Saturday night’s Atlantic Hockey playoff game between Canisius and Niagara was everything that you would expect from the two storied rivals. The Golden Griffins won the game 2-1 via a dramatic Ryan Shmelzer powerplay goal with 1:15 left in the third period. The loss ended the Purple Eagles’ season in gut-wrenching fashion and the team could only watch as their hated foes celebrated before them.
The game was a thrilling goaltender’s duel between Canisius’ Charles Williams and Niagara’s Jackson Teichroeb, but it was not free of controversy. Neither team had a goal through the first two periods. The Golden Griffins finally opened the scoring when Felix Chamberland rocked a shot over Teichroeb’s outstretched glove on the powerplay 3:06 into the final frame.
However, video replays provided by Time Warner Cable showed that a Canisius player was in the Purple Eagles’ zone before the puck, making the play offside. Niagara Head Coach Dave Burkholder immediately asked the officials for a review, but one was not granted, owing to, as Burkholder said, an equipment malfunction.
“It was offside, but they don’t have the cameras working, in a college hockey game for the AHC,” Burkholder said shaking his head.
Canisius found themselves on a 5-on-3 penalty kill after they took the lead. Vinny Muto fired a shot past Williams into the top-right corner to tie the game, setting up the dramatic finish. Teichroeb was stellar in goal for Niagara and did not allow an even-strength goal. He stopped 32 shots in his last game in a Purple Eagles uniform.
“I’m happy that I was able to stay with (Williams) but I’m rattled that they beat us,” he said.
Charles Williams stopped 25 of 26 shots for Canisius and only allowed one goal in the two game series. He and the Golden Griffins advance to the AHC semifinals this weekend at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena against Robert Morris University.
Despite a bad regular season, the Purple Eagles proved that they aren’t a joke in the playoffs with a spirited run that saw them upset a heavily favored opponent. It all ended very disappointingly, but the team has a lot to be proud of.