Come here after the games for analysis and insights from CHN Staff members.
In as big a win as the program has had, Canisius defenseman Duncan McKellar scored the game-winning goal 1:08 into overtime to get the sweep of Air Force -- the seven seed upending the two seed. And not just that, but an Air Force program that has dominated the conference, particularly in the postseason, for so long. Air Force was a little bit down this year, but, heck, it had just swept Niagara in this very week a couple of weeks ago. Now there will be a new Atlantic Hockey champion. “We showed a lot of grit and a lot of resiliency tonight in a game that Air Force played really well,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Those characteristics are why we won the game and advanced to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals.”
“I thought we played a terrific game,” Air Force head coach Frank Serratore said. “We spotted them a goal, but came back to lead 3-1. Our penalty kill was very good and we scored a power-play goal. We also had 53 shots. The difference in the game was (Canisius goalie Tony) Capobianco. He was great. This game certainly didn’t go the way it was supposed to go for us. I give Canisius credit, they fought back to tie the game and then they got the bounce in overtime. This is a bitter pill to swallow. But we have been very fortunate in this league and we have done this to a lot of teams. I am very proud of our team. We got off to a rough start this season and these guys battled back to get a first-round bye. We were 14-4-4 in the final 20 regular-season games and credit those guys for hanging tough together.”
Canisius got a power-play goal from Kyle Gibbons with 9 seconds left in regulation to get a huge Game 1 over 2nd-seeded Air Force. That came after Air Force, down 3-2, had pulled the goalie while shorthanded, and evened the game just a minute earlier. With the power play still in effect, and Jason Torf back in net, Canisius got the winner. “Two big power-play goals in the third period were the difference tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Our team showed great maturity and resolve to keep striking and getting the one-goal advantage each time, limiting Air Force’s momentum.”
“Canisius played a great defensive game,” AFA head coach Frank Serratore said. “Their goalie (Tony Capobianco) is really good. The fact is that we got out-special-teamed badly. They made plays on their power plays and we didn’t. We can’t dwell on this one. We have to put it in the rear-view mirror and move on. It ain’t over yet.”
Canisius gets the sweep, and will face Air Force in the quarterfinals. “It’s a great playoff series win where all 19 players were committed to playing physical, blocking shots and playing at a high pace against a good and skilled Bentley team,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Our penalty kill and goaltending, which has been really strong all season, really rose to the occasion at the biggest time of the year.”
Canisius' sweep of the weekend gives it the 7 seed and puts RIT in 8th, though both teams get home ice in the first round, so it's not a big difference. “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.”
After getting beaten by Canisius on Thursday, Niagara comes back with the shutout behind Carson Chubak. Niagara is comfortably in first place, but the win helps keep the Purple Eagles in good standing in the Pairwise, where they are currently No. 11. Canisius entered the game 4-0 all-time against ranked Atlantic Hockey opponents, but that was snapped in this game.
Two late goals in a 31-second span helped Canisius rally past Mercyhurst. “It was a really tight hockey game tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “It was a game where two of the top goaltenders in the league made big save after big save and we happened to get a couple by him late. After a slow start to the contest, getting that first goal on the power play helped shift the momentum our way and get two big points out of this game. Now we need to get back at it and try to do the same thing on Tuesday.”
Behind four third-period goals, Bentley cruised and got back to .500 on the season. “It was a close game going into the third period and Bentley’s tempo got us on our heels,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We know that the standings are tight and we have no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to regain our confidence and be ready to play next weekend."
Canisius got a split of its weekend, after getting shut out by Robert Morris on Friday. It defeated RIT in Rochester for the first time in eight games. “It was an aggressive, hard-earned victory tonight that we will look to build on in the future,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “We did a good job of limiting their chances and when we got the 4-3 lead, we played our best hockey to earn two hard points.”
A young Clarkson team is still hurting for its first win, but can perhaps build on the extra attacker goal it got to earn the tie Saturday. Clarkson got the goal with just 29 seconds remaining in regulation -- and 25 seconds after Canisius had taken the lead. “We really showed a lot of good qualities today,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “A tie always creates mixed feelings but we just need to take the positives from today.”
©2013 College Hockey News.