LEWISTON – Canisius senior forward Brendan Dallas said his team plays a lot of ’80s throwback music in the locker room after its hockey games. After Saturday’s Catholic state hockey final, Aerosmith’s “Dream On” blared in the background.
It was a fitting song for Canisius all season, but the Crusaders don’t have to dream anymore. They are New York State Catholic High School ice hockey champions.
The Crusaders took down Chaminade, 6-1, at Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena for their third Catholic state title.
“That’s all we’ve talked about all year was getting to the state championship game and being state champs,” Canisius coach Sam Belisto said. “We felt that we were capable of doing that, so we reached our goal.”
Canisius started scoring early and never stopped the rest of the way.
A simple Ian Fitzgerald turnaround shot at the top of the right circle opened the scoring just 1:28 into the game and blew the top off the Canisius offense.
Matt Santora scored shortly after on a 2-on-1 with freshman Grigorios Koutsomitis providing the helper, and Chris Coyne’s heavy wrist shot from the slot blew past Chaminade goalie Sean Chalker’s blocker.
“There was a lot of emotion coming into the game and jumping in right away and putting the puck in the net early was huge for us,” Belisto said. “It took the pressure off.”
Canisius was the superior team all evening. The Crusaders were simply faster and more skilled than their Long Island counterparts. They outshot the Flyers, 33-13.
On a Chaminade power play, Dallas’ goal showed just how much superior Canisius was.
Dallas intercepted a Chaminade pass at the blue line and walked in from center ice on a breakaway. The senior made a shake then went to his backhand to neatly slide his shot past Chalker for the game’s fifth goal just at the three-minute mark of the second period.
Dallas, named MVP of the game, is one of 10 seniors on the Canisius roster.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dallas said about winning a state title in his senior year. “All the younger underclassmen worked extremely hard for us, and I thank them for that. And our seniors worked very hard. It’s just unbelievable.”
Koutsomitis and junior Nicholas Kwitzer scored the other goals and each had an assist for Canisius. The Crusaders also won state titles in 2009 and 2010.
For Chaminade (18-6), which upended perennial runner-up St. Anthony’s to make the finals for the first time since 2005, chances were few and far in between.
Nicholas Leelum buried his breakaway chance early in the third for the Flyers’ lone goal.
“We’ve played great defense all year,” Belisto said. “It’s been our strength.”
Since 2002, downstate schools have only beat MMA schools once – in 2012 when St. Anthony’s defeated St. Francis, 4-3.