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Canisius forces deciding game with shutout of Niagara

Simon Hofley remembered that January game against Niagara. He was on his way to his first career shutout when Derian Plouffe scored with 62 seconds left in regulation. His Canisius Golden Griffins still won, but that goal, well, it stuck in his mind.

Hofley had more than a shutout on his mind this time around. It was win-or-go-home for the Griffs. So to get a shutout, in a playoff game against a rival? Well, that just made his smile a little bit broader.

Hofley made 33 saves Saturday night to backstop Canisius to a 1-0 win over Niagara at HarborCenter. It continued a Golden Griffin playoff tradition. In its last eight home playoff games, Canisius has five shutouts.

The lone goal came from Dylan McLaughlin midway through the second period.

More importantly for the Griffs, the win ties the first round Atlantic Hockey playoff series and forces a deciding Game Three, scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Sunday in HarborCenter.

It comes after Niagara took the Friday’s game, 3-2 – a game in which Hofley played well but giftwrapped Niagara’s first goal with a giveaway behind the net.

“Yesterday there were a few unlucky bounces,” Hofley said. “You can’t get that lucky every game I guess. We knew our season was on the line and we had to be hungry for everything.

“Seeing the puck was a huge change from yesterday. ... I mean I had to make a few good saves here and there but a lot of it was because of the defense.”

“When our goalie says he’s seeing the puck well that means we’re defending harder farther away from our net and that’s a good sign,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said.

While Hofley was holding down the Griffs’ net, Jackson Teichroeb was playing another strong game in net for Niagara.

In a game of momentum swings, it was Canisius which was able to cash in.

It started with near misses from the Griffs’ top line, including two prime scoring chances from Ralph Cuddemi – one which caught pipe and another which went wide with Teichroeb out of position.

That shift gave the Griffs momentum and they capitalized.

Felix Chamberland skated into the zone on the far wall, drawing two Niagara defenders. He made a slick move to split the defensemen and cut across the slot. He fed McLaughlin, who picked the puck up over a sprawling Teichroeb at 12:42 of the second.

“I think it was nice as a team just to get that goal because we’ve been snakebit a little bit,” McLaughlin said. “You have to try not to get frustrated. Their goalie play good. Same with Hofley. They have nice battle going on.”

Hofley got some help from the post, too. A minute into the third period Nick Cecere fired a shot that beat Hofley but rang off the crossbar.