Freshman Ryan Schmelzer (Buffalo, N.Y.) netted his first career game-winning goal with an overtime tally 70 seconds into the extra session, leading the Canisius College hockey team to a 2-1 victory over second-place Holy Cross on Friday. The win improves the Griffs to 7-8-5 and 6-4-4 in Atlantic Hockey play, while the Crusaders suffered just their second conference loss of the season and are now 8-7-5 overall and 7-2-5 against league foes.
Off a rush in overtime, sophomore Shane Conacher (Burlington, Ontario) carried the puck into the zone along the boards. He passed back to linemate Ralph Cuddemi (Concord, Ontario) and the junior fired a shot on net. The rebound squirted out to Schmelzer in the slot and the rookie knocked it into the net for the Atlantic Hockey victory.
“It was a really big win today that we had to earn,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Our effort and physical play were there from start to finish and needed to be because Holy Cross is a really good team and also played well today.”
Junior defender Chris Rumble (Seattle, Wash.) also scored for the Griffs in the winning effort, while senior Keegan Asmundson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) recorded 23 saves between the pipes.
The Griffs started the contest strong and controlled the early 10 minutes of the game as it was almost played exclusively in the Holy Cross zone. However, Canisius could not break through as the schools played a scoreless opening 20 minutes of action.
Canisius finally found the back of the net with 17:01 remaining in the second stanza. Rumble took a shot from outside the faceoff circle that was deflected off the stick of a Holy Cross defender in the slot and into the net for the 1-0 Griffs lead. Cuddemi registered his first of two assists on the day on Rumble’s fourth goal of the season.
The Griffs, however, would regret not taking advantage of their early opportunities when Holy Cross knotted the game at one later in the second. On a power play, defender Joe McNamara joined a rush for the Crusaders and finished his opportunity to tie the game with 9:52 remaining in the period.
The momentum carried over into the third period for the Crusaders, who controlled the early portion of the final stanza. However, the ice tilted toward the Griffs’ favor in the second half of the period with the team just missing on a number of chances, including a shot that rang off the crossbar by senior Doug Jessey (Langdon, Alberta). The Griffs, though, would take advantage of the momentum swing in overtime with Schmelzer’s third goal of the season.
Canisius finished the game with a 27-24 advantage in shots on the win. Holy Cross was 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Griffs did not have an extra-man opportunity.
Matt Ginn recorded 25 saves in defeat for the Crusaders.
The schools are now set to wrap up the two-game series tomorrow night at HARBORCENTER with the first face off scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
Game Notes: Friday’s game originally was scheduled to be a Kid’s Day contest but was canceled due to schools being closed because of a winter storm … Canisius and Holy Cross entered the game as the only two schools with five draws this season … The overtime victory was the first for the Griffs since last season’s Atlantic Hockey Semifinal against Mercyhurst … Canisius is now 6-0-2 this season when entering the third leading or tied … Canisius has now defeated Holy Cross in three-consecutive games for only the second time in the 57-game series … Both of Holy Cross’ Atlantic Hockey losses have come in overtime this season.