LEWISTON – Nine times.
That's the streak Canisius has against Niagara. They've beaten their rival nine straight times. And with their latest win, a 4-2 victory in Dwyer Arena on Friday, they jumped into first place in Atlantic Hockey.
But to get to this one, they needed a strong third-period rally. Trailing, 2-1, and nearing the midway point of the third period, the Golden Griffins needed to find their game by getting back to basics.
"Simple. I remember saying it to them over and over again on the bench, keep it simple. Simple is great," said Canisius coach Trevor Large. "That's a constant term we use in the third period and these guys heard that message."
They heard the message and executed the simple plays.
First it came when Dylan McLaughlin tied the game. The junior got the puck back to Cameron Heath at the point who took the shot. The puck was tipped and McLaughlin was still at the side of the net. "It was just right there," McLaughlin said. "It was the right spot at the right time."
Right spot, but it came from keeping the game simple -- shooting, getting the puck on the net, and being around the net.
The simple plays continued on the game-winner from Nick Hutchison. It started with a dump-in and a good forecheck. As Niagara goaltender Brain Wilson came out of his net to play the puck, Hutchison went to the boards, intercepted the pass and skated toward the net.
"Like coach said we were talking about keeping it simple," Hutchison said. "We were trying to do too much. … I just came in, read the play and picked the guy's pocket, saw the goalie was a little bit out of his net and tried to put it in the back of the net there."
With the win, Canisius moves into first place in Atlantic Hockey (9-5-0), while Niagara (8-3-1) needs to fight the feeling of letting this opportunity slip away.
The Purple Eagles took the lead twice, going up 1-0 on a power play goal from Derian Plouffe in the first period then 2-1 in the second on a power play goal from Sean King.
"I thought we had real good speed," Niagara coach Jason Lammers said. "I thought we broke the puck out very well and we really did a nice job attacking the net. For example the goal that was disallowed goal, Derian, I thought he did a real good job attacking so that was exciting to see."
Oh yeah. Because it wouldn't be a Canisius-Niagara game with a little bit of drama.
In the second period with the score tied, 1-1, two potential Niagara goals went to video review in a six-second span. The first was a rebound shot from Tanner Losmnes which Daniel Urbani saved. Officials went to review the play and upheld the no-goal call on the ice. Six seconds later, Plouffe wrapped around the net and tucked the puck past Urbani. Ruled a goal on the ice, the officials reviewed it and determined the net had come off before Plouffe got into scoring position.
But Niagara did take a lead, 2-1 on King's power play goal late in the second.
And as Canisius kept it simple in the third, Lammers pointed to the Griffs' maturity as a difference in the final period.
"Give them a little bit of credit, they're a mature team," Lammers said. "They've been doing this for a while together and we're new. They had some maturity. We want to keep growing in that area. We talked about it after as a team and there's definitely some defensive pieces that we want to keep growing with our detail and our awareness without the puck."
It was the first sellout at Dywer Arena (1,452) since Nov. 16, 2013.
The series moves to Buffalo for a 4:35 puck drop Saturday in HarborCenter.
"The guys are going to rebound quick here," Plouffe said. "Obviously that's nine straight we've lost to them. So we really need to bear down and closes out a third period.