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Live blog at 5 p.m.: Delaware at St. Bonaventure basketball

Live blog at 2 p.m.: Brown at Niagara basketball

Canisius back in action as college hockey returns from break

 

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Kyle Gibbons and the Griffs return to action. (Buffalo News)


by Amy Moritz

Welcome to the second half of the college hockey season.

While Niagara remains off until next weekend, Canisius is back in action, finishing up its non-conference schedule at the Catamount Cup. The Golden Griffins will play No. 10 UMass-Lowell at 4 p.m. today and host Vermont Sunday at 7 p.m.

When last we saw the Ice Griffs, they were putting together their most puzzling weekend of the year. After a relentless 8-2 win over Army the Griffs were flat in a 2-0 loss to the Black Knights, entering their three-week holiday break on a less than happy note.

“After the game at Army, we spent a lot of time talking with the guys about how we insure that we’re controlling our own destiny rather than having someone else dictate the way the game is being played,” Canisius coach Dave Smith. We’ll know in a month of we learned the lessons from that day.”

In that game, Canisius lost forward Matthew Grazen after a hit from Shane Hearn. Hearn was suspended by Atlantic Hockey for one game while Grazen will not play this weekend as he still is recovering from a knee injury. While the league has been consistent this year with its suspensions -- one game for illegal, dangerous or injurious hits -- it is completely different from last year. Recall that last season, Grazen was given a seven-game suspension (as a first time offender) for a hit-from-behind against Air Force. At the time, Atlantic Hockey officials said they took the severity of the injury to the player in consideration when dishing out the suspension.

Consider that Shane Conacher had his jaw broken and missed the first half of the season from an illegal hit and Grazen will miss at least two games, maybe more, while both their offenders received only one-game suspensions. Just saying.

Meanwhile, it's a big tournament weekend in college hockey. A few things to take note of:

  • The Great Lakes Invitational kicked off Friday at Comerica Park in Detroit as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival in conjunction with the Winter Classic. Michigan Tech is the defending champion. Michigan Tech is also the alma mater of Buffalo Sabres' forward John Scott who scored his second career goal in 200 games in Toronto last night.
  • The Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh kicked off last night with Penn State beating Atlantic Hockey's Robert Morris, 3-2. Penn State scored twice in the third, including the game-winner with 1:40 left in regulation, to advance to today's championship against Boston College. The Colonials will play Bowling Green in the consolation at 4:30 today.
  • In other outdoor notes, Atlantic Hockey takes center stage in Boston as Bentley and Holy Cross faceoff at Frozen Fenway at 6:30 today. Bentley is one of the hottest teams in the league, going 7-1-1 in its last nine games.

Live blog at noon: Binghamton at UB basketball

What Next for UB?

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Well, now, that was disturbing. Not because UB lost a bowl game by a lopsided margin. But because there's been a lopsidedness to every game the Bulls have played this year against an opponent with teeth.

Yeah, they almost made a game of it at Ohio State but they didn't. They were embarrassed at Baylor. They took a seven-game winning streak against dregs to Toledo and trailed 31-0 at the half. They held a 7-3 halftime lead over Bowling Green in the MAC championship game and lost the second half, 21-0. And then came the debacle that was the 49-24 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to San Diego State on Saturday night. Down 35-10 minutes into the third. Good night.

Doubtless the athletic administration will console itself with "Aw, shucks. At least we made it to a bowl game. We're on our way?!!"

Is that so? Exactly where do you think this is headed?"

Jeff Quinn has been here four years. He's won two games against FBS teams with winning records and both were against Ohio. Now if they were over Ohio State and he was coaching Michigan by all means give the guy a lifetime contract. But we're talking Ohio. Just plain Ohio.

And then no one else.

UB won seven games this year against pushovers. Even UConn was in the midst of impending upheaval. Which begs the question: If this is the best Quinn could do with Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz, if this is the best he could do with five first-team all-MAC players (four post Jasen Carlson injury), then what rationale leads one to believe that it gets better from here?

