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[BN] Rinkside: Fortman flourishes as Griffs captain

The last time Geoff Fortman scored he was a freshman on an experienced and veteran-filled Canisius team fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Four years later, he’s one of three seniors and captain of a young Golden Griffins squad. And he scored his second career goal, an overtime winner, against Alaska in Fairbanks last weekend.

“It felt good to score but at this point I know I’m not setting any goal records here,” Fortman said with a smile. “More importantly I was just happy we could get that win. No matter who got it in overtime, it just felt good to finally get a win and get rewarded as a team.”

It’s been a challenging start to the season for the Griffs, who opened on the road against top-ranked North Dakota then traveled to Alaska for two games. The team, which features 18 underclassmen, finally returns home and opens Atlantic Hockey play hosting Robert Morris Friday and Saturday in HarborCenter.

“Road trips always help bring the team closer together,” Fortman said. “You spend more time together, and to go into an opposing environment and really have to pull together to play well goes a long way. It’s a great experience for young guys right off the bat. They have gained valuable knowledge these first two weeks, which helps speed-up their learning process.”

“Given all the travel and how tiring that’s been I think we’ve played well,” Fortman said. “Not all of the time but we’ve shown signs that we have a lot of potential. We just need to be more consistent.”

So far, Fortman has been a consistent, steady presence for Canisius on the blueline, helping to anchor the team's defense. The Griffs have used three of their four goaltenders with the netminding becoming a strength. Senior transfer Charles Williams and freshman Daniel Urbani each let in one goal as the team split its games at the Brice Alaska Gold Rush Tournament.

“Defensively our best weapon is our goalies,” Fortman said. “They’ve made some big saves and I think we’ve done a good job in front of them. We returned a lot of our defensemen so I think our defense should be strong right now and we want to keep it that way. We take pride in that. Matt Stief has been the only freshman in the (defensive) lineup and he’s played well. We want to continue that.”

Canisius coach Dave Smith said Fortman brings maturity to the team while his summer training and experience have helped Fortman progress on the ice.

“I would say it might some of the best hockey he’s played in four years,” Smith said. “Geoff is off to a great start this year. He’s played in all situations. He’s on the power play, he’s killing penalties. … He’s playing with Cameron Heath. They’ve been together all year. They complement each other well. They get along terrific. They talk about the game and they improve not only weekend to weekend and night to night but shift to shift. “

And part of Fortman’s success may be the confidence he’s gained from his role this year as team captain.

“I think he has flourished in the captain’s role in that he has control of the team. He communicates terrific with all of them,” Smith said. “I think that is building his self-confidence.”

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