The Canisius Golden Griffins and the Merrimack Warriors played to a 1-1 tie Sunday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Both teams scored their lone goal on the power play.
The two head coaches, Canisius’ Dave Smith and Merrimack’s Mark Dennehy, had differing opinions on the game. “I thought it was kind of ugly,” Dennehy said. “The puck was bouncing. It wasn’t a crisp game.”
“I thought it was a real good hockey game,” Smith said. “It was two contrasting styles — big in size against small and quick. We generated some chances and most definitely we took a lot of good positive steps forward for the program and the team today.”
After Canisius’ Ryan Klusendorf took a kneeing penalty at 2:12 that left Merrimack’s Ryan Flanigan writhing on the ice in pain, Chris Barton scored at 3:09. The Griffins had left two players uncovered to the left of goalie Andrew Loewen and Barton tapped in the puck when the pass came from side boards. Joe Cucci and Rob Ricci were credited with the assists on the power-play goal.
A Canisius goal was disallowed in the second period at 15:30 after it was ruled that the referee was in the process of blowing his whistle. A crowd of players had gathered in front of the net and Merrimack goalie Joe Cannata got knocked over as the puck trickled into the net just inside the right post. The goal was called off and a slashing penalty was given to Merrimack’s Bobby Kramer on the play.
“The referee’s whistle in his head went quicker than the whistle in his hand and it cost us a goal,” Smith said. “I’m not sure why he blew the whistle, either in his hand or in his head, but I wanted that goal to count and believe it should have counted seeing it on video.”
The Golden Griffins opened the third period with 1:21 left on the power-play. Defender Carl Hudson’s shot from the point beat Cannata to even the score at 1:09. The pass from Cory Conacher came from deep in the Warriors zone, below the face off circle near the boards, to the awaiting Hudson at the left point. His one-timer beat Cannata over the shoulder.
The third-period goal sparked life into the game for both sides. Merrimack had two more power-play opportunities in the third and threw five shots at the Canisius net on the power play. Loewen made one diving save after a scramble in front of the Canisius net on the second penalty-kill and Canisius eventually cleared the puck down the ice before getting back to even strength.
The Griffins got the final special-teams chance of the night in overtime when the Warriors’ goalie was called for tripping with 42 seconds remaining. Hudson got off two shots from the point but neither found its way past Cannata, who ended the game with 22 saves.
Canisius’ Loewen was credited with 29 saves in the game, including 14 in the third period.
“As the game went on we were gaining more and more momentum,” Smith said. “There was a small time in the third period that they had a couple of real good chances but it really felt — I think the feeling on our bench and with our fans was, this is our game and with the power play at the end we just ran out of time.”
“We would have liked it a little more deliberate, a little more tape-to-tape passing, supporting the puck and in all actuality it was choppy,” Dennehy said. “In the past we would have embraced that. This team so far hasn’t.”
Merrimack (2-2-1) will play a home-and-home series with defending national champion Boston College Thursday and Friday in Hockey East action while Canisius (1-2-2) travels to AIC Friday and Saturday for Atlantic Hockey conference matchups.