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End of the road for Canisius' seniors

The goal in 2006, when the current senior class arrived on campus as eager freshmen, was to advance to the Atlantic Hockey Final Four.

It took the Golden Griffins until 2010 to make that plan a reality. And while the graduating group of eight brought the Canisius hockey program to a certain level of success, advancing to the championship game will be the assignment of another class.

Canisius ended its season Friday in a 4-0 loss to RIT in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals at Blue Cross Arena. The Tigers (25-11-1) will play either Air Force or Sacred Heart for the league title and a bid to the NCAA Tournament tonight at Blue Cross Arena. It's RIT's first title-game appearance.

While the loss and the Griffs' semifinal showing were disappointing, the season was a capstone for a senior class which helped improve the image of the Canisius hockey program both on and off the ice.

The Griffs ended the season 17-15-6, securing their first winning season since 2004-05 and recording their highest victory total since 2000-01.

The senior class has accounted for 26 program records at Canisius -- 12 career records, seven single-season records and seven single-game marks.

"It's not the way I wanted to go out," said senior forward Josh Heidinger, the Griffs' all-time leader in points (132) and assists (95) during the Division I era. "It took us three years to get here but we got here our senior year with the help of freshmen, coaching and a lot of support from the school. It's been a good ride. It's been good to see the program go in the right direction. I'm just glad I could help and that the seniors could set the footsteps for others to follow."

Canisius came out with energy and some early chances to start Friday's action, but the game quickly turned into a special teams battle which RIT squarely won.

After generating solid scoring chances on its first power play, the Tigers cashed in when Tyler Brenner tipped a shot past Dan Morrison. Just 52 seconds later Mike Janda made it 2-0.

The Griffs had plenty of power-play chances, especially in the second period, but couldn't generate enough quality opportunities. In the end, Canisius went 0 for 7 on the power play while RIT went 3 for 8.

"Even though it wasn't tic-tac-toe pretty every time, I thought we had some good looks and some pucks that just rolled wide," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "I thought we were just too methodical tonight. Our strength has been puck movement with traffic and shots at the right time. We were a little out of sync. RIT gets credit for pushing us out of sync a little bit, but it wasn't our best effort on the power play."

RIT held a 30-20 advantage in shots, with the 20 attempts by Canisius its lowest total since Nov. 29, 2008 against Clarkson.

"One of the big themes we've had since I've been here is to have that killer instinct and try to get that next goal," said RIT senior captain Dan Ringwald who had two assists. "A 2-0 lead especially against a powerful offensive team like Canisius, you can't be comfortable with it so we just wanted to keep attacking. Don't sit back. Don't wait. But that second goal gave us a little more confidence."

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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