BUFFALO — Down 2-0 early in the second period, Holy Cross rebounded to forge a 3-3 tie with Atlantic Hockey Association rival Canisius at the Buffalo State Ice Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The draw kept the Golden Griffins winless in their last five games (0-3-2), moving their record to 4-4-3 overall. Canisius is 3-3-3 in Atlantic Hockey, good for second place in the conference.
The Crusaders are 4-2-1 since losing a season-opening pair to nationally-ranked Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Holy Cross is 4-4-1 overall and is in third place in Atlantic Hockey at 3-1-1.
Saturday’s battle between Jesuit colleges was a seesaw affair until Crusaders defenseman Kyle Atkins knotted the score with 4:34 remaining in the third period.
The goal cemented a Holy Cross comeback that began with team captain Everett Sheen’s power-play tally at the 7:37 mark of the second period, cutting into what had been a 2-0 Canisius lead.
The Crusaders tied the score, 2-2, with one second left in the second period when a shot from left point by junior defenseman Matthew Davis skipped off sophomore forward Erik Vos in front of the Golden Griffins’ net.
Vos was on his hands and knees, in obvious pain, after absorbing an earlier point shot by Davis when the second shot deflected off of him. He returned for the third period and extra session.
“They battled, and won some battles down low, and got some loose pucks,” Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl said. “Our defensemen did a good job of keeping their head up and shooting through the middle.”
Canisius took a 1-0 lead on sophomore forward Preston Shupe’s five-on-three power play goal two minutes into the game. The Golden Griffins later jumped ahead, 2-0, when junior winger Scott Moser snuck a shot from the left circle through freshman goaltender Derek Kump’s pads at 5:28 of the second period.
After the Moser goal, the pendulum swung. The Crusaders overwhelmed their hosts for the remainder of the second session, finishing the period with two goals and 19 shots in the period.
“The second period, we started skating,” Pearl said. “They got that fluky goal, but all you say on the bench is, hey, keep playing well, just stick with it. It’s always the (final) outcome that the fans are worried about, but we’re looking at how we’re playing each shift. Hopefully, if you start winning those shifts, it equals some goals.”
Despite the overwhelming second period, Canisius never trailed in the game and took a 3-2 lead on a dominant third-period power play that featured magnificent stick work by point man Cory Conacher and his blue line partner, Steve Shafer. A series of slick passes and dekes by the two wingers — coach Dave Smith used a power play unit of five forwards throughout the game — allowed junior center Vinnie Scarsella to find enough room near the left circle to wrist a shot through traffic to beat Kump.
“I liked the power play,” Smith said. “I thought it looked real good. Scored two big goals for us. The guys are gaining confidence with every practice; you can see it.”
The goal offered a measure of redemption to Scarsella, who was left prone on the ice for roughly three minutes after he was taken hard into the boards by the Holy Cross center Kyle Fletcher with 7:38 remaining in the second period.
Scarsella dove to clear a puck from the Golden Griffins’ zone on a penalty kill and Fletcher appeared to get his skates tangled beneath the Canisius forward, taking him headfirst into the runners and drawing the ire of Griffs’ captain Phil Rauch. No penalties were called on the play and Fletcher looked genuinely dismayed after Scarsella’s rough impact.
“I don’t know if it was dirty or clean,” Scarsella said after the game. “We were battling, I dove to push the puck out, and I didn’t really see what happened next. Did he have to take me into the boards like that? I don’t know. But it was a tough game, and both teams battled all game long, and I don’t have any hard feelings about it.”
Kump made 18 saves in the second start of his collegiate career.
“He played last Saturday (a 3-2 OT win over Robert Morris) and played well, so go with him again,” Pearl said. “The key for Derek is that he’d like to have that second goal back, but it was just one of those fluky things. The key thing, though, is that he stopped a 2-on-0 with a great save (in the second period), and if that gets them to 3-1, then who knows how the game turns out? That’s the sign of a good goalie — he’s mentally tough.”
The Crusaders tied the score on the Atkins goal, another play marked by injury; an earlier blast by Atkins was gloved by penalty killer Torrey Lindsay, who fell to the ice in pain and was crawling in vain towards the Golden Griffins’ bench when the equalizer was scored.
Atkins’ hard blast from the top point may have been deflected by a defender in front of Golden Griffins goaltender Dan Morrison, who finished the game with 34 saves.
“Holy Cross scored a good goal for them, but it was a little unique with the injury situation on the play,” Smith said. “It’s a fine line between a rut and a groove, and I thought we were on both sides of the line. We were good in the first period and the third period, and in the second, Holy Cross deserved that period. I’m disappointed with the tie. I’m happy with a lot of the progress of our guys, but feel the need to continue improving.”
The teams will meet again on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.