The regular season ended with a muffle for Jackson Teichroeb. The Niagara goaltender struggled in his last three starts, including getting pulled twice as the Purple Eagles limped into the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
But the playoffs are where Teichroeb has played some of his best hockey and the junior was ready for a fresh start on Friday night.
He turned away 31 shots from an explosive Canisius offense to backstop 10th-seeded Niagara to a 3-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three first-round Atlantic Hockey series.
“Playoff time is a special time of year,” Teichroeb said. “You’ve got to step up if you want to win and I try to do that.
“My last few games in the season didn’t go exactly the way I would like them to. I would say I almost got a little frustrated and just said, if you let one in forget about it. Focus on the next puck and try to give these guys a chance to win basically. Stay clam even if bad stuff happens.”
Bad stuff happened early as No. 7 Canisius opened the scoring in front of 1,041 at HarborCenter just 3:28 into the game. Shane Conacher and Cameron Heath had a two-on-one with Heath putting in a rebound past Teichroeb.
But Niagara responded 12 seconds later, when Canisius goaltender Simon Hofley misplayed the puck behind his own net. Sam Rennaker capitalized on the opportunity to tie the game.
The Purple Eagles then took a 2-1 lead when Albin Karlsson redirected Larry Smith’s shot from the blue line. Stanislav Dzakhov perfectly placed a pass from Dan Kolenda in the upper right-hand corner of the net for a 3-1 Niagara lead.
Teichroeb couldn’t do much when Canisius capitalized on a five-on-three power play with Dylan McLaughlin’s high shot from the blue line making its way through traffic and into the net.
But the junior again kept his composure, aided by an active defense that blocked 24 shots.
“I feel like all the time you’ve got to focus on the same things – basics, staying on your angle, coming out, challenging, being aggressive and knowing when to be aggressive. Stuff like that,” Teichroeb said. “But playoff hockey is just a little bit different. The guys are all battling a little bit harder, making the plays. I feel like the defensive zone is a lot more clogged up. You don’t get the opportunities you get in the regular season.”
For their part, Canisius liked its opportunities. The Griffs did put up 33 shots and had seven shots on five power-play opportunities.
They just couldn’t solve Teichroeb.
“I like so many things about our game. We just didn’t capitalize,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “I thought we had some really good chances that their goalie made some really great saves on. We could have had a few more shots but that would be a little nit-picky. We had a couple careless goals (against) that when you lose by one you look back and think that might have been the difference.”
The teams meet again at 7:35 p.m. in HarborCenter on Saturday night.