It’s never been about big changes. It’s been about little tweaks to lines and chemistry and technique.
It’s been about learning to play from success instead of as the underdog.
And it’s starting to come together for the Canisius Golden Griffins.
The Griffs return to Atlantic Hockey action this weekend, hosting Connecticut at the Buffalo State Ice Arena at 4 p.m. tonight and Saturday.
“We’re talking about a two percent difference in commitment level and that is the difference between comfortable and uncomfortable,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “Successful teams play at the uncomfortable pace and uncomfortable battle level. It’s such a fine line between a rut and a groove.”
Canisius had a weekend off after a come-from-behind win over RIT on Nov. 19.
The Griffs (3-7-0 overall) got off to a slow start and struggled to get results against some tough non-conference opponents. But Canisius has won its last two conference games to move to 2-3-0 in league play.
More importantly, they got their groove back on the penalty kill, stifling the last 13 power play opportunities for opponents. Head coach Dave Smith moved juniors Mitch McCrank and Braeden Rigney to the short-handed unit as the Griffs tried to fill the graduation void of Preston Shupe, Torrey Lindsay and Ben Parker.
“There was a little natural downturn after we graduated those guys,” Smith said. “Shupe, Lindsay and Parker were on the ice for every PK last year. Suddenly, those are big minutes to fill. We had to refocus and rest our minds. It wasn’t the technical stuff but it was the mindset. When you’re down a man it’s all-for-one and one-for-all. We’re in this together. That’s the mentality that gets it done.”
The Griffs penalty kill will be put to the test against the Huskies who have the second-best power play in the nation (29.63 percent, 8 of 27).
The Huskies are 3-1-0 overall in Atlantic Hockey and 4-4-1 overall. This marks the last year in the conference for Connecticut, which moves into Hockey East next season.
Look for the return of freshman Shane Conacher to the Canisius lineup this weekend. The younger brother of Cory Conacher broke his jaw in the season opener against Niagara. He has returned to practice and is cleared to play.
Taylor Law is still sidelined with a back injury.