For the first 22 minutes of the game, Canisius did everything it wanted. The Golden Griffins crashed the goal crease, got pucks to the net and matched the physical play of Atlantic Hockey’s top team.
But the Griffs got away from the game plan and a poised, veteran Robert Morris team took advantage for a 6-3 win at HarborCenter on Friday night.
Canisius matched the Colonials in the opening period and a rocket shot by freshman Jimmy Mazza at 1:37 of the second gave the Griffs a 3-2 lead.
But Canisius couldn’t stay out of the box and the smooth offense of the Colonials, the fourth-highest scoring team in the nation, went to work.
By the end of the second, Robert Morris had a 4-3 lead, then scored a pair of goals in a span of 1:08 of the third to seal the win.
“I thought we fought to get to the net, we battled to get to the tough areas against a veteran team that protects their space well,” coach Dave Smith said. “We competed hard to get there and when the game went the wrong way, that’s what we stopped doing. We stopped competing to get to their net.”
The lack of consistency hurt the Griffs not only Friday but throughout its three-game losing streak.
“We want to move past this game,” Mazza said. “We have to get pucks to the net. We can’t give up on plays.”
Mazza’s goal was a rocket from the blue line. And his third tally of the season is exactly the kind of contribution the defenseman can make, and is starting to make, on a regular basis.
“It was a good faceoff win by Jeff Murray,” Mazza said of his goal. “Jeff got to the front of the net, set up a screen and the goalie couldn’t see it because it was a good play by Jeff.”
“He’s opening up the ice with his shot,” Smith said of Mazza. “He’s a good player that starts with his shot. It’s a heavy shot that finds the net. He’s just very comfortable now. He competes all the time and that’s what it takes to be successful.”
Mazza now has seven points in his last five games (three goals, four assists). He had two points in his first 26 career games.
“I’m just getting a lot of opportunities with good players around me,” Mazza said. “We’ve just got to get going in the playoffs.”
Before the playoffs, the Griffs have one more regular season game – a Saturday night rematch against Robert Morris at 84 Lumber Arena in Pittsburgh.
The Colonials (20-9-4 overall) have clinched first place in Atlantic Hockey. Canisius, at 10-18-5 overall and 10-12-5 in conference, has clinched home ice for its first-round playoff series but can finish anywhere between sixth and eighth depending upon Saturday night’s results.
Robert Morris is the only team Canisius plays home-and-home series with this season. The Griffs left for Pittsburgh immediately after Friday’s game.
“I think three and a half hours is an awful long way to go for back-to-back games,” Smith said. “I think the travel is the same for both teams but I don’t know if it’s truly fair for the game itself to be doing that much travel in between.”