WORCESTER, Mass. — Less than four seconds separated the Canisius Golden Griffins from being on the wrong end of a series sweep, but late heroics assured that the Griffins’ season would continue for at least one more game.
Freshman Kyle Gibbons scored with 3.5 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime and then again in the extra period to give eighth-seeded Canisius a 3-2 victory over third-seeded Holy Cross at the Hart Center.
The win snapped the Crusaders’ 12-game unbeaten streak and forced a decisive third game at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday in the best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series.
With under five minutes remaining in overtime, sophomore Torrey Lindsay led a rush into the attacking zone for the Griffins and found freshman Ryan Bohrer below the goal line. Bohrer fed the puck to Gibbons between the circles and the shot cleared the stick-side shoulder of Holy Cross backstop Adam Roy.
“Its honestly one of the best feelings I’ve had playing hockey,” said Gibbons, who also scored a goal in Game 1 on Friday. “It’s something you think about as a player. I’d been in a bit of a cold spell and the first one (yesterday) kind of got the monkey off my back. Coach said keep shooting, and I give credit to the coaches for giving me confidence.”
Heading into this weekend, Gibbons had scored just once since tallying the overtime game-winner against then-ranked Robert Morris on November 20, a span of 21 games.
With seven minutes remaining in regulation however, the prospects of even a single goal for the visiting Griffins looked grim. A roughing minor on Crusaders forward Rob Linsmayer at 13:17 gave Canisius life, however, and blueliner Chris Forsman used a screen from Taylor Law to cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal. Forsman’s fourth goal of the year was also his second of the playoff series, and ignited a desperate attack over the game’s closing minutes.
That desperation culminated in one final rush led by Cory Conacher, whose initial shot was redirected through a sea of bodies in front of Roy. Gibbons put a stick to the rebound and the puck crossed the goal line just prior to the net being dislodged.
“We looked at the clock to see if there was any time left, and then we were ecstatic; it was pure joy,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said of the reaction on the bench. “Kyle is a goal scorer, and he found the back of the net at the best time.”
Equally notable was the play of Griffins netminder Dan Morrison, who bounced back from allowing five goals the night before to make 49 saves, including 12 in the overtime period.
“He was fantastic, especially in overtime when we had a bunch of shots and he made some great saves,” Crusaders coach Paul Pearl said of Morrison.
Holy Cross outshot Canisius, 51-29, including a 12-2 advantage in overtime, but “it’s not always about shots, it’s chances,” Pearl added. “You have to score, and we didn’t.
“We’ll do the same stuff tomorrow. We’re good, they’re good. We might have more shots in the series, but they’re dangerous on the rush. The harder we work, the more pucks will bounce our way.”
Holy Cross built a 2-0 lead in the first two periods on a pair of goals from Everett Sheen, the first of which gave the senior captain both his 50th career goal and 100th career point.
The Crusaders also killed off a major penalty assessed to winger Jay Silvia in the second period for hitting from behind, allowing just two shots through five short-handed minutes, during which there was not a single stoppage in play.
The hosts however, left scoring chances on the table throughout the contest and allowed the Griffins to remain in striking distance at the end.
“It’s a huge lift, huge momentum,” Gibbons stated. “Yesterday we felt that we could’ve won. Tomorrow is do or die again, and we play well with something big on the line.”