Canisius overcame a rash of penalties, problems in the faceoff circle and a motivated Air Force team – not to mention Colorado altitude – Saturday night. The Griffs defeated the Falcons, 4-3 in overtime, to set up a semifinal game against Niagara at 4 p.m. Friday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester in the Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs.
Junior defenseman Duncan McKellar scored an unassisted goal at 1:08 of overtime to give Canisius a sweep of the best-of-three series in Air Force’s home rink. It was the sixth straight victory for the Griffs (17-18-5), their longest winning streak since the 1999-2000 season and the longest active streak in the country.
McKellar intercepted a pass at the Air Force blue line, faked a shot, skated around a defender and fired a shot from the left boards. The puck deflected off another Falcon, into the air and over Falcons goalie Jason Torf, dropping six inches beyond the goal line.
After taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Preston Shupe, Canisius had to rally from a 3-1 deficit. Kyle Gibbons scored at 11:51 of the second and Matthew Grazen (East Amherst) got the tying goal with 1:52 left in regulation.
Canisius had to kill off six power plays and won only 22 of 61 faceoffs. The key to surviving all that was goalie Tony Capobianco, who made 50 saves, 21 in the first period, when the Falcons had three full power plays. Capobianco set a school record for postseason saves in the Division I era.
It’s the third time Canisius has advanced to the AHA semifinals.
No. 1 seed Niagara (23-8-5) also swept its quarterfinal series, closing out RIT, 2-1, on Marc Zanette’s overtime goal at Dwyer Arena on Saturday night. All three regular season games between Niagara and Canisius were close. Niagara won, 2-1, on Nov. 16 at Buffalo State. Canisius won, 2-0, at Buffalo State on Feb. 7 before the Purple Eagles took a 2-0 decision at Dwyer on Feb. 9.