This season looks pretty with spin. Eight wins. First bowl since the 2008 season. Ain't it great the AD locked up the coach with a contract extension last season?

But it's all spin. It took Quinn two years to win as many games as Turner Gill won his last season here. That's a digression. UB's eight-win season of 2013 matches its eight-win season of 2008 -- minus the MAC championship. The teams UB beat this year combined to win 23 games total, and that's with giving them the five victories of FCS Stony Brook. The '08 club beat teams with 42 wins, not an FCS among them, and knocked off No. 12 in the country in the MAC title game.

And this is supposed to somehow compare?

Danny White has fired six coaches since becoming athletic director. He let go a basketball coach who scored some pretty impression victories over the years because he couldn't get over the hump ad make it to the NCAAs. That and because, the coach being local and all, he wasn't sexy enough to market.

Don't construe this as criticism of Bobby Hurley. It's not. It is a criticism of the decision to release Reggie Witherspoon in the first place, especially given the talent he had in the fold.

If Witherspoon was shown the door with talent set to return how do the scales tip for Quinn with the bulk of his (heavily Gill-recruited) talent walking out the door? Is eight wins cause for celebration given the resumes of the victims?

Every time the Bulls played a worthy opponent they faltered. Badly. Got their horns blown off.

Maybe the AD should take stock of the whole situation instead perceiving success after a football season that, when you get right down to it, wasn't all that darn successful.

Because UB's claim to fame right now is that it's not as bad as it used to be. Whatever that's worth.

Live blog at 5:30 p.m.: UB vs. San Diego State in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Live blog at 5 p.m.: St. Bonaventure at Niagara basketball

Live pregame chat at 3:30 p.m.: Bob DiCesare covering UB at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Live blog at 4:15 p.m.: Lamar at Canisius basketball

Potato Skins

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata joined head coach Jeff Quinn and senior cornerback Najja Johnson for Friday's pre-game press conference and fired off a few quality lines.

Licata when asked why he chose football over basketball despite making more than 300 threes in high school: "I could shoot it, couldn't play much defense though. So I stuck with quarterback because I didn't have to play defense."

Licata on Khalil Mack: "He's pretty special. If you watched any of our games this year yu see the terror in the quarterback's eyes. I have to line up against him every day in practice and I don't like doing that. Luckily I don't have to play against him on Saturday when I don't have my red jersey on."

X X X

Johnson was asked about defending SDSU's balanced receiving corps. Wideouts Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin have combined for 112 catches, more than 1,700 yards and eight TDs.

"They do have talented receivers who are fast and physical but we feel like we're faster and even more physical than them," Johnson said. "We look forward to letting those matchups play out tomorrow."

X X X

San Diego State left tackle Bryce Quigley, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, on going up against Mack:

"He's a great player. I've watched him on film. He's athletic, fast, strong. He switches sides and I'll see him probably about half the time I would say."

X X X

UB won't come close to sell off its 2,000-ticket allotment for the game but athletic director Danny White isn't fretting it. He noted that during its final two hours the Potato Bowl will be the only televised football game in America, providing UB with a opportunity for widespread exposure.

X X X

Bronco Stadium and its ancillary facilities are the envy of the Mountain West Conference. Count San Diego State coach Rocky Long among the admirers.

"I see a program that started way back when as a junior college and -- I've done some research -- made calculated steps, step after step, moving up from junior college to NAIA to eventually I-AA and to Division I," Long said. "And they had built all the necessary resources to be successful at Division I as they went. And obviously they built on that. And going to those kind of BCS bowls allows you the financial resources to do some special things.

"If you look at all the facilities and those sort of things within our league . . . there's no comparison to this place and the other teams in our league. Absolutely no comparison. So the resources that they have give them huge advantages."

X X X

Quinn on UB's win over UConn earlier this year:

"That was a program-building win for us. We'd been at them for a number of years and that was a great win for us, a significant win. We certainly have established ourself in this particular season with this group of kids."

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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