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Buffalo native Michael Sisti named to women's hockey committee

by Amy Moritz

SistiMichael Sisti, the head coach of the Mercyhurst women's hockey team, was named to the 2013-14 West Regional Advisory Committee for NCAA Division I women's ice hockey.

Regional advisory committees help in ranking teams in the region for the NCAA championship and provide input on the selection of officials. Selections will take place on March 9 with quarterfinals at campus sites on March 14-16 and the Frozen Four March 21 and 23 in Hamden, Conn.

Sisti is in his 15th season as the head coach of the Mercyhurst Lakers with a record of 377-102-34. The Lakers have advanced to nine NCAA Division I playoffs and last year appeared in their third Frozen Four. Mercyhurst is 14-5-2 ovearll and 7-2-1 in College Hockey America this season.

Sisti is a Buffalo native and played four years of hockey at Canisius. He graduated in 1990 and was induced into the Canisius Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. As a junior, he was the Golden Griffin's top forward with 33 goals and 57 points.

Video: UB football is ready for the Potato Bowl

Football coach Jeff Quinn speaks to the media about Saturday's trip to Idaho.

Potato Bowl -- Inside the Aztecs

Stefanie Loh covers San Diego State football for U-T San Diego. She agreed to field five questions concerning the Aztecs leading into Saturday's game against UB in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Here are her responses. You can get the story from the other side of the field this week by following Stefanie on Twitter @StefanieLoh.

1. The Aztecs rank last nationally in red zone defense and among the bottom 10 in turnover ratio. That hardly seems like a recipe for success. Yet they're 7-5 and have won seven of their last nine. How have they managed it?

SL: With late-game miracles. Somehow, this defense always seems to come up with the big plays when they need them most. It's logic-defying. Also, while they haven't stopped many teams IN the red zone, what they have managed to do in is force three-and-outs in critical situations, before the opponent can get to the red zone. The turnovers have hurt them this year, but the Aztecs have definitely shown that they can be tough to beat late in a close game.
 
2. The Famous Iaho Potato Bowl can't throw anything at Buffalo weather-wise that the Bulls haven't seen before. I'm guessing the same can't be said for SDSU. Do you envision the weather being a factor here?
 
SL: I think it's hard to say because the Aztecs haven't played in the cold very much this year. They did, however, prevail in the Air Force game, when it was about 50 degrees at kickoff, but dipped at least 10 degrees throughout the course of the game. Extreme cold might be rough though, especially if there's snow. The Aztecs haven't played in snow this season, so that might pose problems, especially on offense.
 
3. Running back Adam Muema's the primary back but freshman RB Donnel Pumphrey intrigues with his numbers -- a 6.1 average, 8 TDs. Has he been a surprise this year or did they come into the season expecting he could play a fairly significant role?
 
SL: Pumphrey has definitely been a surprise. They saw flashes of his ability in camp, but held back on naming a true No. 2 back until about three games into the season. However, with Adam Muema struggling with an ankle injury through the first quarter of the year, Pumphrey really came up big for the Aztecs when they needed him. Without him, they might have lost against New Mexico State and Air Force. 
 
4. The Aztecs go 6-2 in conference yet just one player ended up first-team all-MW. Is it a matter of the sum being greater than the parts? And what's the lowdown on safety Nat Berhe, their first-team selection?
 
SL: Absolutely. I think the best thing about this team this year has been the fact that they work very well as a unit. On offense, Kaehler has proved very efficient at distributing the ball among a number of different receivers. On defense, the linebacking corps as a whole has been solid, especially when you consider that their star middle linebacker, Jake Fely, suffered a season-ending injury against New Mexico State. Then, about three quarters of the way in, SDSU lost nose tackle Sam Meredith to a torn labrum. The loss of two of their three defensive starters up the middle made Aztec safety Nat Berhe even more important. Berhe is a versatile, athletic defender who plays the hybrid linebacker/safety position that's unique to Rocky Long's defense. He can help in run support, blitz, or drop back to cover receivers, and he's had to really hold his own and help direct the defense this year. 
 
5. Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has had his two roughest days of the season percentage-wise over the last three games. Is there anything to account for this slide? And is this basically a move-the-chains approach to the passing game?''
 
SL: The offensive line hasn't played very well in the last three games, and this has really hurt the Aztecs' rushing offense. They run a balanced offense but really rely on the run to open up the play action pass. That has limited Kaehler's effectiveness in the pass game. To answer the second question, yes, this is indeed a move-the-chains sort of pass game. The Aztecs use a lot of short and intermediate passes, and generally don't go for too many long bombs because Kaehler isn't the most strong-armed quarterback you'll ever meet.
 
-- Bob DiCesare

College Hockey Monday: Notes and video from Frozen Frontier and a look at Atlantic Hockey

Niagara_FrozenFrontier
It was a snowy and cold start at Frozen Frontier for Niagara-RIT.

 

by Amy Moritz

Of course the Frozen Frontier game between RIT and Niagara went into overtime. Of course it did. That's what these two teams do when they play each other.

