STORRS, Conn. — A pair of goals in each of the first two periods proved to be all Canisius needed to secure a weekend sweep of Connecticut with a 5-2 win Saturday night at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
After the teams combined for 17 penalties in Friday night’s contest, the Golden Griffins took advantage of the first infraction of the night when UConn’s Chris Spicer was whistled for slashing at 13:27.
The Canisius power play unit, which added a tally in the opening game after clicking at a 39.3 percent rate in January, struck again under a minute into Spicer’s penalty.
Chris Forman lofted a shot from his perch above the right faceoff circle. UConn’s Garrett Bartus stretched out of the net to turn away the puck, but as he did, the puck rebounded to an uncovered Jason Weeks on the left post, who buried it into the open net for a 1-0 lead at 14:43.
“I thought the power-play goal was big; we got some confidence from that”, said Canisius coach Dave Smith.
The strike was Weeks’ 50th career goal at Canisius, a mark which is tops in the school’s Division I history.
“Jason is a guy that likes his points,” Smith said. “He’s good around the net and when you add an extra guy out there on the power play, he’s very dynamic. Those numbers represent a four year commitment. He just keeps chipping away and it’s been fun to watch him get those numbers.”
Canisius (13-11-4, 11-8-3 AHA) grabbed a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period thanks to Vincent Scarsella’s goal from down low on the left post at 16:36.
The Golden Griffins’ third goal came due to a blown defensive assignment midway through the second period. Derek Danowski moved the puck up ice to linemate Ryan Klusendorf, who took the initial shot on net. The rebound trickled out to an uncovered Peter MacDougall, who had an easy shot from point blank range.
Scott Moser’s goal at 17:01 closed the scoring for the period and gave the Golden Griffins a 4-0 lead.
Connecticut (4-22-3, 4-16-3) added a pair of goals in the middle of the third.
Matching cross checking penalties sent MacDougall and Andrew Olson to the box at 7:59, and UConn got on the board when Matt Miller flicked a shot top shelf from close in that deflected off the crossbar and over the shoulder of goalie Andrew Loewen.
The Huskies added a power-play goal at 10:48 when Daniel Naurato beat Loewen (32 saves) for his third goal of the year.
While Connecticut cut down on the nine penalties they took in Friday night’s game, their third period surge wasn’t enough.
“There was still nine minutes to go when we made it 4-2″, said UConn coach Bruce Marshall. “If you get another and make it 4-3 and then get a flurry at the end when you pull your goalie and hopefully tie the thing up. It gave us a chance to try and get back into things.”
Bartus stopped 21 shots in two periods before giving way to Brad McInnis for the third, a period in which Smith thought UConn showed a lot of energy.
“We contemplated taking a time out after they scored the second one,” Smith said. “But we thought it was a good opportunity to see what our guys had inside them and we let them play and I thought we responded very well. We spent a little more time getting organized defensively and looked after the puck a little bit better then we had.”
Cory Conacher’s empty-netter with under a minute left capped the scoring for the night and moved him into a tie with Massachusetts’ James Marcou for the top point scorer in the nation.
With the win, Canisius moved within one point of Mercyhurst for the fourth and final home ice spot in the AHA tournament. The Lakers, who spent the weekend out west against non-conference opponents Denver and Colorado College, will take on the Golden Griffins in a home-and-home series this coming weekend.
“It’s going to be a great weekend,” said Smith. “I know we’re looking at it already and I know when they get back from their trip out west they’ll be eyeballing it as well. It’s going to be fun to be a part of.”