BUFFALO, N.Y. — Goaltender Andrew Loewen’s shutout helped the Canisius Golden Griffins defeat the visiting AIC Yellow Jackets, 3-0, Friday night at the Amherst Pepsi Center.
“We stayed at a very nice level,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “We didn’t get way, way up or way, way down on chances for or against. I think that’s important heading into the playoffs because it’s an emotional game.”
A short-handed breakaway by AIC’s Steve McLeod led to a Yellow Jackets’ penalty shot at 14:05 of the first period. Defender Carl Hudson hooked McLeod from behind as he skated towards Loewen and he the referee awarded AIC a penalty shot.
“My plan was to get out and cut down the angle,” Loewen said. “Make sure I got a good push out so I didn’t give him too much net to shoot at.”
McLeod skated in and tried to beat Loewen between the pads, but the junior goaltender closed the hole as the puck came. It was the first penalty shot he had faced in his three years at Canisius.
“There is that pause in between so I just mentally prepared and thought about what I was gonna do and played it from there,” the goaltender said. “Usually I’d be calm but for some reason I got a little nervous and got a couple of butterflies.”
AIC got another chance with less than two minutes to go in the period when a backhanded shot from the top of the crease hit Loewen and bounced away.
The goaltender made another stop, this time off the facemask, and it led to a Canisius rush the other way. Jason Weeks picked up a pass from Vincent Scarsella and skated up the left wing into the Yellow Jackets’ end. With a defender on his back, Weeks deked in front of the net and slipped the puck through AIC goalie Tom Fenton’s legs at 18:41 for his ninth goal of the season.
The Yellow Jackets outshot the Griffs 11-8 in the first period.
Both teams had some chances to score in the second period. AIC’s Mike Little interrupted a Canisius two-on-one by sliding and blocking the pass across to the open skater.
Dave Kostuch and Josh Heidinger skated in on another Canisius two-on-one, this time on a short-handed opportunity, seconds later. They crisscrossed in the high slot but were unable to capitalize on the scoring chance.
AIC then put pressure in the Canisius zone with five minutes to play in the period. They put a shot on goal from the right wing that Loewen knocked away. Eventually, the puck came out from behind the net to the left side, but AIC couldn’t get the puck through to the net. They would pick it up again on the right wing for another chance that Loewen covered.
Just over a minute later, Kostuch and Adam Brace got another two-on-one for Canisius. Brace, on the right wing, passed across to an open Kostuch, but the shot went just wide to the left of the net.
AIC had multiple chances to tie the game in the final twelve seconds of the second period. AIC once again outshot the Griffins for the period, with Loewen stopping fifteen shots to Fenton’s eight.
Pat Kenney scored his fifth goal of the season for the Griffins at 2:06 of the third period. He took a pass from Scott Jenks and took a slap shot from the left boards that beat Fenton.
Canisius scored again with just under three minutes to play in the game. John Patera’s slap shot from the right point beat Fenton through traffic. Scarsella won the faceoff that led to the goal.
Despite the loss, Yellow Jackets’ coach Gary Wright was proud of his team’s effort.
“We’ve got to bury our opportunities tomorrow,” he said, “Mostly, we have to have a little more show offensively for our efforts.”
Both teams went zero-for-three on the power play but Canisius held AIC shot-less on each of the three chances.
Loewen made 31 saves in the game for his second shutout of the season.
“Andrew [Loewen] played very confidently,” Smith said. “He made a lot of good saves and when he needed to be good, he was good, and when he needed to be lucky, he was lucky.”
The win improves the Griffins to 12-11-6 overall and 10-9-4 in AHA play. The loss drops AIC to 4-23-1 overall and 4-18-0 in conference action. The two teams will faceoff again tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. at the Amherst Pepsi Center.