BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Canisius College Golden Griffins set the standard early and defeated the Sacred Heart Pioneers, 5-1, at the Buffalo State Sports Arena Saturday night. Junior Jason Weeks tallied a second period hat trick for Canisius, scoring at even-strength, short-handed and on the power play.
The Griffins opened the game strong, winning battles along the boards and controlling the tempo of the game. Their speed forced Sacred Heart to take four straight penalties.
“Canisius showed up to play hockey tonight and our team didn’t,” Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah said. “We were flat to start the game and we really didn’t get anything going.”
A faceoff win by Vincent Scarsella at the left circle went straight to Cory Conacher at 1:07. Conacher fired a shot that beat Sacred Heart goaltender Stefan Drew.
A Sacred Heart giveaway with eleven seconds left in the opening period found Griffins leading-scorer Dave Kostuch in the slot. The Pioneers defenseman passed the puck from behind the net right to Kostuch, whose slap shot was denied by Drew.
Canisius opened the second period on the penalty kill, but scored a short-handed goal with three seconds left on a hooking minor at 1:57. Peter MacDougall, Eric Rex, and Carl Hudson all blocked shots on the Sacred Heart man-advantage before Josh Heidinger used his stick along the ice to stop the puck. He started a breakout the other way and with Vincent Scarsella and Weeks at the front of the net, Heidinger’s shot rebounded and Weeks stuffed it in.
The Griffins were on the board again less than thirty seconds later. A cross-ice pass by Weeks found Derek Danowski skating to the net at the left hash marks. He beat Drew for Canisius’ third goal of the game at 2:25.
Weeks struck again at the 4:00 mark, forcing a turnover ten feet in front of the red line along the right boards. He skated into the zone and fired a shot from the top of the right circle to score his second of the game.
Sacred Heart put some pressure on the Canisius defense on a delayed penalty call in the second period. With the goaltender pulled for the extra man, Sacred Heart fired pucks at the Canisius net. Griffins’ goaltender Dan Morrison made one save with his blocker and deflected another one away from the net. During the penalty kill, Scarsella used his stick flat on the ice to block a shot from going into the open net with Morrison out of position.
Strong play by the Griffins resulted in their fifth goal of the night. Scarsella stripped the puck inside the Canisius zone from Sacred Heart and skated up ice with Weeks. They exchanged passes and Weeks fired a shot at the net scoring his third of the game at 9:22.
“We made it a point to play harder defense and that developed into offense,” Weeks said.
“We played a full sixty today and that’s what we have to keep doing all throughout.”
Sacred Heart’s only goal came at 11:02 of the third period when Mike Rosata sent the puck to the net from along the right boards and it slipped between Morrison’s skates.
The Griffins outshot the Pioneers 12-4 in the first period. They added another 18 in the middle frame and finished the game with 37 shots.
“It felt great to see our guys really play to potential,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “Our transition game was excellent. It was a good feeling just to watch whoever we put out there play hard and effective.”
Scarsella, Weeks and Conacher all had multi-point nights for Canisius. After the game, the Griffins received a standing ovation from much of the crowd at their home rink.
The win improves Canisius to 10-10-5 overall and 8-8-3 in Atlantic Hockey action. Sacred Heart falls to 6-16-4 overall and 6-11-3 in conference play. The Griffins will travel to Mercyhurst on Tuesday for a 7:05 p.m. start while the Pioneers will head to RIT on February 6 and 7 at 7:05 p.m.