Under coach Trevor Large, Canisius has come close to capturing an Atlantic Hockey championship.
A semifinal loss to Air Force in 2018, a loss to American International in the 2021 final and a second-place regular-season finish in 2022 that led to a first-round exit has left Canisius hungry for more.
This time, however, Canisius finally got its piece of the Atlantic Hockey pie, defeating seventh-seeded Holy Cross in the final, 3-0, to earn its second Atlantic Hockey championship, first since 2013.
“It’s special, you get moments after the game where you’re giving guys hugs and telling them that you love them. They’re responding with the same sentence,” Large said. “Those are special moments. “There’s a group of our team that played in the championship game against AIC and lost.”
Canisius’ journey to a conference championship was not an easy one.
The Griffins entered the month of February eighth in the Atlantic Hockey standings. In Atlantic Hockey’s new playoff format, the eighth spot meant being the last team to qualify for the postseason tournament after Atlantic Hockey did away with the all-in format.
Canisius went 7-2-1 in February, catapulting all the way to the conference’s fourth seed and home-ice in the opening round. Little did it know at the time that it would lead the Griffs to hosting the Atlantic Hockey championship.
“I think in the world of Atlantic Hockey, it’s a very difficult conference and that’s where we were [in February]. I think our guys felt as a whole, there was a buzz around our team that we felt like we were better than what that record was,” Large said.
From February on, Canisius was Atlantic Hockey’s best team. After defeating Army in three games to advance to the semifinals, the Griffins once again needed three games to advance past Niagara and into the conference final.
Between its three-game series with each of Army and Niagara, and Saturday’s final with Holy Cross, Canisius went a perfect 4-0 when facing elimination.
“I think any team that survives and wins a championship, they’ll say it, every coach will say the adversity was there. We had some guys get injured and some guys needed to step up,” Large said.
“In this game we had a couple of guys get dinged up in the third period and couldn’t play and you’re just looking down the bench…