They did everything but score.
For the second and third periods, Canisius carried play. They peppered the net with shots and got plenty of traffic in front of Air Force goalie Chris Truehl. Their aggressive play earned the Golden Griffins nine power plays.
But the Griffs couldn’t find the back of the net until late in the third period and by the time they started solving the riddle of the Air Force defense, time had expired.
The Falcons jumped out to a three-goal lead and held on for the 3-2 win over Canisius in front of 1,126 at HarborCenter Saturday night.
The loss gives the Griffs another weekend split.
It also marked the continuation of a trend – solid offense on Friday followed by struggling production on Saturday.
In back-to-back games, the Griffs are averaging 3.43 goals on Friday night and just 1.71 on Saturday.
“I don’t know how to explain that,” senior forward Cody Freeman said, shaking his head. “It’s one of those things that hockey’s just a weird game some times. You would have thought tonight would be our breakthrough. You would have thought we’d score 10 goals by the way we played. But that’s life. That’s hockey.”
The Griffs had a bit of a flat start and Air Force was opportunistic, scoring just 4:56 into the game. They took a 2-0 lead after the first and scored just 3:51 into the second for a 3-0 lead.
But Canisius pretty much dominated the rest of the game.
The Griffs outshot the Falcons, 13-6, in the second period and kept drawing penalties. But the power play was stagnant to start. In fact, through the first three power plays, they were being outshot, 2-1.
But slowly Canisius started finding better puck movement, better lanes and more shot opportunities.
“What I give them credit for is the mindset,” coach Dave Smith said. “They didn’t falter when they could have. We just kept working and we were earning those power plays. … You could see our power play gain confidence as the game went on … and I liked the mindset that they brought to each one. They just said, new one? Let’s try again. New one? Try again. And that was contagious on the bench.”
It was Freeman who broke through with a power-play goal at 8:00 of the third while the Griffs were on a 5-on-3.
Doug Jessey snapped a shot in at 18:12 as the Griffs were on the power play and pulled goaltender Reilly Turner for the extra attacker.
There were missed opportunities, too. Right after Canisius scored its first goal, Ralph Cuddemi and Ryan Schmelzer had a 2-on-0 break, but Cuddemi skated center and Truehl made the save.
Canisius had two near-goals reviewed – both by Freeman. Once he nearly jammed it past the line and another went off the post.
“The puck, I guess, just wasn’t bouncing our way, but we battled really hard and the effort was there,” said Shane Conacher who assisted on Freeman’s goal. “You want that game to go bit longer because we felt the momentum at the end. We just ran out of time there.
“If we play like that every night, bury our opportunities and keep the effort up, it’s going to be tough to lose games.”
Through the first nine home games, Canisius is well ahead of its attendance last season. The Griffs are averaging 1,291 per game home, but that includes two games played at First Niagara Center to start the season. The Griffs are averaging 1,476 in seven games at HarborCenter. Last year in 16 home dates at Buffalo State, they averaged 733. By comparison, RIT leads Atlantic Hockey in home attendance (3,897) while Niagara is averaging 1,025.