ERIE, Pa. — Was that Dominik Hasek in goal for Canisius?
That’s what many in the crowd of 865 at the Mercyhurst Ice Center seemed to be saying after the Golden Griffins’ harrowing 3-2 road-ice victory over Mercyhurst on Tuesday.
Well, no, it wasn’t Hasek in goal for Canisius, but Bryan Worosz. Worosz, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior from Brantford, Ont., time and again frustrated Mercyhurst with an arsenal of acrobatic saves and could easily have been called “The Dominator” on this particular night.
“What can I say?” Canisius bench coach Clancy Seymour said after watching his goaltender kick, swat, poke, and bat away 32 of Mercyhurst’s 34 shots. “Bryan’s in a zone, and he’s been in a zone all season. Without Bryan, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
And where the Griffs are is in second place in Atlantic Hockey at 8-4-2, and resting just one point behind conference leader Holy Cross (8-2-3), which was idle Tuesday. The victory for Canisius (10-11-3 overall) also lifted it three points ahead of Sacred Heart (7-4-1), which lost 5-3 to UConn on Tuesday.
The loss dropped Mercyhurst, which is tied with Sacred Heart for third, to 6-3-3 in the conference, and 7-11-4 overall.
Like Hasek, Worosz used numerous variations of glove and kick saves to throttle the Lakers, and seemed to do his best work while flat on his back. At one point in the second period, with the Griffs leading 2-1, Worosz, while sprawled on his back, kicked up his leg to stop a rising shot that was headed top-shelf. His effort kept Canisius in the lead.
“Sometimes you just get lucky,” Worosz said. “You just try to get as much body in front of the puck as you can.”
“Bryan Worosz stole the game,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin, whose Lakers outshot the Griffs 34-17. “I thought our guys played a great game. I couldn’t have been happier with our effort, and the way our guys worked, and the chances they created.”
After trailing 2-0, Mercyhurst came back to tie the game, 2-2, on Scott Champagne’s power-play goal early in the third period. But despite getting outshot 14-9 in the third, the Griffs and Worosz kept the Lakers off the board the rest of the way.
With the game still tied in the waning moments of regulation, senior forward James LeCuyer took over as hero — but not without help from Worosz.
After making a save, Worosz got the puck to LeCuyer, who raced up the left side and, from the boards, threw it on net. Coaches always say if you get it on net good things happen, and that they did, as LeCuyer’s shot beat Mercyhurst goalie Andy Franck at 19 minutes, 11 seconds of the third period to win the game.
Not only did Worosz shut down the Lakers in goal, but he was credited with an assist on the game-winner.
“I was just trying to clear the puck out because I saw them pressuring us, and I had a chance to play it, so I just played it to James, and he did the rest,” Worosz said.
“Bryan played the puck up, and I just bolted down the wing,” LeCuyer said. “He (Franck) gave me the five-hole, and I put it through his legs. I saw the opening and I put it there.”
“(Defenseman) Preston Briggs was toe to toe with (LeCuyer), and we had men back,” Gotkin said. “He came right down the wall and took a bad-angle shot, and it went in the net. That’s what you do, throw the puck on the net. There were no breakdowns by us on that play.
“It was a tough way for it to end,” Gotkin added. “We didn’t have a very good start, and we didn’t have a very good finish, but we got a big power play goal to make it 2-1, and from that point on we were all over Canisius until 40 seconds left in the third period. (But overall) I thought our guys played great.”
LeCuyer called it a great team victory for the Griffs.
“It was great to come in this building and get a win, and I can’t say enough about our team,” LeCuyer said. “But it all stemmed from Bryan, our goaltender,” LeCuyer added. “He made the big saves, and we just fed off him.”
About his goaltender’s assist, Seymour laughed, “Hey, maybe we should put him on the power play!”
Seymour agreed that the Griffs fed off the play of Worosz.
“Bryan is a fantastic goalie right now, and he’s a great leader in the dressing room,” said Seymour, who is 3-4-2 while calling the shots for Canisius since Brian Cavanaugh’s dismissal on Dec. 10. “The team builds off what he does on the ice, and that’s what a team atmosphere is all about.”
About LeCuyer, who scored twice in the game, Seymour said, “Jimmy has been a quality role player for us who has done whatever we’ve asked him to do whenever we’ve asked him to do it. Whether it’s playing center, playing the wing, killing penalties, or every once in a while on the power play, he’s a tremendous senior, and a tremendous leader on this team.”
Canisius freshman Joel Kitchen opened the scoring at the game’s 52-second mark by poking a loose puck past Franck. Mike Ruberto assisted on Kitchen’s goal, which was his team-leading 13th of the season.
Less than four minutes later, LeCuyer scored his first of the game to increase the Griffs’ lead to 2-0. “Mike Cohen made a great pass to me,” LeCuyer said. “I shot it, and got the rebound. Fortunately it was right in front for me, and I put it into the empty net.” Ryan Corcoran also assisted.
Mercyhurst’s Ben Cottreau, another freshman, cut Canisius’ lead to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 14:50 of the first period. Scott Reynolds and Dave Borrelli assisted.
“I saw a couple of guys in front, and the goalie looked like he was screened, so I just threw it on net,” said Cottreau, whose goal was his ninth of the season. “It’s always good to get shots on net on the power play.”
Champagne then tied it at 2 with his power-play score, which was assisted by Rich Hansen and Conrad Martin, at 1:28 of the third period. The goal was Champagne’s sixth of the season.
The score remained 2-2 until LeCuyer got the game-winner, which was his second goal of the game and sixth of the season.
Penalty minutes were Canisius 19, Mercyhurst 16. The Lakers were 2-of-7 on the power play, while the Griffs were 0-for-5.
Worosz, who came into the game with a 2.44 goals against average and .923 save percentage, improved his record to 10-7-3, and 8-3-2 in the conference. Franck, who suffered the loss, fell to 6-9-3 and 5-3-3.
“When you play a team like Mercyhurst, and a well-coached club like Rick Gotkin has, when you get a victory, you’ve always got to be pleased,” Seymour said.
And it sure helps when you have Dominik Hasek in goal.
Canisius next plays back-to-back games at Holy Cross on Jan. 28-29. Mercyhurst now must play four straight on the road, including two games at Bentley on Jan. 28-29 and two at Quinnipiac on Feb. 4-5.