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UB's Mack: "I'm Blessed"

By Bob DiCesare

UB senior Khalil Mack displayed his customary humility today in reacting to the announcement he's been named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award presented to college football's top linebacker.

Mack gave credit for him making the cut to his teammates and coaches while attending coach Jeff Quinn's weekly news conference at UB Stadium today. Mack has maintained all season that his success has been a product of those around him, especially Quinn and defensive coordinator Lou Tepper.

"It’s a blessing," Mack said. "It’s a tribute to coach Quinn, coach Tepper, all the coaches that have made it happen. I’m blessed. I can’t say anything other than I’m blessed. And thankful."

Mack is the only one of the five finalists who plays outside a BCS AQ conference. Also in contention for the award are Anthony Barr of UCLA, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Ryan Shazier of Ohio State and Shayne Skov of Stanford. Shazier, a junior, is the lone non-senior in the group.

The winner is scheduled to be announced on Dec. 10. The award panel consists of 81 coaches, scouts and journalists.

 

Penalty killing unit and Capobianco back in form

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Tony Capobianco got his first win of the season against RIT on Tuesday night. (GoGriffs.com)

 

by Amy Moritz

Tuesday night belonged to Kyle Gibbons and his 100-point milestone.

But don't lose sight of another key factor for Canisius -- its penalty killing unit.

Last year, the penalty kill was record-setting for the Golden Giffins as their 90.1 percent efficiency ranked as the 11th-best mark in NCAA history. This season, they stumbled, giving up a power play goal in each of their first seven games for just a 68.8 percent success rate.

But it started to turn around against Mercyhurst when Canisius killed off a five minute major at the end of the game to preserve a 4-3 win over the Lakers. And the unit has rolled since then, killing off the last 13 power play attempts for opponents. What's finally clicked?

"We had a great PK last year and I think for a moment there our guys, including the goalies, just forgot how hard it is to be a man down," said senior goaltender Tony Capobianco. "Just how hard you have to work to get in shot lanes, block shots and for the goalie to control your rebound and make it easier for the guys in front of you. Definitley being more aggressive has helped us."

Capobianco made some key saves in Tuesday's 5-2 win over RIT to end his 0-5-0 start to the season. It was a shaky start after he set program records last season in saves, save percentage, shutouts and wins.

"The first three or four games were kind of sloppy for my part," the senior said. "I definitely wasn't happy with my performances. I felt like I was letting the team down. Last weekend at Ohio State I felt like I gave the team a chance to win. I felt like I was getting my sharpness back."

"He's had to work at it," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "It's more fun when it just comes naturally, but he's worked really hard and I thought at the end of the game he was that confident Capo we saw last year."

Fire and opportunity equal offense and milestone for Gibbons

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by Amy Moritz

In the back hallway at the Buffalo State Ice Arena, Kyle Gibbons emerged for his post-game interviews wearing a yellow hard hard. It's the traditional prize awarded in the Canisius dressing room to the team's player of the game. And Tuesday was most definitely Gibbons' night.

The senior scored twice in the third period to help pace the Golden Griffins to a come-from-behind 5-2 win over RIT. Add his assist on Ben Danford's power play goal in the first period and Gibbons had a three-point to reach the 100-point milestone. He had been sitting at 97 career points for the last four games.

But he's had longer scoring droughts. Just look to last season.

Gibbons did not record a point in his first nine games last season. He then came back to lead the country in scoring after Jan. 1 with 35 points. The valuable lesson, however, came not in the comeback, but in the struggle.

"There was a moment early in the year when he was playing some of his best hockey ever," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "And I told him. And he followed it up with his worst hockey ever. Throughout that time he was not getting points but he was very valuable to our team. I think that's the mature Kyle. Even when he's not producing, he's capable of helping. But when he gets that fire and opportunity he can produce really well. That's a mature senior with high skill. It's fun to coach that."

Gibbons became the eighth player in the Griffs' Division I era to reach the 100-point mark. He is now tied for seventh place on the program's career scoring list with Michael Cohen (2003-07). His 47 career goals ranks fifth all-time.

Live blog at 8 p.m.: UB football at Miami (Ohio)

College Hockey Tuesday: News and notes for tonight's games

by Amy Moritz

We can't be sad. Not today. It's College Hockey Tuesday!

