WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — American International’s Guillaume Caron picked a fine time to score his first collegiate goal on Friday night in a MAAC contest against Canisius at the Olympia Ice Center.
With the Yellow Jackets trailing 3-2 late in the second period, Caron tucked home the rebound of an Olivier Gagnon breakaway to erase what was a three-goal deficit for his club.
Then, in the third period, Caron tacked on two more markers for good measure, including the game-winner, in a 7-4 victory for the Yellow Jackets. The hat trick was the first of the season for an AIC player.
“This was a pretty big game for us,” Caron said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this [to score a goal].”
With the game tied at 4 early in the third period, Caron was the recipient of a feed from Trent Ulmer in the slot that left him all alone. From there, he beat Canisius goaltender Stephen Fabilli up high for the game-winning tally. The rookie winger went on to complete the hat trick just under 10 minutes later with another high backhander over Fabilli.
“Guillaume is a real fine player, someone that we expected to be an impact player all along,” AIC coach Gary Wright said. “He’s had some good chances in recent weeks, so it seemed like it was just a matter of time [before he scored his first collegiate goal].”
While the Yellow Jackets were all smiles after the final buzzer, they didn’t have too much to smile about in the first period. Canisius netted three goals in the opening 20 minutes to carry a 3-0 advantage into the intermission. Marc Bouffard, Chris Duggan and Todd Houston had the goals for the Ice Griffs.
The visitors kept the pressure on in the second period, but AIC goaltender Chance Thede rose to the challenge to keep his team in the game. The senior netminder made 12 stops in the middle frame to hold Canisius in check.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets offense finally came to life in the second period. Senior defenseman Aaron Arnett got his team on the board when he lofted a floater from the left point that beat Fabilli at the 4:25 mark. Ulmer (three assists) and Gagnon (four assists) set up the power-play goal.
AIC trimmed the Ice Griffs’ lead to one goal about eight minutes later when Andy Luhovy’s wrap-around snuck between Fabilli and the left post. Caron then completed the comeback momentarily with his inaugural tally at the 15:17 mark, but the game was far from over at that point.
Canisius regained the lead a mere 2:01 into the third period off a blistering slap shot from Todd Bisson at the left circle. The Buffalo school was back in control for the time being, but Caron and the Yellow Jackets were determined to change that in a hurry.
With Ice Griffs forward Paul DiPasquale in the penalty box for roughing, AIC freshman center Anthony Rufrano netted the equalizer at the 4:22 point of the final frame. Caron would then tack on the game-winner and an insurance goal before C.J. Stagnaro added an empty-net goal with 41 seconds left.
For the Ice Griffs, the contest was one that was well within reach after jumping out to an early three-goal advantage. However, a valiant comeback by the Yellow Jackets allowed them to emerge victorious and make the rest of the league take notice.
“We’ve suffered from this for about a month now,” Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh said. “We play a pretty good period, then an average period, then a bad period. Usually that kind of situation takes place when you have a young team, but we don’t have a young team.”
Said Wright: “They came to play in the first period, and we were just standing around watching them. But the good news is that we were able to regroup. I think that Canisius has been one of the best teams in the league the past few years, so beating them is a significant win for us.”
The play of Thede also played a key role in the AIC comeback, as the senior stopped 19 of 20 shots in the final two periods to earn the win.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Chance is the best goalie in our league,” Gagnon said. “He keeps us in every game and makes all of the saves. He’s been coming through for us all year long.”
The two teams will conclude their weekend pair on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Olympia Ice Center.