Needing important points coming into the weekend against Air Force, Canisius head coach Trevor Large once again leaned on his freshman goalie Jacob Barczewski to guide the team to the points they need.
Large’s decision proved pivotal as the team was able to pick up four huge points in the conference standings, giving the team a much better shot at catching rival Niagara for the eighth spot in the conference which would give the squad a home playoff series.
Neither game came easy for the Griffs, and the team had to scratch and claw for every inch in this series. The first period of Friday’s game showed why Air Force is such a tough team to play. The Falcons controlled the pace of play and at one point led the shot category 15-1 in the first period over the Griffs.
Despite Barczewski’s best efforts to keep the team in it during the first period, Air Force still found the back of the net twice on scramble plays via goals by Bennett Norlin and Blake Bride.
With Air Force still dominating the game and Canisius struggling to find momentum, Casey Jerry worked the puck hard to the net before dropping a cross-crease pass to an open Matt Stief who had a wide open net. Stief’s third goal of the season cut the lead in half, and began a run for Canisius from there.
With the game still 2-1 going into the third, Matt Stief went from the guy who finished a play to a guy who started one. Stief took the puck at the point and drove in on Air Force goaltender Alex Schilling before weaving to the left and finding an open Nick Hutchison at the side of the net. Hutchison’s 15th goal of the season tied the game, and continued the Griff’s momentum.
The teams from there traded goals just 1:22 apart to close out the scoring in regulation. Senior captain Matt Hoover stripped Air Force defenseman Zach Mirageas of the puck in the neutral zone before racing in on goal and beating Schilling on the backhand to give Canisius its first lead of the game at 3-2.
Air Force defenseman Alex Menhert answered back for Air Force just moments later, finishing off an end-to-end rush down the left-hand side with a wrist shot past the blocker of Barczewski for his first goal of the season.
From that point on, the scoring would stop on both sides as neither team could find the back of the net in the first or second overtime. Air Force then won the game in a shootout on a shot from Luke Manning.