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Canisius hockey hosts AIC in Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals

Canisius begins its postseason hockey journey on Friday, hosting American International College in the best-of-three Atlantic Hockey quarterfinal series in HarborCenter.

The teams meet at 7:35 p.m. on Friday and 8:05 p.m. on Saturday. They will play Game Three, if necessary, at 7:05 p.m. Sunday.

The Golden Griffins earned a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed, finishing conference play with a 17-11-0 mark while going 17-15-2 overall.

On Thursday, Juniors Cameron Heath and Dylan McLaughlin were named first-team selections by Atlantic Hockey while senior captain Ryan Schmelzer was third-team selection. Heath ranked seventh in the league in scoring among defensemen with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists).

McLaghlin, a native of Lancaster, led the league in points with 38 and assists with 25. He picked up points in 21 of 28 league games with 12 multi-point games.

Schmelzer, a native of Buffalo, had 12 goals and 25 points in league play. He has not played since Feb. 3 with an upper-body injury but has returned to practiced and is expected in the lineup this weekend.

The offense has been key for the Griffs, who are tied for 19th nationally averaging 3.09 goals per game. They're giving up 3.00 per game.

AIC and Canisius played twice in the regular season with both games in HarborCenter in January. The teams split the series with AIC winning 3-0 on Jan. 12 and Canisius rebounding with a 6-1 win on Jan. 13.

The Yellow Jackets advanced to the quarterfinal series after beating Niagara in two games. AIC, the No. 8 seed at 14-18-4 overall, won its first playoff series in program history.

Young players have been key for AIC with two players getting All-Rookie nods from Atlantic Hockey.

Defenseman Brennan Kapcheck led AIC in scoring in the regular season with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 34 games. Goaltender Stefano Durante had two shutouts in the year, including blanking the Griffs, to become the first AIC goalie to have multiple shutouts in a season since 2012-13. With the sweep of Niagara he has an 11-10-2 record, tied for the program record for most wins in a season by a goalie.

The winner of the series advances to Atlantic Hockey's final four at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. The semifinals are March 16 and the championship on March 17. Atlantic Hockey re-seeds after each round.

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