BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Mercyhurst Lakers defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins, 4-1, and ended the Griffins quest for home ice advantage in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs Friday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Steve Cameron tallied a hat trick for the Lakers.
“It felt really good from start to finish,” Cameron said. “Canisius is a tough team and we wanted a solid 60. I thought we outplayed them all three periods and it was a really great game.:
Mercyhurst struck first at 9:07 when Cameron picked up a rebound to the left of the net. Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison saved Matt Pierce’s shot from the right boards but the rebound went to Cameron, who dished it in for his 20th of the season. Scott Pitt also received an assist on the play.
Cameron score ed again just over two minutes later when he found himself all alone in front of the Griffins’ net.
“We had a couple of big miscues early that led to their goals,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “We have to cut down on the big mistakes. I’d like to see a little more urgency on some non-threatening situations and special teams needs to be better.”
Cody Collins got his first of the season for the Lakers at 10:52 of the second period. Dan Bremner sent a pass from along the right half-boards that found Collins driving to the net. He tapped it in to give Mercyhurst the 3-0 advantage.
The Griffins got on the board with less than three minutes to play. Scott Moser’s shot from the left side low in the circle first clanked off the top of the post but then crossed the goal line.
Cameron completed the hat trick into an empty net at 19:04 to surpass teammate Matt Pierce in goals scored on the season. The sophomore now has 22 goals and 24 assists.
Mercyhurst goaltender Ryan Zapolski made 30 saves in the win, including 16 in the second period. He also recorded an assist on the empty-net goal. Morrison ended the game with 33 saves for Canisius, including 15 in the first period.
Both teams went zero-for-five on the power play.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa for the second game of the home-and-home series.
“They are a really good team and they are gonna play us hard tomorrow,” Cameron said. “Obviously they were disappointed with tonight. Tomorrow is senior night in Erie so I think we’ll be jacked up and ready to go.”
The Griffins are now locked into the fifth seed at 14-13-6 overall and 12-11-4 in conference play. The Lakers clinched the third seed with the win and are now 18-4-3 overall and 16-8-3 in AHA play.
“I like our chances [in the playoffs],” Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. “It’s a great league and I think it’s really wide open. Anybody can beat anybody and the bottom line is you have to play well every night. You have to get great goaltending, you have to be opportunistic, you have to be disciplined and if you do that you give yourself a chance.”