Canisius and Niagara set the expectations bar rather high after both programs became the first two from Atlantic Hockey to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in the same season last year – giving Western New York a brief case of college hockey fever.
Both still have some work to do during the second half if either hopes to make a run at securing another postseason berth.
One area that would help each team is finding ways to win on the road.
The Golden Griffins did that on Friday night, while the Purple Eagles didn’t lose but still haven’t won away from Dwyer Arena as they began the 2014 portion of their season schedule.
Canisius earned a 4-2 win over Holy Cross at the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass.
Defenseman Chris Rumble’s point shot with 8:11 left deflected into the net off a Crusaders stick and broke a 2-2 tie, helping the Griffs improve to 3-10 away from the cozy confines of the Buffalo State Ice Arena.
Ralph Cuddemi, who posted the first three-point game of his collegiate career, capped the scoring with 2:40 left with his second goal of the night.
Shane Conacher’s strong forecheck forced a Holy Cross (4-12-2, 3-6-2) turnover behind the net. Conacher then found Cuddemi in the low slot for the easy goal.
Doug Jessey also scored for the Golden Griffins (6-10-1, 5-4-1), while goalie Tony Capobianco made 33 saves, including 18 during a scoreless first period.
“Great team effort,” Griffs coach Dave Smith said. “We played very well with the lead and responded with a gritty third period.”
The same teams have a rematch at 3 p.m. today in the Hart Center.
In the John Ryan Skating Arena in Waltham, Mass., Brock Edwards’ goal with 9:22 left in regulation lifted Niagara into a 2-2 tie with host Bentley.
He fired in the rebound of a Kevin Ryan shot that had sailed wide. Both teams finished with 36 shots on goal and both went 0 for 1 on the power play in a fairly even and entertaining contest.
Niagara freshman goalie Adrian Ignagni made five of his 34 saves during the opening 1:16 of overtime.
Not to be outdone, senior Branden Komm, the former Williamsville North standout, made three of his 34 saves during the overtime period for the Falcons (9-7-2, 7-2-2).
Komm has started all 18 games for Bentley this season, posting a 2.37 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
Ryan Rashid also scored for Niagara (3-11-2, 3-4-3), which is 0-9-3 away from Dwyer and has scored just 11 goals in its last seven games. The Purple Eagles finish their lengthy eight-game road trip at 7 tonight against Bentley.