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Griffs pleased to be tied, not with Grazen suspension

The Canisius hockey team played well enough to win a pair of games this weekend. Instead, it settled for a pair of ties against Clarkson. But there were plenty of bright spots that can serve as confidence builders for the Golden Griffins.

Sunday afternoon, the Griffs earned a 2-2 tie with the Golden Knights of ECAC Hockey at the Buffalo State Ice Arena; the teams tied, 3-3, on Saturday. Canisius kicked off the scoring Sunday with a power-play goal from Tyler Wiseman in the first period. The Golden Knights took a 2-1 lead on a pair of goals by Jarrett Burton before Doug Beck tied the score midway through the second period.

Canisius junior goaltender Tony Capobianco provided another solid performance, making 29 saves as the Griffs held a 37-31 advantage in shots on goal.

“I’m very happy with our effort,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “I think our confidence will grow from this weekend. Clarkson is a big team. They’re well coached and have a lot of history and tradition and we played them well. We were probably up more than we were down in the weekend. You had to battle hard for every inch out there and that’s good. I liked our effort.”

The Griffs (1-4-3) played for the third time without sophomore forward Matthew Grazen. The East Amherst native sat out Canisius’ 1-0 loss at national No. 2 Minnesota on Oct. 28 due to a game disqualification penalty he received for delivering a hit from behind in a game against Air Force on Oct. 25. Last Thursday, Atlantic Hockey suspended Grazen seven additional games for the infraction.

The suspension came after the Air Force game in the Ice Arena, in which Grazen hit junior George Michalke from behind and received a five-minute major, a game misconduct and a game disqualification. Michalke was taken off the ice on a backboard and suffered a head injury that will sideline him indefinitely.

Canisius strongly opposed the severity of the suspension because it was the first major in Grazen’s collegiate career and just his 11th penalty. No other conference, the school said, would impose such a suspension on a first-time offender.

But Atlantic Hockey commissioner Robert DeGregorio was firm in his decision. He took two main factors into consideration — the video evidence and the injury.

“When you review from the second angle, you can clearly see the cadet’s [Michalke] numbers,” said DeGregorio, who was at Sunday’s game to present Canisius junior Ryan Bohrer with the conference’s Top Scholar Athlete Award for 2011-12. “Matt took at least three or four strides, pushed off on his right leg, his left leg came up and he hit square right between the shoulders and drove him into the boards. The puck was at his feet. He could have brushed into him and played it. He didn’t. We felt that the hit on the cadet was on an individual that was very vulnerable and unsuspecting.”

DeGregorio added he does something others don’t do: he weighs the extent of the injury.

The suspension is the longest in conference history for an in-game, non-fighting incident.

Grazen will sit out the next three games and serve the final two of his suspension Feb. 15-16 when the Griffs play a series at Air Force as DeGregorio wanted to take retribution off the table.