan Morrison. Schneider’s shot found room between Morrison’s arm and pad and tied the game at 3-3.

“It’s frustrating when the best player gets a breakaway on you, but it’s why those guys are the best players,” Morrison said. “When you look back, he was kind of cheating on the offensive side, but at the same time, he had a good hockey sense and he knew he could blow the zone there. I was trying to yell as loud as I could to get [the defense] aware of it, but obviously that’s a save you need to make at a pivotal time.”

The game remained knotted for 26 minutes, despite Canisius having an 8-3 shot advantage in the third period. As the buzzer sounded to end the third, the teams geared up for overtime.

The Griffs had a big chance to get the victory as a rush by Wiseman caused UConn to knock the net off and take a delay of game penalty. The Griffs were awarded a penalty shot and the Griffs looked amongst themselves to see who was successful in Lemon Griff shootouts. After about 15 seconds, it was decided that Wiseman would take the shot.

“We looked at it as that he made the play to get the penalty shot, he had already scored a goal earlier in the game, he’s a kid who’s got good stick skills and maybe a freshman doesn’t feel that pressure as much, they are excited to take that shot,” senior Scott Moser said. “I give him a lot of credit for even taking that shot. None of us have felt that kind of pressure before.”

Wiseman put a move on UConn goaltender Garrett Bartus, but he was denied the chance to win the game.

“Tyler deserved to take that shot, he made a good move, but the goalie stayed with him, so that’s the way it goes,” Moser said.

Less than two minutes later, Wiseman took a cross-checking penalty and the Huskies took advantage, scoring the game-winner.

Canisius finished the game with a 39-24 edge in shots and is only the third time all season that the Griffs have outshot their opponent. They hold a 1-2 record in those games. Morrison made 20 saves in the loss.

“We needed that game … as a buffer game,” Morrison said. “We needed to get on them since it is so hard to sweep in our league. We didn’t play as well on Saturday. Saturday they came out a little bit stronger and we just had a couple bad bounces and couldn’t get anything going our way.”

On Saturday, Bartus shut the door on the Canisius offense, making 26 saves for the shutout. It was the sixth time the Griffs were shutout–a school record. Schneider’s 20th goal of the season at the 7:57 mark of the first period stood as the game-winner. Canisius was unable to take advantage of four power-play opportunities, mustering only three shots.

Morrison started between the pipes and recorded 22 saves in his last game as a Golden Griffin. His school record for career saves stands at 2,829 saves. Senior Scott Moser had two shots on goal and was 2-for-4 taking faceoffs. Canisius finished in ninth place in the AHA with a conference record of 10-14-3 and an overall record of 10-22-4.

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