LEWISTON – Both playing at Dwyer Arena with a Niagara Cup championship appearance on the line, St. Joe’s and Canisius competed in two completely different games Monday night.
Yet, when all is said and done, the long-time rivals each punched their tickets for a date with one another next week.
St. Joe’s throttled St. Francis, 8-0, in the first semifinal, while Canisius came away with a gritty 3-2 comeback victory over Bishop Timon-St. Jude in the late game. Canisius and St. Joe’s will duke it out in the championship game March 2 at First Niagara Center.
Canisius found itself down, 2-0, after Timon junior Jack Robinson scored a pair of goals late in the first period. The Crusaders exploded from there with three unanswered goals in the second period, including the eventual game-winner by senior Elliot Crimmen with 7:21 left in the period.
“We came together as a team,” said Crimmen, who scored two goals in the game. “Our captain, Brad Pohlman, and our goalie, John Nichols, really got on us about what we had to fix after the first period. Timon took it to us, we weren’t playing our game.
“We got together as a team and started playing the way we know we can.”
As Canisius was rolling, Timon was reeling. The Tigers were outshot, 17-6, in the second period and committed three penalties. The third penalty proved to be costly as Crimmen’s game-winner came on the power play.
“We regrouped in the locker room and put our foot down in the second period,” Canisius coach Sam Belsito said. Timon “got a little unraveled and took a few penalties, one cost them the game-winner. We kept our composure and battled through it.”
Freshman Cole Beiter, who was playing his first game after being sidelined with a concussion, scored the other goal for Canisius, while Nichols made 20 saves in net.
Seven different Marauders scored and 15 recorded at least a point in the 8-0 win for St. Joe’s.
“Our balance is the strength of our team,” Crozier said. “We joke all the time, ‘Who is our best player in that locker room?’ I don’t know who it is. If you know, tell me. On any given night it can be someone else. We have 23 guys that can really play.”
The Marauders showed off their speedy, high-scoring offense from the get-go as senior Trevor Conschafter gave the Marauders the lead just three minutes into the game.
Senior Brendan Hurley made it 2-0 later in the first period and the route was on from there.
“We really pride ourselves on our speed and we work on it a lot in practice,” said St. Joe’s Hurley, who scored two goals in the win. “It feels great to win this one. As a senior this means everything.”
After dominating the puck and not allowing St. Francis a shot on goal in the first period, play leveled off.
The Red Raiders nearly found the net when Robert Gerow found himself all alone in front of the goal, but St. Joe’s goaltender Ben Higgins turned the shot aside to keep it at 2-0. Higgins had to make just six saves in the game.
St. Joe’s stole the momentum for good when Anthony Pontello and Connor McKenna scored in the final four minutes of the second period.
McKenna’s goal came with just 13 seconds left in the period. Justin Crawford, Nicholas Carbone, Jeremy Lenco and Hurley added tallies in a four-goal third period.
The Marauders (21-4-1) will enter next week’s championship eying their third straight Niagara Cup title.
“We’re looking toward next week to play even better,” sophomore Seth Glanowski said, “and be prepared for whichever team we play.”