BUFFALO, N.Y. — The most frightening Halloween costume in Colorado Springs next fall may be the Golden Griffin.
The Canisius College men’s ice hockey team defeated Air Force 3-1 on Saturday at the Buffalo State Ice Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., marking the third consecutive time that the Griffs (2-5-0, 1-2-0 AHA) have clipped their Atlantic Hockey rival.
Cory Conacher’s fourth goal of the season at the 5:41 mark of the third period gave Canisius a 2-1 lead, and linemate Vince Scarsella’s empty-netter with 25 seconds remaining — his second tally of the game — sealed the deal for the home team.
“We got a nice chip off the boards from (Griffs winger) Preston Shupe, Vinny carried it into the zone and made a very nice pass to ‘Forsy’ (defenseman Chris Forsman), and ‘Forsy’ found me backdoor for an empty net,” Conacher said. “It was easy for me; all the other guys did all of the work, and it was just a tap-in for me.”
Junior classmates Conacher and Scarsella continued their early-season magic. Scarsella has assisted on all four of Conacher’s goals in 2009-2010, while Conacher has returned the favor on two of Scarsella’s three tallies.
“Me and Scarsella have good chemistry together,” Conacher said. “We’ve been together for a whole year, pretty much, and now with Shupe, we have that chemistry that we need. Fortunately, it’s working out for us so far.”
The victory gave Canisius its first Atlantic Hockey win and took some of the edge off a pair of tightly-contested 3-2 home losses to Holy Cross on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25. The questions for Air Force, however, continue.
After thrilling home victories over RIT on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24 that snapped a four-game winless streak, the three-time defending Atlantic Hockey champions appeared to have overcome a disappointing start to the their schedule.
However, the Falcons (2-5-0, 2-1-0 AHA) could not find an answer for Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison. The sophomore from London, Ont., allowed one goal on 42 shots and remained steady when the Falcons’ big guns began finding cracks in the Griffin defense.
“Dan has played great for us,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “He’s showing a level of consistency that I really, really like. He’s showing a compete level and a compete factor that I really like. I think his teammates believe in him.”
The Golden Griffins jumped out to 1-0 lead less than a minute into the first period when Scarsella settled a skipping pass from Conacher near the top the Air Force goal crease and knocked a low backhander past Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Week Andrew Volkening.
The advantage was key; Canisius had been outscored 11-2 in the first period in the first six games of the season, and had lost all five contests when trailing after the first 20 minutes. Scarsella’s tally also marked the sixth time in seven games that the Falcons had allowed the first goal, losing on five of those occasions.
“It was a very good hockey game,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “When it’s all said and done, in a game like that, it ended up being 2-1, and it probably should have been 5-4, but the goaltending was good and Morrison was great.”
Air Force tied the game with a man advantage near the midway point of the second period when Jacques Lamoureux, a 33-goal scorer in 2008-2009, collected his first marker since a 7-3 loss to Bemidji State on Oct. 10. Lamoureux, a junior from Grand Forks, N.D., took a Derrick Burnett pass behind the Griffs’ net and swung around the right post before roofing a shot over a crouched Morrison.
It would be the last time that the Canisius goalie was beaten. Despite heavy pressure and two power-play opportunities in the final period, Air Force was unable to find the equalizer before Scarsella put the game out of reach with 25 seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Serratore focused on the positive aspects of his team’s play. Playing without dynamic freshman forward John Kruse (week-to-week with a separated shoulder), who entered the game tied for first place in Atlantic Hockey scoring with six points, the Falcons maintained a heavy edge in shots and carried the play for healthy stretches of the contest.
“I thought we had a great effort,” Serratore said. “I thought it was the best game we played all year. You can’t coach the scoreboard. No matter how you win, you’re happy, and no matter how you lose, you’re disappointed; it doesn’t work that way. Had we won that game, playing the same way we played, I’d be a pretty happy coach.”
Canisius and Air Force meet again on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. at the Buffalo State Ice Arena.