March 24, 2013 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Putting Itself on the Map

Canisius Runs Through Field to Win First Atlantic Title, NCAA Bid

CHN Staff Report

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Canisius is a team that most fans across the country don't pay much attention to, let alone have heard of.

That is all changing.

Even in the league, Canisius was left for dead this year. But in the year that the best player in the program's history, Cory Conacher, made a name for himself in the National Hockey League, the Golden Griffins continued the magic, winning its last eight games to capture an improbably Atlantic Hockey championship.

Canisius scratched out two wins in Air Force, then defeated NCAA-bound Niagara in the semifinal. But instead of letting down off those big wins, Canisius pushed it even further, and just blited Mercyhurst, winning 7-2 in Saturday's championship game.

"Nothing has really changed for us," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "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."

It was the first conference championship, and first NCAA bid for Canisius, which will likely face Quinnipiac in the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

Canisius was just 11-18-5, and in seventh place in Atlantic Hockey as the season was winding down. The seven goals in the final was a season high.

Junior Kyle Gibbons led the Canisius offense, recording a career-best scoring two goals and two assists to earn Tournament MVP honors.

Freshman Ralph Cuddemi matched Gibbons with a career-best two goals.

But goaltender Tony Capobianco has been the story more than anyone. He made 34 saves in the final, and the junior finished with a tournament-record 235 saves in six games, posting a 1.99 goals against average and .951 save percentage.

"I thought the second period was an absolute schmozzle," Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin told the Buffalo News. "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."

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