A handful of games in Atlantic Hockey have been moved out of the traditional weekend slots to Tuesday night. And while media types (like myself) wonder about things like rest, recovery and competitive disadvantage when playing three games in five days against a team that's had a week off, both Canisius and Niagara are hungry to get back in action tonight.

The Golden Griffins host RIT at 7 tonight at Buffalo State Ice Arena. They are coming off two losses at Ohio State. A few Ice Griff notes:

  • Senior Tony Capobianco had a solid game in net at Ohio State in a 3-1 loss, giving up two goals (the third was a last-second empty-netter). Reports say Capobianco looked stronger than he had in the first handful of games of the season and it's likely he will get the start tonight against RIT.
  • Canisius has a three-game winning-streak against the Tigers after sweeping the series last year for the first time in the 61-game history between the teams. Two of the wins came in the final weekend of the regular season, kick starting the Griffs' eight-game winning streak that ended in an NCAA appearance.
  • In those two wins over RIT, Cody Freeman scored three goals. The junior returned from an injury this past weekend, playing on the top line with Ralph Cuddemi and Kyle Gibbons.
  • Gibbons, who has not had a point in his last four games, is three points away from the 100 mark for his career. 

The Purps travel to Erie, Pa. to face Mercyhurst tonight after rolling over Army in Dwyer Arena.

  • On Saturday, they dominated the Black Knights, 8-3. The eight goals were the most scored by Niagara since an 8-4 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 12, 2005. 
  • Defenseman Kevin Ryan's goal on Saturday. It was just the fourth of his career, but it was the senior's 50th career point. In 118 career games, he has four goals and 46 assists.
  • While Niagara is in second place in Atlantic Hockey, they are winless on the road, 0-4-1.

This week's video pick is from Canisius with a closer look at Cody Freeman. Perhaps he shouldn't have been singing the Ohio State fight song in his head while he was skating for the Griffs. Just a thought.

Live blog at 7 p.m.: Canisius at St. Bonaventure basketball

Redden Close to Returning

By Bob DiCesare

UB may have linebacker Adam Redden back on the field when the Bulls play their final regular-season road game of the year Tuesday night at Miami. Redden, a two-time MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, suffered a knee sprain in the second quarter of the Oct. 26 game at Kent State. He was the Bulls second-leading tackler behind Khalil Mack at the time of the injury.

"He’s progressing extremely well," Bulls coach Jeff Quinn said at today's media session. "Will he be ready to play Tuesday night? I had a great conversation with him yesterday and he said he is, he’s ready. And I know in his heart and in his mind he is. We’ll just have to wait and see how well he’s able to hold up this week. But he keeps getting better. He keeps progressing. We’re going to see Adam before this season ends and hopefully will see him sooner rather than later."

 

 

Kiper on Khalil Mack

By Bob DiCesare

Here's what ESPN's NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had to say about UB linebacker Khalil Mack on a conference call today: Bills beat writer Mark Gaughan listened in.

"I've liked Mack from the get-go and had a high grade on him from the start," Kiper said. "He's maintained that. He hasn't fallen back at all. On my big board he's at No. 7. He's got everything you want . . . I'd put Mack ahead of some ofher guys just because of his physicality, his talent, his production. He's got a chance to be a top 10 pick . . . Khalil Mack is solidly I think in the top 10 overall."

NFL scout have had a constant presence around UB dating to training camp. Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim attended Tuesday's game at Toledo and scouts from five other teams requested seats.

Mack tied his career high with 15 tackles against the Rockets and remains in close pursuit of the NCAA career records for forced fumbles and tackles for loss.

Live blog at 7:30 p.m.: UB football at Toledo

RIT's Thompson suspended for game with Canisius

by Amy Moritz

The supplemental discipline policy was again put in action today by Atlantic Hockey. RIT junior forward Brandon Thompson will miss the Tiger's game against Canisius on Nov. 19 after receiving a one-game suspension from league commissioner Robert DeGregorio.

Thompson was given a major penalty for a check from behind and a game misconduct in the third period of Saturday's game against Robert Morris. RIT won the game, 4-2.

Thompson has two assists in eight games for the Tigers along with 25 penalty minutes.

The Tigers are off until the unusual Tuesday game at the Buffalo State Ice Arena. The Golden Griffins play a pair of non-conference games this weekend at Ohio State.

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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 | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | rmckissic@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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