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Canisius finds its "hard to play against" gear

by Amy Moritz

Canisius coach Dave Smith has been saying for the past few weeks he wants his Golden Griffins hockey team to be hard to play against.

This weekend at Denver, the Griffs finally found that "hard to play against" gear as they knocked off the Pioneers, then ranked No. 17, now knocked out of the top 20.

After the game, Denver coach Jim Montgomery talked with Smith.

"He said, 'You guys are really hard to play against.' I said thank you but on the inside I was thinking that's because we played the way we're capable of playing," Smith said.

But what does being hard to play against mean for Canisius? What does that look like?

Canisius senior forward Kyle Gibbons breaks it down:

"I think there’s three key things -- hard work, physicality and aggressiveness," senior forward Kyle GIbbons said. "So in other words, you’re in on the forecheck, you finish your hit. Your guy passes the puck in the D zone, you don’t let him get to the net, you finish your check. Don’t let him beat you to the net. Don’t get beat to the puck in the open zone. Don’t get beat to the puck anywhere on the ice.

"If a guy’s skating hard at you on the forecheck, the less time you’re going to have, so it’s harder for you to make a play. If you're constantly getting hit and hit and hit, next time you go make a play, maybe you turn it over.

"It's working as a team, too. You work together, forwards, D and goalies and put it all together. It’s harder to play against six guys as a unit or 20 guys as a team as oppose to four or five guys who might be doing their own thing."

The Griffs get another key test this weekend when the play at No. 6 Miami (Ohio) on Frdiay and Saturday.

Canisius nabs huge win at No. 17 Denver

By Amy Moritz

The first two games of the season, the Canisius hockey team demonstrated a fantastic ability to take a lead. The problem was they couldn't hold the lead and promptly lost key Atlantic Hockey contests to Niagara and Air Force.

The Golden Griffins picked a good time to correct that error. With a solid 60-minute effort the Griffs knocked off No. 17 Denver in Colorado.

"We shouldn't be surprised by having a lead," coach Dave Smith said. "We've had a lead in every game. We haven't put the pieces together and tonight we did that. ... We earned that victory.

"Tonight we put together positioning with intensity. Leading up to this game it was one or the other. We got great goaltender and goals from our penalty kill, power play, empty net and 5-on-5. We were very hard to play against tonight, which is the recipe for us to win."

Special teams played a key role for the Griffs, as they took a 1-0 lead midway through the first on a power play goal by Cody Freeman. Kyle Gibbons added a short-handed goal with 16:09 of the second period. Gibbons now has a point in 13-straight games dating back to last year. That's the longest streak by a Griff since Chris Duggan had a 15-game point run in 2002.

Mathew Backhouse scored his first collegiate goal to give the Griffs a 3-0 lead with 11:35 left in the second.

Denver (3-3-0) got on the board with a power play goal with 7:43 left to play but an empty netter from Ralph Cuddemi with 2:31 to play sealed the win.

Junior Keegan Asmundson recorded a career-high 36 saves to earn the win. Denver outshot the Griffs, 37-21 with 18 shots on goal in the third period.

Of the 10 goals Canisius has scored this season, six have been on special teams (four power play, two shorthanded).

It marked the first non-conference win over a nationally ranked opponent for Canisius (1-2-0) which gets another crack at a nationally-ranked team Nov. 1-2 when the play at Miami (Ohio) which entered the weekend ranked No. 2.


Live blog at 3:30 p.m.: UB at Kent State

Mile-high losses: Canisius, Niagara drop games in Colorado

by Amy Moritz

For the second straight game, Canisius jumped out to a two-goal lead.

For the second straight game, the Golden Griffins couldn't hold on.

Despite going up two goals, the Griffs dropped a 3-2 decision to Air Force at the Cadet Ice Arena in Colorodo, Friday night.

Down the road in Denver, Niagara fell to No. 17 Denver, 5-1.

At Cadet Ice Arena, the Griffs built the lead early in the second. Cody Freeman scored at the 2:47 mark while Ralph Cuddemi netted a power play tally at 4:30. Ben Danford picked up assists on both goals. 

But when Air Force struck back, they did so quickly. The Falcons scored three goals in a 2:28 span to take a 3-2 lead.

It was similar to the season-opening loss for the Griffs at Niagara, where they took leads of 3-0 and 4-1 before losing 6-4.

"Good teams raise their level when down a goal. Really good teams raise their level when they're up a couple goals," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "As far as a message to our team, we played the two top teams in the league and we got outworked when we had a lead.

"I was really disappointed that once we were up 2-0, we stopped working the same way. You've got to give Air Force ... but we needed some of our experienced guys to make experienced plays. The blame goes to everybody but some guys we need to lead better by effort." 

The Griffs couldn't come up with the late-game magic they've enjoyed at Cadet Ice Arena. Canisius had scored nine goals in the last three minutes of regulation and overtime in its last nine games at Air Force. But Friday, they managed just eight shots in the final 30 minutes.

The Falcons (2-2-0, 1-0-0 AH) held a 35-22 advantage in shots.

Kyle Gibbons picked up an assist on the first Canisius goal, giving up a point in 12 straight games dating back to last season. That's the longest point streak by a Griff since Cory Conacher had a 12-game streak in the 2009-10 season.

The Griffs (0-2-0) play their first non-conference game Saturday at No. 17 Denver at 9:07 p.m.

The Pioneers (3-2-0) scored three second-period goals to earn the 5-1 win over Niagara.

Denver scored two quick power play goals in the first, but the Purple Eagles pulled within 2-1 when Stephen Pietrobon scored at 15:39 with assists to Matt Chiaranto and Ryan Rashid.

Three goals in the second, including another power play tally, gave the Pioneers a comfortable lead. Denver went 3-for-6 on the power play  while holding a 34-22 advantage in shots.

Niagara went 0-for-7 on the power play.

Jackson Teichroeb recorded 29 saves for Niagara (1-3-1). The Purple Eagles have Saturday off and will play Air Force in an Atlantic Hockey matchup Sunday at 6:05.

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Video: Interview with Bulls QB Joe Licata

The News' sports reporter Bob DiCesare interviews UB Bulls QB Joe Licata.

WNY College Sports Chat -- 3 p.m.

UMass Inching Forward

By Bob DiCesare

You can look back at UB's 29-19 victory over UMass at Gillette Stadium last November as one of the turning points for the Bulls.

UB came in playing well, just as it is this year. UMass was coming off its first win of the season (over Akron, just as it is this week (over Miami). UB trailed that game, 13-0, and needed to score the final 22 points to put the Minutemen away. The ability to come back on the road under a redshirt freshman QB in Joe Licata was a major confidence boost to a team that had struggled mightily away from UB Stadium.

Can UB get away with a similarly dreadful first half in Saturday's 3:30 matchup at UB Stadium? It would be a high-risk proposition. UMass is making headway in its second year in the MAC.

"Our team has more experience than it did a year ago," UMass coach Charley Molnar said Monday. "We were new at that winning thing after the win over Akron. Believe me, we didn’t go into the next game thinking that we had it figured out. . . . We didn’t have the depth that we have today and we didn’t have the experience that we have today. . . . We still have a ways to go from a maturity standpoint. We still have a ways to go from a depth standpoint. But we’re in a better position today than we were a year ago at this time."

Molnar and UB coach Jeff Quinn were on Brian Kelly's staffs at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |