The first round went to Canisius, but the hockey battle between the Golden Griffins and Niagara Purple Eagles isn’t over yet.
The Griffs won Thursday’s matchup, 4-1, with the teams meeting again at 7 p.m. Saturday in Dwyer Arena. It’s the final game between the rivals this season. Atlantic Hockey scheduled just a two-game series, with both games set in Lewiston.
Thursday’s win for Canisius extended its unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) and kept the Griffs in second place in the conference.
The keys for Canisius have been defense and third-period goal scoring.
Senior goaltender Keegan Asmundson has backstopped a strong Canisius defense that has allowed seven goals in its last six games. In his last five starts, Asmundson is 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage.
“We had to work hard all game to get the lead and to keep the lead,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “Our expectations Saturday are much of the same. It’s hard to win.”
Ralph Cuddemi and Shane Conacher continue to lead the Griffs’ offense. They both have 25 points on the season after Cuddemi scored twice (14 goals) off Conacher assists (7-18).
While the Griffs (11-8-6, 10-4-5) are in second place in Atlantic Hockey and riding a six-game unbeaten streak, don’t count Niagara out.
The Purple Eagles are looking to end an 11-game winless slump (0-9-2). Their team speed and ability to accelerate behind the defense can create problems for opponents. That’s how junior Hugo Turcotte scored Niagara’s lone goal on Thursday.
“He’s a game-breaker for us,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “That was his first point in eight games and if we’re going to turn this thing around, he’s gotta get going. He’s an all-league player when he’s going.”
Also having impressive outings for the Purple Eagles were senior forward Isaac Kohls and freshmen Derian Plouffe and Robert Angiolella.