Rolling through a Blizzard
Bulls clip Slippery Rock, Canisius to win Blizzard in Buffalo
The men's ice hockey team won two games in impressive fashion this weekend.
Last year, the men's hockey team suffered a humiliating defeat in its own tournament at the hands of its cross-city rival.
Losing two years in a row was not an option for the Bulls, (17-1) as they finished first in the Blizzard in Buffalo tournament over the weekend, with a 7-1 win over Slippery Rock (5-14) and an 8-3 finish over Canisius (15-5).
The weekend started with the defense stepping up and making its presence known to the Rock Men at the start of the first period. Merely 13 seconds in, senior defenseman Craig Meany scored the first goal of the night.
The Bulls' penalty kill was memorable over the weekend, claiming three goals between the two games with the first two coming during the contest against Slippery Rock. With four minutes left in the first period, alternate captain junior Tim Root scored shorthanded to break the first-period tie.
The first goal of the second period was also shorthanded. The score came from the stick of senior captain Matt Ganci.
Sophomore goalie Shane Irwin was near perfect in the contest, only allowing the early first-period goal to slide past him when Slippery Rock held the man advantage.
"Didn't get great reffing this weekend ," Irwin said. "So we were down a lot on 5-on-3s where I had to make some big saves. But the guys are always good on the PK. Our PK is very strong and our power play is very strong."
In the championship game, the Bulls faced their cross-town rivals, the Golden Griffins. The competition between the teams is notoriously tight, and Buffalo assistant coach Steve Glick cited player history as a driving force of the game's intensity.
"As a competitive rival, it is as big as anything with them being so local," Glick said. "A lot of the guys played against one another in high school and things like that. But it's not a contentious relationship. I have all the respect for coach and the program he put up there and we love playing them and the competitive nature and the passion behind the game."
Junior forward Tim Benner drew first blood only 18 seconds into the game with a close-range wrist shot that set the tone for the fast and penetrating game.
Despite the strong performance, there was confusion on the Bulls bench. Bulls' head coach Sal Valvo was called away for much of the first half of the game on business.
"I think [Sal's absence] is more of a mental thing for the guys," Glick said. "I think they're so used to the way things are done and lines get called and the bench mentality, and to change that up is something you have to be careful of and kind of tip-toe around."
The Bulls' special teams wrote the success for the weekend, with the penalty-kill squad being out on top. In addition to his first shorthanded goal on Friday, Ganci scored a second with a minute and a half left in the second period to put the Bulls up 4-0 over Canisius.
Buffalo exploded for four more goals in the third. The team is in high spirits after its last home win and will look to finish the semester off strong and get ready to start intense league play in the new year.
"We have Central Oklahoma coming back," Glick said. "They're top 15 in the nation and I'm really looking forward to that. They shut us out twice in Oklahoma last year so it'll be nice to get one back on them. I feel like this is the team that can do that. We have a lot of league games coming up, Canisius coming back and Senior Night of course."
Before the Bulls can settle into thoughts of big family dinners and dreams laced with sugarplums and Santa Claus, they have one more weekend ahead of them with two critical league games. Next weekend, they will line up against St. Bonaventure at 8:30 p.m. on Friday and RIT at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
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