Ice Griffs looking for bounce-back weekend against Niagara

Hockey head coach Trevor Large is looking to see his team pick up valuable points against Niagara this weekend. (Aidan Joly/The Griffin)

The Canisius Golden Griffins hockey team was swept last week in stunning fashion by Atlantic Hockey bottom dweller Air Force. This weekend against Niagara, the Griffs need to bounce back in a big way right before the playoffs. 

The Purple Eagles are experiencing a rough season, coming into the series with a record of 3-9-3. The team has struggled at home with a record of 3-5-1 and has been brutal on the road with a record of 0-4-2. While these numbers should bode well for the Griffs, they cannot look past their rivals this weekend if they want to gain points. 

The Purple Eagles only have two regulation wins in conference play this season, with one win against Mercyhurst and the other against Air Force. The other win Niagara had was in a non-conference upset of No. 7 Clarkson. 

Offensively, the Purple Eagles are led by Walker Sommer, Ryan Naumovski and Ludwig Stenlund. Stenlund boasts ten points in only 12 games, while Naumovski has produced 11 points in 15 games. Best for Niagara, though, Walker Sommer has provided 12 points in 13 games. 

While the Purple Eagles do boast some offensive assassins, the Niagara team has recently found a new challenge in net. One of the best goalie tandems in all of college hockey last season was the rock solid duo of Chad Veltri and Brian Wilson. Veltri played in 19 games last season and had a save percentage of .931% and a goals against average of 2.11. Wilson boasted a .916% and a goals against average of 2.76 in 16 games. 

This season, the duo of Wilson and Veltri has been brutal in net and the team has relied heavily on Mike Corson, a junior who transferred last season from the University of Denver. In seven games, Veltri’s save percentage is .883% and his goals against average is 3.15. In four games, Brian Wilson’s save percentage is .757% and his goals against average is 6.10. 

With those statistics, it’s not hard to understand why head coach Jason Lammers has relied on Mike Corson so much. Corson has played in eight games this season and has a goals against average of 3.28 which is worse than Chad Veltri’s, but his save percentage of .903% is significantly better than Veltri’s and Wilson’s. 

Goaltending has been Canisius’ strength this season, with both Matt Ladd and Jacob Barczewski sharing the load and giving the Griffs a chance to win on a nightly basis. Last weekend, the goaltending was significantly below par for the Griffs, and the team only gained one point as a result.

Moving forward, the Griffs will need good goaltending from both Ladd and Barczewski; if either player were to have a below par performance, it was better to get it out of the way prior to the playoffs beginning. With this being the last series before the playoffs begin, this is a great opportunity for the Griffs to make their final tweaks and leave it all on the ice to help out their playoff positioning for this season. 

With the playoffs shortly in sight, the Atlantic Hockey Conference officially announced changes to the format for this season only due to concerns about COVID-19. The divisions the teams have been in this season will remain for the playoffs. The Griffs have played this entire season in the West along with RIT, Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and Niagara. The East consists of AIC, Sacred Heart, Bentley, Army and Holy Cross. Air Force has acted as an independent this season for the conference.

With Air Force acting as an independent, the league will determine which division they will join for the playoffs based on how they finish the season. In the West, Robert Morris has the best record at 10-5-0 this season: they’re also 2-1-0 in overtime this season, bringing their points total to 29 in fifteen games. In second place based on points percentage are the Griffs, with 21 points in only eleven games. RIT has 23 points in thirteen games, which would be good for third place in the division, while Mercyhurst and Niagara round out the final two spots. 

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