Crusaders take down NW; set for rematch with St. Joe’s
There’s no such thing as a practice game against your archrival.
Or is there?
The Canisius boys hockey team fell to their rival, the St. Joseph’s Marauders, on Monday night.
While the game counted in terms of the Section VI Boys Federation Division I standings, the nightcap of the five-game event at HarborCenter earlier this week had no impact on the Niagara Cup playoffs.
Since the Catholic schools in Division I face each other twice during the regular season in order to fulfill their Federation schedule, the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association only counts the second game between those teams toward its playoff seedings.
The game that counts is happening on Sunday, 1 p.m. at Buffalo State.
“[St. Joe’s] is a great team,” Crusaders forward Jaden Riley said following their 4-2 win over the Niagara Wheatfield Falcons on Friday. “We have to play our game as a team as best we can. In the first the first period there was a little bit of feeling out. In the second and third period, it became more like what the St. Joe’s-Canisius rivalry is.”
Monday’s bout was also a matchup of the division’s top two teams. Canisius (9-3) and the Marauders (10-0-2) have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack in Division I this season.
It’s far different from last year when the two Catholic schools found themselves in third (St. Joe’s) and fourth place (Canisius) in the division behind Williamsville North and Niagara Wheatfield.
“I thought we came out a little tentative,” Canisius coach Sam Belsito said about Monday’s game against St. Joe’s. “We were trying to feel them out for the first three or four shifts. After that, we got our feet under us. I would like to start out a little more aggressive [on Sunday]. We’re capable of skating with that team. It was the first game against St. Joe’s for a lot of our guys.”
On Friday night, Canisius bounced back from the loss to their rival by taking down Niagara Wheatfield at Northtown Center.
“We came out pretty strong to start,” Belsito said. “The second period we came out flat. That’s been a habit of ours this season. It’s mostly a mental thing. In the third, I thought we came out hard, [NW] came out hard. It was a good game.”
The Crusaders put together a solid first period. Canisius successfully killed a five-minute major penalty in the opening minutes, allowing the Falcons very little offensive pressure before scoring three-straight goals.
Mike Lafferty netted the game’s first goal to give the Crusaders the lead with 10:30 left in the first. Canisius then got power play goals from Riley and Chris Heitzhaus.
Wheatfield responded just 19 seconds after the Crusaders’ third goal with a score of their own, courtesy of Anthony Delisanti.
Austin Durandetto picked up a loose puck in his own end and then scored on a breakaway with 12:26 left in the third to cut the NW deficit to one.
The Falcons battled to get the tying goal but the Canisius defense was stout until Heitzhaus netted an empty goal with 21 seconds left to seal the win.
“We have to keep playing as a team,” Riley said. “We can get a little individualistic in some games. We need to keep coming together as a team.”