This time Canisius didn’t let the most dangerous lead in hockey slip through its fingers. Instead, the Golden Griffins built on their two-goal advantage and earned a mighty sweet reward Saturday night in Denver.
Junior Keegan Asmundson made 36 saves and four different players scored for Canisius, which earned a 4-1 triumph over No. 17 Denver before 5,153 at Magness Arena.
Asundson, who only started two games last season and has appeared in just seven games overall while serving as the primary backup to record-holding starter Tony Capobianco, made 17 saves during the final 20 minutes. He helped the Griffs (1-2), the defending Atlantic Hockey Association playoff champions, earn their first win of the season.
“Tonight, we put together good positioning with high intensity,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We got great goaltending and had goals from our power-play unit, penalty kill, empty net and 5-on-5. We were very hard to play against tonight, which is the recipe for us to win.”
Canisius has held at least a two-goal lead in each of its three games this season. Unlike its previous two – losses to conference foes No. 20 Niagara and Air Force – the Griffs built on a 2-0 lead at 8:25 of the second period when Matthew Backhouse scored.
Nearly five minutes earlier, Kyle Gibbons scored short-handed to give Canisius, which had just three shots in the second period, a 2-0 lead.
Denver held a 38-21 edge in shots but the only time the Pioneers (3-3), who beat Niagara on Friday night by 5-1 while the Griffs lost at Air Force, 3-2, scored in this one was on Quentin Shore’s power-play goal with 7:43 left.
Denver, frantically trying to tie, pulled its goalie with 2:42 left but Canisius’ Ralph Cuddemi potted an empty-net goal 11 seconds later to secure the Griffs’ first win in as many meetings against a Pioneers program that ranks second in NCAA history in national titles (seven).
Cody Freeman also scored for Canisius, which opens a two-game set Friday night at No. 3 Miami (Ohio).
WOMEN’S SOCCER: The Battle of the Bridge will take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., Thursday at 2 p.m. when Canisius and Niagara meet in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. The teams have met once this season with the Purple Eagles (4-12-2, 3-5-2) taking a 1-0 decision earlier this month at NU.
On Saturday, the Griffs (5-13-1, 3-7-0) closed the regular season with a 4-3 home victory over Saint Peter’s (2-13-0, 0-10-0). Katie Griffin (Williamsville East) scored twice for Canisius, while Brittany Krause also scored twice.
Buffalo State’s Linda Banfield set a single-season record for shutouts by earning her 10th with an eight-save performance during the Bengals’ 0-0 draw with New Paltz.
Buff State (11-5-2, 6-2-1) is idle until 1 p.m. Nov. 6 when it’ll be the No. 2 seed in the SUNYAC Tournament. It will host the winner of next Saturday’s No. 3 Cortland State versus No. 6 Geneseo State playoff game.