LEWISTON – The unbeaten streak is now at 14 games. It's the longest active streak in NCAA Division I hockey. But Canisius College isn't focused on the streak. The Golden Griffins remain focused on the task in front of them each day, which in turn has produced wins and put the program in position for a regular season Atlantic Hockey title.
Friday's task was a final meeting against rival Niagara, one they took care of in a 5-2 win in Dwyer Arena.
"Honestly, I think we just come to the rink to take care of business," said Canisius sophomore forward Felix Chamberland. "I think that’s the attitude. We don’t want to get too high and we don’t want to get too comfortable. … We want to focus and really think about our game plan and the little things we’ve been doing well over this 14-game streak."
One of those things the Griffs have been doing well – scoring goals.
Over the course of the 14-game unbeaten streak Canisius has scored five or more goals five times and averaged more than four goals a game. That's a dramatic improvement from the first 21 games of the season where the Griffs were struggling to find the back of the net, averaging 1.86 per game.
"I think we found a lot of depth in our lineup," said Chamberland, who scored two goals, his eighth and ninth of the season. "We have four lines that can score. When one is not going one night, three others are usually picking up for them. I think our chemistry is really good and we know we can count on everyone and we trust every line out there. I think it’s just to keep this momentum going, rolling four lines. Just play our game and our game plan and goals come. I guess we’ve been doing the right things because the puck’s been going in the net."
On Friday, the game plan worked well early in the second period. Canisius had a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes with goals from Dylan McLaughlin and Nick Hutchison while Niagara got on the board with a power play tally from Stephen Pietrobon.
Then Chamberland scored on the power play 1:43 into the second period. He scored again at 4:48 and Casey Jerry tallied at 6:37 as the Griffs saw their lead expand to 5-1.
"Our guys are playing very confidently," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "It’s not just crashing the net. I think that for us, it’s not a secret, but when five guys are committed to playing together whether it’s power play or four guys on the penalty kill or five guys five-on-five, it’s being on the same page and letting the puck work for us and playing as a team. That’s important to our group and when we do that, we’re going to generate some chances. Tonight we capitalized on them."
Canisius scored five goals on 17 shots against Niagara starter Guillaume Therien, who was then replaced by Jackson Teichroeb.
"They're a good team, there's no question but five goals on 17 shots, I think that’s the story," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "We battled our butts off. Pretty proud. At least we didn’t quit. Dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t climb out of."
Niagara has been in a hole much of the season with 10 players out of Friday's lineup with injuries. The Purple Eagles fell to 3-26-3 overall and sit in last place in Atlantic Hockey at 3-21-2.
Canisius continues to trend in the opposite direction, at 18-10-7 overall and 17-4-6 in Atlantic Hockey. The Griffs lead Air Force by three points for first place although the Falcons have two games in hand.
"Our guys have a lot of pride in how we’re playing so I absolutely love coaching them," Smith said. "I can get on them when we’re playing well. I can get on them when we’re not playing well because we really have a shared mission and shared values so they understand what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s our job as coaches to keep them between the lines. They’ve got lots of flexibility in there and they know that. I think that’s what you see with their confidence. It’s been a very enjoyable year because of the coachability of our group."