The second-seeded Canisius College hockey team advanced to the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals for the third-straight season after earning a 2-1 victory against Sacred Heart on Saturday night and completing a two-game sweep in a quarterfinal series. The Griffs, who won the conference title in 2013 and finished as runner-up last season, improve to 18-11-7 on the season, while the Pioneers finished their season with a 13-19-6 record.
Senior Cody Freeman (Toronto, Ontario) and junior Chris Rumble (Seattle, Wash.) each tallied a goal for the Griffs in the win.
Senior Keegan Asmundson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) backstopped a strong Canisius defense in the victory, recording 32 saves. The senior stopped 51-of-52 shots during the weekend to help the Griffs advance to the league semifinals.
“It all started with Keegan Asmundson, who was the best player on the ice tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “We made Sacred Heart go through a lot of layers of defense but Keegan stood tallest. It was hard-fought victory and it feels great to advance to the semifinals once again.”
Canisius wasted no time pulling in front thanks to Freeman’s 10th goal of the season. Senior defender Logan Roe (Fort Myers, Fla.) passed the puck to Freeman at the top of the right faceoff circle and the senior forward sent a wrist shot into the netting for the 1-0 lead. Freshman Jeff Murray (Newmarket, Ontario) also registered an assist on the tally just 82 seconds into the game.
The 1-0 advantage stood until the third period before Rumble doubled the Griffs advantage 2:40 into the final frame. Rumble jumped up on a rush with Freeman to make it a 2-on-1 and Freeman sent a pass through the slot with Rumble knocking the puck in on an open net for the 2-0 lead. Junior Ralph Cuddemi (Concord, Ontario) also registered an assist on Rumble’s seventh goal of the season.
With their season on the line, the Pioneers didn’t back down. Sacred Heart was finally credited with its first goal of the weekend with 14:57 remaining in regulation but it didn’t come easily. On a rush, Drew George fired a shot toward net that would eventually hit the back boards. After an additional two minutes of play, the officials declared the puck went through the netting to pull the Pioneers within one, 2-1.
Sacred Heart kept coming, looking for the equalizing tally but Asmundson was up for the challenge. The senior stopped the final 10 shots from a desperate Pioneers squad to preserve the 2-1 victory for the Griffs and send the team to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals.
The Pioneers finished the game with a 33-14 advantage in shots on the night, including a 14-3 edge in the third period. Neither team scored on the power play with Canisius going 0-for-3 on the night and killing all four Sacred Heart extra-man chances.
Alex Vazzano recorded 12 saves for Sacred Heart.
Canisius now advances to take on third-seeded RIT in the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals on Friday. The second game of the night is set to begin at 8:35 p.m. in Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.
Game Notes: Freeman’s tally was the 10th of his postseason career – a new program record. He previously shared the mark with Kyle Gibbons, who also had nine from 2011 to 2014 … Asmundson is 11-2-1 in his last 14 starts. He ranks first in the country since Jan. 9 with a 1.34 goals against average and second with a .949 save percentage … Canisius has allowed only two total goals in six home postseason games during the last three seasons … The Griffs have been held to fewer than 20 shots in each of the last three games, totaling 41 in the three contests (13.67 per game) … Canisius is 13-2 in the last three years during the postseason.