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Goalie switch spurs Griffs’ rally for tie

Dave Smith didn’t like the feel of the game.

It wasn’t so much that Canisius was trailing Mercyhurst, 3-2, after 20 minutes. He wasn’t critical of the play of junior goalie Adam Harris, who struggled at times in his first collegiate start.

There was something about the feel of the game that Smith wanted to change.

So he put in Reilly Turner to start the second period. And the energy began to change.

The freshman made 24 saves, including an impressive glove save with 45 seconds left in overtime, to help the Golden Griffins rally to a 3-3 tie with Mercyhurst in front of 1,363 at HarborCenter Saturday night.

“I didn’t pull Adam because of anything he did,” Smith said. “I said in front of the guys, ‘I’m changing goalies because I don’t like the feel.’ I didn’t like the feel for the game and sometimes you do those things and they work out and sometimes they don’t.

“The guys rallied around Reilly. Reilly made a couple big saves and I thought together we came back and got a big point.”

Mercyhurst (5-4-2) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes, both on goals from Daniel Bahntge.

The Griffs got it back fast as the top line struck twice in a 70-second span. First it was Ralph Cuddemi with a beautiful move in front followed up by a tally from Ryan Schmelzer.

But with 4:59 left in the period, the Lakers regained the lead when Kyle Dutra put in a rebound in a wide open net.

Turner started the second period, the second time this season he’s taken the net in relief. The freshman pitched a shutout in his 40 minutes and got stronger as the game went on.

“Honestly, pretty much throughout my whole career I’ve had a hard time coming in cold,” Turner said. “I think this year I did a little less thinking and that’s what’s been helping me. The more shots I get, the warmer I get, the better it is for me for sure.”

As Turner solidified the defense, Canisius started applying pressure on offense. They outshot the Lakers, 16-8, in the third and tied the game when Cody Freeman got partially free and put in his own rebound midway through the period.

“I was getting a little frustrated that I couldn’t score,” Freeman said. “There were a few chances in around the net I thought I could have had one or been part of a goal.

“I got a good pass from Braeden Rigney and just kind of inched my way to the net I guess. Got a shot off. Got the rebound. Just kind of stuffed it in. Kind of an ugly goal. But it tied it up. It’s frustrating that we didn’t win, but it was a building block.”

The Griffs are still searching for that first win in HarborCenter where they are now 0-2-3.

But something felt different about this tie.

“I really liked the little things in the game that we did today,” Smith said. “The effort, the team play and just the willingness to battle back from a tough start but to play together the entire time.

“Once we made the commitment to take the skilled plays when they were there and just chip and chase when that was there, I thought we dominated the third period. That was the most momentum that we’ve had in a long time.”

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There is no makeup date scheduled yet for Friday’s game between Mercyhurst and Canisius in Erie, Pa., postponed by the weather. … The Griffs honored all six coaches in the program’s history before Saturday’s game including David Dietz (1971-77), Mike Kelly (1977-80), Brian Cavanaugh (1980-82, 1983-2004), Carl Koeppel (1982-83), Clancy Seymour (2004-05) and Smith (2005-present). … Canisius hosts Air Force next, with a 2:05 p.m. start on Friday at HarborCenter and a 7:35 start on Saturday.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com