The No. 14/15 Niagara Purple Eagles were held scoreless by Canisius on Thursday evening, falling to the Golden Griffins, 2-0 at Buffalo State Arena.
In a contest filled with penalties for both teams, it was the Golden Griffins who netted the lone power play goal of the game to hand the Purple Eagles their second loss in Atlantic Hockey play this season. With the defeat, the Purple Eagles now hold a 17-5-5 overall mark and a 16-2-2 AHA record. Niagara still has a firm grasp on first place in the conference, nine points ahead of second-place Mercyhurst.
“Special teams was the difference in the game tonight,” head coach Dave Burkholder said. “They kept giving us power plays and we didn’t capitalize on them. You get what you deserve. We were very passive and there was no passion.”
Canisius (10-8-2; 11-13-5 AHA) went on the early man advantage just two minutes into the first period, finding four quality scoring opportunities on NU netminder Carsen Chubak, but the junior kept the Griffins off the board.
Hugo Turcotte almost snuck a shorthander past starting Canisius goaltender Tony Capobianco with 20 seconds remaining on the penalty kill. The rookie picked up a cleared puck at the Canisius blue line and rushed in on Capobianco on a breakaway, but his attempt went wide, glove-side.
Niagara had back-to-back power play opportunities in the later part of the period, but was unable to capitalize. The Griffins continued to pressure, outshooting the Purple Eagles 16-10 heading into the second frame.
The second period saw Niagara’s scoring opportunities increase, outshooting their opponent 15-5. The opening half of the second period saw NU play a man-up as three straight Canisius penalties were called. The Purps had a little over a minute of 5-on-3 action, but the Purple Eagles were unable to get past the Griffin penalty-killing unit.
Capobianco continued to stymie the Purple Eagle offense, this time on a golden opportunity off the stick of Ryan Rashid with 12:17 on the clock. Rashid was all alone in front of the blue paint, catching the Griffin goaltender sprawled on his back, but he could not lift the backhander over the outstretch glove of Capobianco.
Ryan Bohrer broke the scoreless tie with a little under five minutes remaining in the second period while the Purple Eagles were down a man. With 12 seconds left on the man-advantage, Chris Rumble slid a pass to Bohrer at the top of the right faceoff circle and the right winger roofed a top shelf laser over the shoulder of Chubak.
“We had 15 shots in the second and 5-on-5 we won a couple shifts, but we just didn’t sustain it,” added Burkholder. “We weren’t gritty enough and we weren’t tough on pucks. We spent zero time at the top of the crease which you need to do to score goals.”
Cody Freeman added the empty net tally with 50 seconds left in the game to solidify the victory for the Griffs.
Chubak wrapped up the Battle of the Bridge contest with 35 saves.
Niagara and Canisius wrap up the regular season series Saturday evening at Dwyer Arena. The puck is schedule to drop at 7:05 p.m.