By Adam Gorski, Sports Layout Editor
There was no shortage of late drama in Canisius men’s soccer’s clash with rival Niagara, but it was the Griffs who found themselves on the losing side of it.
Asher Barnes’ brace, including the game-winner in the 85th minute, lifted the Purple Eagles to a 2–1 win over the Griffs at Demske Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon. It was Niagara’s first win over Canisius since 2013.
“Every time we play against Niagara, it is a tough game and today was no exception,” Griffs head coach Dermot McGrane told GoGriffs.com. “We had a few different players in the lineup for today’s contest and it was nice to see those players gain valuable experience.”
The match was not originally on the schedule, and came together quickly earlier in the week after Canisius had to postpone their matchup with Marist set for Thursday due to COVID-19 concerns on the Marist campus. As a result, it was a non-league game, which counts towards both side’s overall records, but not MAAC records. Despite the asterisk, the Griffs and Niagara are slated to play again on Sunday, this time in league play, meaning a chance to get a glimpse at a future opponent was in the cards for both teams.
Opportunities were a plenty in the early going, as Canisius’s Jo Preci had a golden opportunity to open the scoring on a low cut back in the 9th minute, but skied the ball well over the bar from eight yards out. Soon thereafter, in the 22nd minute, a Niagara corner kick resulted in a header that hit the crossbar and went out of play.
The Purple Eagles opened the scoring in the 30th minute after Canisius goalkeeper Spencer Catalano, who had his first career start for the Griffs, made an error in the back which was pounced upon by Barnes and neatly slotted home off the post and in.
Just over a minute later, Preci would make up for his earlier miss as his curling shot from the right wing floated over the head of Niagara goalkeeper Josh Savoni and in at the back post to tie the game at 1–1. The goal was Preci’s first of the season.
A nifty leg save from Catalano, who had six saves in his first career start, early in the second half helped keep things knotted at one apiece but he was unable to keep out the game-winner from the freshman Barnes. A beautifully weighted through ball from Niagara’s Federico Cugge split the Canisius defense and sent in Barnes one-on-one with Catalano, and he slotted home a shot at the near post to give the Purple Eagles the win.
After resting eight players during Thursday’s game, Canisius will hope for a better result in the higher stakes rematch on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Niagara.
“We need to learn some lessons from today so that we can get a better result on Sunday when we play once again,” McGrane told GoGriffs.