STORRS, Conn. — Friday night’s game between Canisius and Connecticut wasn’t so much about who was on the ice, but rather who was off it. The teams combined for 17 penalties in the contest, but it was the Golden Griffins who took advantage, cashing in with a power play and extra attacker goal in a 3-1 win over UConn at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
“I thought UConn played really hard and we had a pretty good focus from being off last week,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “It could have gone either way with the number of power plays and scoring chances both teams had. I’m just happy to get two points tonight.”
The Huskies (4-21, 4-15-3 AHA) had a premium chance early to jump ahead. Boarding penalties on Matt Zuke and Ben Parker just nine seconds apart in the opening minutes gave UConn a five-on-three situation for 1:51, but the Golden Griffins’ (12-11-4, 10-8-3) penalty kill held strong, forcing the Huskies to pass the puck around the perimeter with little penetration down low.
“We’ve got to score on that,” Huskies’ coach Bruce Marshall said. “It really would have given the team the confidence that they needed. We didn’t move it very well in that situation; maybe they thought it was going to come a little easier.”
The Canisius defense and senior goalie Andrew Loewen ensured UConn remained off the board during the two-man advantage.
“Andrew got into the game early there and our penalty killers showed a tremendous commitment to blocking shots,” Smith said.
Where Connecticut failed, Canisius converted. A high stick call on Marcello Ranallo sent the sophomore to the box, where teammate
Alex Gerke was already waiting, presenting the Golden Griffins with a six second five-on-three chance.
Gerke’s penalty ticked away, but with 1:11 left on Ranallo’s infraction, Carl Hudson blasted his 11th goal of the year and eighth power-play strike to give Canisius a 1-0 lead. at 7:25. Josh Heidinger and Cory Conacher were credited with assists on Hudson’s 41st career goal, one away from tying Michael Coen for fourth in school history.
It was Canisius’ only goal of the period, thanks in part to the work of Huskies’ goalie Garrett Bartus, who turned away 13 shots in the first, including a diving save to deny Phil Rauch down low after the defenseman’s initial shot rebounded back to his stick midway through the period.
A delayed penalty against the Huskies broke a four-on-four situation late in the second. Canisius maintained control of the puck in Connecticut’s zone before Jason Weeks slung a pass across the crease to a waiting David Cianfrini on the left post, who dumped it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
UConn looked much stronger on its second five-on-three chance of the game in the third period, peppering shots on net before Andrew Olson put the Huskies on the board with his sixth goal of the year.
“The pressure was on,” Marshall said. “They realized they had a missed opportunity during the first [five-on-three]. We’ve got to understand where we are and that the first one can really be the one that jump starts us and gets us going.”
The final goal of the evening went to Canisius late in third when Preston Shupe took a Conacher pass to up the lead to 3-1 at 16:41.
Conacher finished with two assists on the night and moved into a tie with Massachusetts’ James Marcou and Rensselaer’s Chase Polacek for tops in the nation with 40 points.
Bartus finished with 29 saves, while Loewen turned away 20 Huskies’ shots.
It was another tough loss for Connecticut, which has played well against some of the higher ups in Atlantic Hockey over the past month.
“That’s the frustrating thing,” Marshall said. “This group definitely doesn’t quit and they give themselves an opportunity, but we’ve got to find a way to get it done.”