BUFFALO, N.Y. — Records can be deceiving.
Canisius and Clarkson entered Saturday’s non-conference showdown at the Buffalo State Ice Arena with a combined record of 1-8-2. The lone victory coming nearly three weeks ago on the Griffs’ season-opening road trip to Alaska.
What the raw numbers do not show, however, is that five of the team’s eight combined opponents are currently ranked among the top USCHO.com programs in the country.
Or that Canisius came within a whisker of taking second-ranked Minnesota to overtime at Mariucci Arena last week.
Or that Clarkson dropped a pair of gut-wrenching 5-4 losses to Colorado College.
Both teams — so hungry for their next win — will have to wait another day. The Golden Griffins (1-4-2) and Golden Knights (0-4-2) skated away with a 3-3 tie after each team scored in the final minute of the third period.
“The game was back and forth all night,” Canisius coach Dave Smith said. “And you really see what college hockey is all about when you get 10 guys battling their hearts out for every inch of ice. It’s tough sledding out there. The fans definitely got their money’s worth today.”
The Griffs — who entered the game sixth in scoring defense in the country, allowing just 1.67 goals per game, but last in the nation in scoring offense with a lowly 0.83 goals per contest — finally showed signs of life on offense. Canisius built a 2-0 lead early in the second period following goals by sophomore forwards Tyler Wiseman and Mitch McCrank.
The door was left open for the Knights late in that middle frame after the Griffs failed to convert on a 1:30 five-on-three power play. Following the kill, sophomore Clarkson winger Patrick Marsh rattled a tight wrister off the Canisius crossbar at 18:03 of the second period, beating goaltender Tony Capobianco short-side on a three-on-two rush just two minutes after the double-man advantage expired, trimming the Griffs’ lead to 2-1.
“We were talking about that 5-on-3 kill, trying to elevate that, to use that to help to be a turning point,” Knights’ coach Casey Jones said. “Our kids did a good job on that. Jarrett Burton did a fantastic job. It was a critical stage in the game. The game could have been over at that stage. To come back and get it to 2-1, I thought, was a big part of the game.”
Clarkson tied the score at 2-2 on freshman winger Pat Megannety’s sweeping power-play goal from his knees in front of Capobianco’s crease at 13:04 of the third period, delighting a strong contingent of Knights fans in attendance.
But for a few moments — actually, for 25 seconds — it looked like the home team had struck the final blow. Wiseman netted his second goal of the game on a beautiful tip of senior defenseman Ben Parker’s shot from the right point, confounding freshman Clarkson goaltender Andrew Hunt to give the Griffs a 3-2 lead with 58 seconds left in the third period.
Fate — or, rather, junior center Ben Sexton — would not allow Hunt to suffer a loss in his first collegiate appearance. Sexton, a former Boston Bruins’ draft pick, netted the tying tally at 19:31 of the third period, notching a 3-3 stalemate that would stand through the five-minute overtime session.
The two upstate New York teams will face each other again at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday in Buffalo.
“Tomorrow, it’s just keep the same game plan,” Griffs’ junior defenseman Ben Danford said. “Keep it simple, just get pucks in their end and go to work.”
Clarkson — after blowing a 3-0 home lead to Niagara last weekend before eking out a 4-4 tie — could use a win to get on the right side of the ledger and ride a three-game undefeated streak into a brutal, four-game ECAC stretch that includes faceoffs with Yale, Brown, Quinnipiac and Princeton.
“Yeah, we’re just going to come back,” said Jones. “Hey, you’re on the road, you’re trying to get points [and] I thought that both defenses battled hard tonight. Our discipline has cost us at some critical times, but I thought we did well to come back after that. I was proud of our guys.”