Stand them side by side and there’s little similarity between the UB’s Branden Oliver and Bowling Green’s Travis Greene, the two workhorse running backs in the Black Friday showdown at The Ralph.
Oliver, a senior, goes 5-foot-8, 208 pounds and looks like he could win a head-on collision with a Dodge Ram. Greene, a sophomore, goes 5-10, 176 and looks like he should be playing wide receiver.
Size hasn’t mattered. Greene has carried 205 times for 1,293 yards and nine touchdowns this season and is within striking distance of the school single-season record for rushing yards. No other running back on the roster has carried more than 45 times, although the Falcons typically turn to 260-pound William Houston (11 TDs) in goal-line situations.
When did BG coach Dave Clawson, a Youngstown native and former Lew-Port quarterback, know he had something special in Greene?
Perhaps one of the things the Purple Eagles are thankful for is to be finished with their non-conference schedule. Because nothing seemed to go right for Niagara in those games.
Tuesday, the Purps closed out their non-conference slate with a 4-2 loss at No. 14 Cornell. That makes Niagara 0-7-0 in games outside Atlantic Hockey and 0-7-1 in road games.
But the real kicker came when Big Red freshman Mitch Gillam, making his first collegiate start, scored a goal with 8.6 seconds left to ice the game.
The good news: While Niagara dug itself a 2-0 hole, the team played well and battled back to tie the game, 2-2 in the second period.
The heartbreaker: After the Purps killed off a series of penalties, Cornell freshman Patrick McCarron faked his defender to the ice and tucked a perfect shot inside the left post with less than five seconds left in the second period.
The goal heard 'round Twitter: As Niagara pulled its goaltender to put six skaters on the ice, Matt Chartrain shot the puck into the Cornell zone. Gillam gloved the shot, dropped it to his stick and fired in the length of the ice. He became the eighth goalie in NCAA Division I history to be credited with a goal. The last goalie goal was by Kyle Richter of Harvard in 2008. Only two other goaltenders have actively shot the puck into the other team's net -- Mike Mantua (Western Michigan, 2002) and Chad Alban (Michigan State, 1998).
Ohio coach Frank Solich is in his 15th season as a head coach, his ninth at Ohio. A Bobcats program that was in tatters before his arrival is bowl-eligible for a fifth straight season (although it's ending the regular season on the skids). Looking ahead to Friday's showdown at The Ralph, I asked him on this week's MAC coaches conference call what makes Bowling Green such a formidable defensive team. Here's what he had to say:
"The last two years we’ve played them they’ve been an excellent football team, maybe arguably the best in the MAC. i think a combination of things. I think they’ve got very good personnel and so when you have excellent personnel and you’re a football team that’s not prone to mistakes, not prone to breakdowns, you’re very gap oriented, your coverages, you don’t have breaks in them, and you’re playing with good players, then you’re tough to beat.
Hugo Turcotte has four goals and four assists for Niagara (purpleeagles.com)
by Amy Moritz
There have been two major stumbling blocks for the Niagara hockey team this season -- road games and non-conference opponents.
The Purple Eagles have struggled away from Dwyer Arena and with a difficult schedule. It doesn't get easier tonight as they play No. 14 Cornell at Lynah Rink tonight.
Here are the numbers:
Niagara is 0-6-1 in road games and 0-6-0 against non-conference opponents.
The last time Niagara had this bad a start was the 2009-10 season when they started 0-6-0 on the road and 0-7-2 against non-conference opponents.
The Purps finished that 2009-10 season, the last of College Hockey America, 12-20-4. It was the last time the team had a losing season.
Niagara has never beaten Cornell at Lynah Rink. The Big Red are 8-0 against the Purps at home.
Cornell (6-3-1) has won three straight and its power play ranks first nationally at 30.61 percent (15 of 49).
But there is good news for the Purps. Despite the road weary record and non-conference woes, they are in second place in Atlantic Hockey. Their 3-2-1 conference record gives them seven points, one behind league-leading Army.
And Niagara returns to Atlantic Hockey for the rest of the season after tonight. They play at Connecticut on Dec. 6-7.
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.
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.