by Amy Moritz
Canisius had a special visitor take in Saturday night's game with Connecticut. Rick Olczyk, the assistant general manager for the Edmonton Oilers was at the Buffalo State Ice Arena to take in the Atlantic Hockey contest.
The connection? Olczyk and Canisius coach Dave Smith played junior hockey in Stratford, Ontario, which made for a good opportunity to mix visiting an old friend while keeping his eye on potential talent at the college hockey level.
"I'm here looking at potential college free agents and just monitoring guys," Olcyzk said during an intermission interview on the Griffs broadcast. "We also look for invites to our development camp. And Coach Smith puts on a very good program here. Some guys have gone on to the next level and you never know. You've always got to look and find players. I had an open Saturday afternoon and thought I'd spend it in Buffalo."
The most well-known success story for WNY college hockey is Cory Conacher, now with the Ottawa Senators. Also for Canisius, Kyle Gibbons (New Jersey) and Tony Capobianco (Minnesota) each participated in NHL development camps this past summer.
Penalty killing success
After a slow special teams start, the Griffs are returning to solid penalty killing form, a strength that has been key the program's success.
They killed off 21 straight penalties before giving up a power play goal (with an extra attacker) Saturday against UConn. But the Griffs came back to kill off another penalty in overtime, making them successful in 22 of their last 23 kill attempts.
Much of the credit goes to assistant coach B.J. Adams who works with that unit and has the Griffs playing aggressive and smart while trusting goaltender Tony Capobianco.
"If a guy is on his own little island, if the puck goes back along the wall and they're on their own little island, he wants us to cut the guy so he has no where to go, " said Mitch McCrank, a regular on the PK who had a number of key clears last night. "And we trust Capo to save that shot from the side. Those top two guys are pretty important."
By the numbers, the Griffs PK started the season at just a 68.8 success rate. They are now at 80 percent (44 of 55) after holding UConn to 1 for 10 on the power play this weekend. The Huskies, which had the second-best power play in the country, fell to eighth (9 fo 37, 24.32 percent).