By Amy Moritz
The first two games of the season, the Canisius hockey team demonstrated a fantastic ability to take a lead. The problem was they couldn't hold the lead and promptly lost key Atlantic Hockey contests to Niagara and Air Force.
The Golden Griffins picked a good time to correct that error. With a solid 60-minute effort the Griffs knocked off No. 17 Denver in Colorado.
"We shouldn't be surprised by having a lead," coach Dave Smith said. "We've had a lead in every game. We haven't put the pieces together and tonight we did that. ... We earned that victory.
"Tonight we put together positioning with intensity. Leading up to this game it was one or the other. We got great goaltender and goals from our penalty kill, power play, empty net and 5-on-5. We were very hard to play against tonight, which is the recipe for us to win."
Special teams played a key role for the Griffs, as they took a 1-0 lead midway through the first on a power play goal by Cody Freeman. Kyle Gibbons added a short-handed goal with 16:09 of the second period. Gibbons now has a point in 13-straight games dating back to last year. That's the longest streak by a Griff since Chris Duggan had a 15-game point run in 2002.
Mathew Backhouse scored his first collegiate goal to give the Griffs a 3-0 lead with 11:35 left in the second.
Denver (3-3-0) got on the board with a power play goal with 7:43 left to play but an empty netter from Ralph Cuddemi with 2:31 to play sealed the win.
Junior Keegan Asmundson recorded a career-high 36 saves to earn the win. Denver outshot the Griffs, 37-21 with 18 shots on goal in the third period.
Of the 10 goals Canisius has scored this season, six have been on special teams (four power play, two shorthanded).
It marked the first non-conference win over a nationally ranked opponent for Canisius (1-2-0) which gets another crack at a nationally-ranked team Nov. 1-2 when the play at Miami (Ohio) which entered the weekend ranked No. 2.