by Amy Moritz
The Basics: Canisius built a 3-0 lead and the goals poured on in the third as the Golden Griffins defeated Mercyhurst, 7-2, in the Atlantic Hockey Championship at Blue Cross Arena.
How Canisius Won: The offense is on fire for the Griffs. After averaging just 2.18 goals a game for the majority of the season, they entered the game with a 4.18 goals per game average during their seven-game winning streak. While top-line winger Kyle Gibbons scored twice, it's the ability of others to contribute. In this win, Ralph Cuddemi scored twice, just his third and fourth goals of the season, which proved to be key strikes.
How Canisius Won II: Puck luck. At one point in the season the Griffs couldn't buy a good bounce. In the second period alone they saw a Mercyhurst goal called back thanks to video replay. They saw the Lakers miss a wide open net and another shot clank off the goal post.
MVP: Gibbons earned the tourney honors with four points on the night, a career-high. Don't discount the play of goaltender Tony Capobianco, though. The junior was solid making 34 saves. But to be honest, that's kind of a light night for him.
Lowest seed: The Griffs become the lowest seed to win the Atlantic Hockey title. They came in as the seventh seed and defeated No. 2 Air Force and No. 1 Niagara en route to the title game.
What It Means: Canisius gets the league's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It's the first championship for the Griffs and their first time in the NCAA tourney.
P.S. What It Means For Niagara: The NCAA hockey field is not determined the same as basketball. There is no committee in a room debating bubble teams. The conference winners advance with the at-large teams filled in from the computer ranking PairWise system. As of now, it is pretty certain that Niagara is in.
NCAA Selection Show: 9 p.m. Sunday. ESPNU.
Penalties: There were plenty of them in this one and the Griffs won the special team's battle. Canisius went 3 for 6 on the power play while holding Mercyhurst to 1 for 5. The key penalty came early in the second when Kyle Just hit Stephen Farrell from behind in the corner. He was called for five-minutes for hitting from behind and given a game misconduct.
They Said It:
"I thought the second period was an absolute schmozzle. I mean it was the craziest period of hockey. I've been in this a long time and I don't remember too many periods that was that unglued. .. It was a nightmare, schmozzle second period for us." Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin.
"Nothing has really changed for us. The pieces of the puzzle shifted a little bit, but I thnk it was the body of work and I guess if I had to identify one thing that took us to a different level it was looking the end of the season in the face and saying … we don’t want our season to end. Since that point, we’ve played our best hockey of the season." Canisius coach Dave Smith.