by Amy Moritz
The Canisius hockey team is no stranger to playing top teams in the country. Last year the Golden Griffins faced No. 2 Minnesota and No. 12 Western Michigan, both on the road. This season already they picked up their first win knocking off No. 17 Denver at Denver.
But after this weekend in Oxford, Ohio, the Griffs experienced a different level of team in the Miami RedHawks.
"In my nine years that's the best hockey team we've seen," Canisius coach Dave Smith said in his post-game comments after a 5-2 loss to the RedHawks on Saturday. (You can listen to the entire postgame interview here. And it's worth a listen.)
"They came out in the first period and just took the game. From our side of it, it's not a great feeling, because you just feel literally a step behind. And every play you make, they're everywhere. It's like they have six guys. ... Their overall tenacity was something to remember. When it comes April, that's a team I think you're going to see playing."
Smith isn't much for hyperbole, so his assessment carries some weight.
Miami was ranked No. 7 in this week's USCHO.com poll, falling one spot from last week.
Power play continues to click
Smith saw good signs from the first power play unit -- Kyle Gibbons, Ben Danford, Chris Rumble, Ralph Cuddemi and Cody Freeman.
The Griffs went 2-for-7 on the power play in Saturday's game at Miami with Danford and Gibbons picking up the goals. With an assist on Danford's goal, Gibbons is now three points away from the 100-point career mark. Danford, meanwhile, has seven points in five games.
The Griffs return to Atlantic Hockey action this weekend. They finish their season-opening road trip on Friday at Robert Morris then return home to host Mercyhurst on Saturday. The 7 p.m. faceoff at the Buffalo State Ice Arena is the home opener for Canisius, and will be the time when they officially unveil last season's Atlantic Hockey championship banner.
Big win for Mercyhurst
Speaking of the Lakers, they make their first trip to Western New York after knocking off Air Force, 8-2, in Erie, Pa., on Saturday. It was the Atlantic Hockey opener for Merychurst (2-5-1 overall) while it was the first conference loss for Air Force (3-1-0, 5-3-0 overall) and ended the Falcons' five-game winning streak. Still, Air Force remains the only team in Atlantic Hockey receiving votes in the national poll. They came in with 10 points this week.
Niagara off the bye
The Purple Eagles (1-4-1) were off this weekend. They travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State (4-4-0) on Friday and Saturday. The Buckeyes split with No. 20 Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.