WORCESTER, Mass. — After dropping a 3-2 match to third-place Quinnipiac Friday night, you might say Canisius was a little tired; but to have to turn around and play first-place Holy Cross just 15 hours later, you might argue they were exhausted.
So, with back-to-back road games, Canisius was more than happy to come out of Saturday’s matinee with a 2-2 tie.
“I thought this was a great point for Canisius on the road,” said Golden Griffs coach Brian Cavanaugh, whose team is still winless in its last six. “This was a real character point for us, especially without our leading scorers Michael Cohen and Andrew Dawe, who are out with injuries. Some teams would have panicked, but we really fought it out today.”
The speedy Crusader forwards, who netted 11 goals against Bentley last weekend, were slowed by Canisius’ stifling neutral zone play in the first period. However, Holy Cross generated six power plays in the first period alone, converting on one.
“There was no room for us in the neutral zone,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “We had our chances, but they shut us down. I think we had more room with the power play to open things up that by the time we were five-on-five, it was a shock to the system. The positive was that when we didn’t score, we played good defense.”
Despite going 1-7 on the power play, Holy Cross made up for it on the defensive end. Crusader goaltender Tony Quesada didn’t face a shot for the first 15:41 of the first period, including two penalty kills. The Golden Griffs managed only three shots during the entire opening stanza.
“I think you have to attribute playing shorthanded for most of the period to that,” said Cavanaugh. “We had to play more at even strength. That gave us more opportunity to generate offense.”
Holy Cross opened scoring early in the first period when senior R.J. Irving capitalized on the Crusaders’ first power play of the game. Pierre Napert-Frenette fed the puck over to Andrew McKay in the right wing corner. McKay feathered a pass across the slot to the streaking Irving, pinching from the point. Irving one-timed the pass from the left slot into a yawning net that had Canisius goaltender Bryan Worosz off-guard. Irving’s third goal of the year came 5:10 into the contest.
“We got caught on that first goal,” said Cavanaugh. “We had talked about backdoor plays, but I thought we adjusted well after it.”
Even though Canisius managed just three first-period shots, it made the most of it. With Holy Cross’ Chris Sullivan in the box for slashing, Todd Bowler broke down the left side and fired a shot from the circle on Quesada, who made the initial save. On a Holy Cross miscue, Bowler collected his own rebound and crammed the puck past Quesada to knot the game at 1-1 with 17 seconds to play in the first.
“We’re not a too-high, too-low team,” said Pearl. “The puck took a funny bounce. I don’t think it would have happened in the third. We just didn’t play as smart in the first as we did in the third.”
The Canisius offense came alive in the second period and began peppering Quesada but still couldn’t outshoot the Crusaders. It was another funny bounce that gave the Golden Griffs the lead. With 7:27 remaining in the second, Jaymie Harrington skated behind Quesada’s net and fired a shot at the goaltender from just above the goal line. Quesada dropped down but looked up to the ceiling in disgust as the puck trickled under him. Quesada turned aside 22 Canisius shots in the afternoon.
The Crusaders trailed 2-1 entering the third, but wasted little time knotting the game. Freshman defenseman Jon Landry pinched, holding the puck on the blue line and shoveling it to James Sixsmith. Sixsmith dumped it off to Coskren in the low left slot. Coskren fired a wrister low to the blocker side of Worosz and beat the goaltender. Coskren’s fifth goal of the year was the game’s last as Worosz finished the day with 37 saves.
“We were able to move our forwards up in the third,” said Pearl. “That allowed us to create more opportunities. You have to give great credit to Worosz for keeping us out. It was a well-fought tie.”
With less than five minutes to play, Irving had the game’s best scoring chance when he blasted a shot off the post from the slot, but couldn’t find the twine. Neither team could convert in overtime.
Holy Cross will travel to Air Force next weekend to take on the Falcons in two non-conference games.
“Once we get back,” said Pearl. “Everyone will have played 18 games. We should be ahead mathematically, and we’ll get ready for the late push.”
Canisius will return to the road for a two-game series with UConn.
“We’re in the midst of a seven-game road trip,” said Cavanaugh. “For some teams, that’s an entire season on the road. I think looking at that, we played with a lot of character and earned that point today. Our guys showed a lot of fortitude.”