November 3, 2011

Atlantic Hockey Journal: Canisius pulls off great escape

Comeback kids

On the road and with his team in a good-sized hole, Canisius coach Dave Smith made the desperate move that hockey coaches make in desperate times.

And it worked.

Air Force led the Golden Griffins 3-1 with less than two minutes to play at Cadet Ice Arena. Smith pulled sophomore goalie Tony Capobianco for an extra attacker and, in short order, sophomore forward Kyle Gibbons scored with 1:34 left to play to slice the margin to a single goal.

Then, with just six seconds remaining, freshman forward Doug Beck scored his first collegiate goal to tie the game. Junior forward Preston Shupe assisted on both extra-attacker goals.

As would be expected, the last-minute heroics drew a different reaction depending on the color of one’s jersey.

“We cheated ourselves out of a win by not hunkering down in the last two minutes,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore told the Colorado Gazette. “We played pretty dang well, and we dominated play for 58 minutes. The bottom line is that we needed somebody to win a face-off, make a play or make a save, and we didn’t get any of them.”

It was Canisius making plays at the end.

“That’s a really, really great tie for us,” Smith said. “There are some reasons (Air Force) statistically dominated, and we had a tough second period. Just being down two after the second period was so much different than being down three.”

Air Force had four straight power plays, including a couple of spans with a two-man advantage in the middle period, and outshot Canisius by a whopping 25-4 margin over the 20 minutes.

Capobianco stopped 23 of the shots to keep his team in the game and it was 2-0 entering the third period.

Canisius junior forward Torrey Lindsay scored a short-handed goal for 2-1 with 6:23 left in the third period. But freshman forward Chad Demers made it 3-1 Air Force with five minutes left.

And then the fun -- at least fun for Canisius -- began.

“We showed a lot of heart and a lot of character,” Smith said.

“Give Canisius credit,” Serratore said. “They earned it. Their goaltender was terrific.”

Air Force actually dodged a larger problem in the closing seconds of overtime, too. Shupe put the puck in the net one last time, just after the buzzer sounded ending the game.

Canisius and Air Force have made tight games a habit recently. Two of their three games ended in ties last year. The Griffins scored in the last 10 minutes of the third period in a 1-1 tie at Canisius and Air Force scored with less than eight minutes left for a 4-4 tie in Colorado Springs.

Could be fun when the teams meet again Jan. 29 and 30 at Canisius.

Game of the Week

UConn at Mercyhurst, Friday and Saturday

The Huskies were sixth and the Lakers seventh in the final standings last year and UConn ended Mercyhurst’s season with a sweep in the Atlantic Hockey tournament quarterfinals.

The Huskies, off to an impressive start, and Lakers, coming off a sweep of RIT (3-2) and Cornell (5-4), will both look to make some early season noise. Mercyhurst starts a six-game homestand with the series. The teams split a pair of regular-season games last year in Storrs. UConn won 3-1 the first night, Mercyhurst 9-4 the next.

Atlantic Hockey power ratings

1. UConn (3-2-1, 2-0-0 AHA). . . . Huskies knock off Holy Cross to take over top spot.

2. Mercyhurst (2-4-0, 1-0-0). . . . Impressive one-goal wins over RIT and Cornell help the cause.

3. Holy Cross (2-2-0, 1-1-0). . . . Crusaders look to bounce back with a pair at Niagara.

4. Air Force (3-2-2, 2-0-1). . . . Late two-goal lead gets away in 3-3 tie with Canisius.

5. Canisius (1-2-1, 1-0-1). . . Two extra attacker goals in last 1:34 catch Air Force, 3-3.

6. Niagara (1-3-2, 0-1-1). . . .Freshman goalie Colby Drust shines in debut win over Colgate.

7. RIT (1-3-1, 0-2-1). . . . Goalie Shane Madolora sits two more games for NCAA eligibility issues.

8. Robert Morris (2-5-0, 0-1-0). . . . Swept at Michigan State, hosts AIC for a pair.

9. Bentley (1-5-1, 1-0-0). . . . Earns 3-3 tie with Clarkson.

10. AIC (1-6-0, 1-1-0). . . . Freshman forward Jason Popek scores two in 7-4 win over Sacred Heart.

11. Army (0-3-1, 0-1-0). . . . Looks for first win at RIT; UConn game postponed to Feb. 7.

12. Sacred Heart (0-6-0, 0-2-0). … Travels to Air Force looking for first win.

Allen Lessels can be reached at