2023 Holy Cross vs Canisius - Men's

Canisius Wins Atlantic Hockey Title, Earns NCAA Tournament Berth

Canisius Wins Atlantic Hockey Title, Earns NCAA Tournament Berth

After languishing in last place in Atlantic Hockey midway through the season, Canisius capped an incredible second half with a conference title.

Mar 19, 2023 by Jacob Messing

The Canisius Golden Griffins defeated the Holy Cross Crusaders 3-0 for the 2023 Atlantic Hockey Championship and a trip to the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The special teams’ strengths of each program were on display early. Both teams had early powerplays with four of the first five minutes of the game played at 5-on-4. Each penalty kill unit successfully killed off what would stand to be the only penalties of the night.

Following early powerplay chances the Griffins gained momentum on their home ice and largely controlled play in the first period, despite holding just a 7-6 lead in shots on goal entering the first intermission.

Crusaders goaltender Jason Grande set the tone early with a handful of highlight reel saves. The junior transfer from Bentley continued to show the dominance that helped the seventh-seeded Crusaders upset both No. 2-seed AIC and No. 1-seed RIT for their Cinderella story in the title game.

His team followed suit entering the second period, where the Crusaders ramped up their aggressiveness on the puck and pushed play with quicker breakouts. Holy Cross dictated play in the second frame, holding Canisius to just one shot for the first ten minutes of the period and increasing pressure on Griffins netminder Jacob Barczewski.

“[Barczewski’s] been dialed in and when he plays like this he’s very difficult to get a goal in on,” Griffins coach Trevor Large said following the win.

And as Barczewski stood tall his team went to work. The Griffins’ first sustained pressure of the period came from the fourth line. Late in the period defenseman David Melaragni made a play to partner Jackson Decker at the line, who then found Nick Bowman for a sharp-angle one-timer that beat the glove of Grande for what would stand as the game-winning goal.

The momentum shifted as the home crowd began its “Go, Griffs, Go” chant and the Griffins finished the period with added pressure.

Large’s team carried the momentum into the final frame and the Griffins would add nearly half of their shots in the final 20 minutes.

Grande continued to keep his Crusaders in it and would finish the game with 22 saves, allowing only the game-winning goal on a sharp-angle shot at 17:01 of the second period. Grande was pulled for the extra attacker late in the third before Markus Boguslavsky and Keaton Mastrodonato would add empty net goals for the 3-0 victory.

“There’s a good group of our team that played in that championship against AIC and lost,” Large said regarding the Griffins’ championship loss to AIC in 2021. “You know the picture that’s kind of ingrained in all of our minds is one of our senior captains, David Melaragni, was standing on the blue line all by himself watching AIC celebrate. I’ll never forget that moment.

“He was taking it all in because you could just tell that if we ever got back here, he would be one of the guys that would get us to the top.”

The win earns the Griffins a berth to the 2023 NCAA Tournament. They’ll likely face top-seeded Minnesota in Fargo, North Dakota next weekend. This will be Canisius’s first trip to the national tournament since 2013, where they lost in the opening round to No. 1 seed and eventual national runner-up Quinnipiac.

The Griffins will look to stay hot entering the tournament, where each round is single elimination. 

Canisius will know for sure where they’re headed after the selection show for the 16-team tournament, which will take place on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.