It was a handful of minutes here, a handful of minutes there. A missed opportunity on offense, then a letdown on defense.
And suddenly a well-played hockey game by Canisius ended up in a 3-2 loss to Bowling Green in front of 629 at the Buffalo State Ice Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The loss dropped the Golden Griffins to 6-9-5 on the season and 0-6 in one-goal games.
“We know what we’re all about,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “We know when we’ve played well and what our record could be. But the truth is we are what our record says we are.”
The Griffs took a 1-0 lead when Cody Freeman jumped on a loose puck and fired it into an open net just five minutes into the second period.
Bowling Green tied the game late in the second, then took a 2-1 lead at 7:02 of the third.
With five minutes left in regulation, Kyle Gibbons of Canisius dove after a loose puck around the net and scored to tie the game. The momentum quickly left, however, as Marc Rodriguez of the Falcons scored with 1:32 left to play.
“It looks like the last three minutes is the difference but really it’s scoring a goal on a two-on-one or a three-on-one,” Smith said. “We need our team … to stay at top speed, top intensity all game. Because that’s who we are. If we do that, then we win those games. We just get a little bit of a lull, and we’re talking about one guy making one mistake on one shift. That’s hurting us right now.”
Canisius held a 34-30 advantage in shots on goal and created a number of scoring opportunities, particularly after taking the 1-0 lead, but couldn’t finish them.
“I would compare this game to a playoff game,” said Gibbons, who had an assist on Freeman’s goal. “Not a lot of cute, pretty plays. That’s a game that you’re not going to win on skill. You’ve got to be a man. You’ve got to fight. You’ve got to go in there strong on the puck. You can’t be weak. You can’t fish for pucks. You’ve got to play hard the whole game and unfortunately we didn’t do that for a handful of minutes and it cost us tonight.”
The one-goal losses are frustrating, but this weekend’s series with Bowling Green (5-10-5) had plenty of positives for the Griffs, who held a one-goal lead on Saturday before settling for a 2-2 tie.
“I think our program is ready to take the next step,” Smith said. “There was a time when we could not play 60 minutes with a CCHA team, whether they were top of the standings or bottom of the standings. We saw both nights, that’s 125 minutes where I thought we wore them down. What we need to do as a program is eliminate that little bit of a lull … and win those games on a consistent basis. The talent is there, it’s the evolution of a mind-set. I thought we really skated and pushed them down but we didn’t get the win.”
The series with Bowling Green completed the non-conference portion of the schedule for Canisius. The Griffs return to Atlantic Hockey action with their next five games on the road. It begins with a two-game series at Sacred Heart on Saturday.