LEWISTON — It was an opportunity seized for Canisius and an opportunity lost for Niagara.
The Purple Eagles had a two-goal third-period lead on home ice, but the Golden Griffins kept coming, and scoring.
A goal by senior Ben Danford knotted the game, 4-4, and that’s how it would finish in overtime in front of 1,054 at Dwyer Arena Thursday night.
It was just the fourth time in the series history, dating back to 1997, that the teams have gone to overtime. It was the third time they ended in a tie.
“We battled the whole game. I really liked our game,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “Niagara earned some goals, and we worked hard to counter that with good energy. We stuck with it and in the end if you do that, you get the game going in your direction and playing the way you want to play it. You can talk about good ties and bad ties. I thought the way it was sitting in the third early on, it could have had a different outcome. We had a consistency of effort.”
If you want to talk about bad ties, talk to Niagara. Letting a two-goal third-period lead slip away, on home ice, wasn’t the start to the weekend the Purple Eagles wanted even if they did pick up a point.
“We have to find a way to shut it down and play good D zone,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “It feels like a loss. There’s no consolation with a tie on our end. We’re up 4-2 and we have to lock it down and get the win. ... We didn’t finish what was a pretty good effort by us.”
Niagara was a team of quick strikes Thursday. While the Griffs opened the scoring with a power play goal from Kyle Gibbons at 14:20 of the first, Niagara had a quick response, scoring just 47 seconds later on a tally from Brock Edwards.
Just 14 seconds into the second, Hugo Turcotte turned on his jets, skated into the Canisius zone and fired a blast past Canisius goalie Keegan Admundson.
The Griffs evened the game, 2-2, when Matthew Grazen found himself alone in the slot and shelved a puck when Niagara goalie Jackson Teichroeb went down early.
But Niagara jumped back to a 3-2 lead, capitalizing on a Canisius turnover, and TJ Sarcona zipped a shot past Asmundson with just 2:18 left in the period.
It was another quick strike by Niagara to start the third with Matt Williams scoring just 43 seconds into the third. Suddenly, the Purple Eagles had a 4-2 lead and seemed to have control of the game.
“Today the first two periods went extremely well,” said Turcotte, who had a goal and assist for Niagara. “For once we took the lead and it was good to take the lead. The third period we did exactly what we didn’t want to do. We let them get back in the game. That’s something we have to work on.”
The Griffs got a goal back when Doug Jessey pinched on the rush, had Teichroeb thinking pass, then beat him with a low wrist shot to cut the lead to 4-3.
Danford tied the game for Canisius as his shot from the blueline fluttered and fooled Teichroeb at 13:18.
Grazen returned to the lineup for Canisius for the first time in 12 games after suffering an injury in a December game at Army.
The East Amherst native picked his first goal of the season and blocked three shots giving the Griffs a needed strong presence at center.
“The difference was a lot of hard work,” Grazen said.
“Nobody gave up when we were down two goals. We were focused and had belief that we could come back. We worked hard and pushed at it to get the tie.”
Asmundson made 25 saves while Teichroeb made 40.
With his goal, Kyle Gibbons got closer to the all-time record goal record at Canisius. He is now seven goals shy of the career record of 62 set by Cory Conacher.
The teams square off again at 7 on Saturday at Buffalo State Ice Arena. It is the last regular season meeting of the season between the teams.