BUFFALO, N.Y. — Trailing 6-4 with just over three minutes remaining in the third period, Canisius scored two goals in a 40-second span to force overtime before senior forward Jason Weeks redirected the game-winner past sophomore goaltender Bryan Bessette in the final minute of the extra session to stun visiting Colgate, 7-6, at the Buffalo State Ice Arena in Buffalo, NY.
“When they got up two, I thought we showed great character and great resolve to stay with our systems and come back,” Golden Griffins’ coach Dave Smith said. “That’s when we get bad, when we get outside our systems. I thought we stuck with it and forced them into some things that had been working for us.”
The Canisius comeback overshadowed a monster game from Raiders’ winger Brian Day, whose five points on a goal and four assists were tops of his collegiate career. With potent playmaker David McIntyre out with a lower body injury, Day’s four assists set up two-goal games for both freshman defenseman Jeremy Price and sophomore forward Matt Firman.
After falling behind, 3-1, Colgate rallied in the second period on power-play goals from junior center Francois Brisebois and Firman. The Raiders converted on another man advantage 5:15 into the third period when Price collected his second goal of the game to take the 4-3 lead.
The visitors finished with four power-play goals in six opportunities.
“Our special teams kept us in the game tonight,” Colgate coach Don Vaughn said. “Our power play was really humming, but it wasn’t enough tonight.”
Griffs’ defenseman Carl Hudson retied the score at 7:56 of the third period, cranking a high slap shot from the right circle past Bessette. Day, however, seized the lead back for Colgate four minutes later, diving to knock an Austin Smith pass around Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison, and Firman’s second goal of the game at 13:09 looked like the insurance needed to seal the win.
The Griffs, who had scored 18 goals in their previous three games, were not finished. Junior forward Vincent Scarsella skipped a turnaround shot from the right circle past Bessette with 3:50 left on the clock to trim the Raiders’ lead to 6-5, and senior center Josh Heidinger roofed a wraparound 40 seconds later to tie the score at six.
“You have to give them credit,” Vaughn said. “A lot of teams would fold up the tent when it’s 6-4 at that point in the game, but they did not do that.”
Weeks won the game for Canisius at 4:02 of overtime, tipping a point shot by junior defenseman Scott Jenks into the Colgate net.
“I just found a soft spot behind their defense,” Weeks said. “The puck trickled out to Scott Jenks and he just kind of found a lane and shot it just above my forehand. I tipped it home and got lucky.”
Fourteen Griffs landed on the score sheet in the game. Weeks tied a career high and led Canisius with four points while Josh Heidinger and Scarsella each recorded a goal and an assist. Jenks and Scott Moser each had a pair of assists for the home team. Morrison earned the win in net with 25 saves.
Day led all scorers with five points while Firman added three for Colgate. Smith finished with three assists. Bessette was credited with 16 saves.
The loss was the third in four games for the Raiders, whose schedule has included seven tilts with six nationally ranked teams. Colgate is now 7-6-4 overall and will face Notre Dame in the opening round of the Shillelagh Tournament in Illinois on Jan. 2 before launching back into its ECAC schedule at St. Lawrence on Jan. 15.
“We have to take care of our own end,” Vaughn said. “If we don’t start shoring things up defensively, then we’re going to be in a lot of games like this. We’ve got to find a way to shut teams down. You score six goals, you ought to win a hockey game.”
The roller coaster ride continues for the Griffs, who improved to 9-9-2 overall. After losing four of five to start the season, Canisius regrouped and dropped just one of its next eight games. The Griffs stumbled again, losing three in a row before splitting a series with Atlantic Hockey rival Bentley University. Canisius now has an undefeated streak of three consecutive games.
“I think we’re getting there,” Smith said. “We just have to continue playing good team defense in all three zones. We have the ability to score, but we need to show that we can play team defense. Otherwise, you’re going to lose some of those (high-scoring) games like this.”
The Griffs resume Atlantic Hockey play at Bentley on Jan. 8.