The 2-2 tie at Frontier Field on Saturday  in the first outdoor game for both programs marked the eighth time in the last 11 meetings the teams went into overtime. The record in those games is even at 1-1-6.

The steady snow in the first and second periods made life difficult for both teams. Extended timeouts looked like Saturday Night Free Skate as members of the ice crew shoveled the rink. Players might have tried to ice the puck, but it died just beyond the blue line, trapped in a pile of snow.

Freshmen goalie battles
Niagara's Jackson Teichroeb made 25 saves while RIT's Mike Rotolo made 34. Rotolo, a native of Rochester, is now undefeated in his first six collegiate starts (5-0-1).

Niagara struggles on special teams
The difference in the game came down to special teams, an area where the Purple Eagles have struggled. Niagara went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage, bringing them scoreless in their last 18 power plays, while RIT went 1 for 6.

More outdoor games
Can't get enough of outdoor NCAA Division I hockey? More games are on the way. Niagara-RIT was the first of 11 outdoor games scheduled this season. Atlantic Hockey rivals Bentley and Holy Cross will face off as part of Frozen Fenway on Dec. 28.

Continue reading "College Hockey Monday: Notes and video from Frozen Frontier and a look at Atlantic Hockey" »

Live blog at 7 p.m.: Niagara hockey playing outdoors at Rochester's Frontier Field

Niagara looks to take advantage of Frozen Frontier opportunity

Niagara men's hockey outdoor practice
Niagara got a sneak peak at Frozen Frontier in practice. (photo: Michelle Kokot)

 

by Amy Moritz

Niagara hockey has played in some big-time barns this season from Michigan's Yost Arena to the reverent Lynah Arena at Cornell. The Purple Eagles (as any team) prides itself on learning to face any team in any place.

Tonight's game takes that to an entirely different level.

Niagara will face RIT at 7 as part of Frozen Frontier -- an outdoor rink set up on the infield of Frontier Field in downtown Rochester.

While there is certain nostalgia about playing outdoors, once the teams hit the ice, there's some serious business. We're talking an Atlantic Hockey conference game. RIT wants to head into its semester break on a roll as the Tigers have won five straight. Niagara is on the opposite end, desperately in need of a win to end a five-game losing streak.

"We all spent days and hours playing street hockey and on the pond," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. "We’re all lucky to be a part of this game and be a part of college hockey. Hopefully it takes a little pressure off our guys. We’ve been squeezing it pretty tight and forcing things. I think just having the fun festival if you will should take a little heat off us."

Weather could help Niagara
With the forecast calling for temperatures in the teens and up to four inches of snow, expect a game that's back to basics. Which may be just what the Purple Eagles need to steal a win and gain some confidence.

"I think it’s going to be a real basic, just get the puck to the net kind of game. Not a lot of skilled play involved really," said sophomore forward and Rochester native Rocky Gruttadauria. "I think it’s just what we’re looking for right now. We’ve been having trouble scoring a bit and if we simplify our game it might be just what we need to get back in our scoring ways."

Lack of goals = losing skid
During this five-game losing skid the team is averaging just 1.4 goals per game and has been outscored, 6-2, in the first period. Special teams haven't helped the cause. Last weekend in two losses at Connecticut, Niagara went 0-for-13 on the power play.

"Lately we felt like we don’t play the best first period," said Mike Conderman who is tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points. "We kinda come out flat some times. I don’t know why or what but that’s kinda been the trend this year to come out flat. Then we dig our hole too big and we can’t come back from it. That’s what we gotta work on. We gotta work on finding a full 60 minutes and play an entire game."

Against RIT, they may need to find a full 65 minutes. The last 10 games between RIT and Niagara have gone to overtime.

Outdoor game history
This will be the 18th outdoor NCAA game in the modern era and the first of 12 scheduled for this season. The first game was Oct. 6, 2001 between Michigan and Michigan State where 74,544 attended the game at Spartan Stadium. 

Team gallery
Check out a great photo gallery from Niagara's team practice Wednesday night at Frontier Field.

How to watch
The game will be aired live on Time Warner Sports Channel. Tickets are available at the Frontier Field box office or at www.frozenfrontier2013.com and range between $10-$25.

Hearn suspended for hit on Canisius player

by Amy Moritz

Army sophomore Shane Hearn received a one-game suspension from Atlantic Hockey commissioner Robert DeGregorio for a hit in the Black Knights 2-0 win over Canisius on Saturday at West Point.

Hearn leveled Canisius junior forward Matthew Grazen early in the game. No penalty was called but DeGregorio and Gene Binda, Atlantic Hockey Supervisor of Officials, determined Hearn targeted Grazen's head.

Grazen left the game and did not return while Hearn scored both goals for Army, including an empty-netter.

 

Hearn will sit out Army's next game, scheduled for Friday Dec. 20 against Providence. Interesting to note it's a non-conference game. 

Grazen, who has seven assists and is a plus-8, suffered a lower-body injury. The team has been off for final exams and does not play again until Dec. 28-29 when they travel to Vermont to play in the Catamount Cup.

 

Canisius-UB Game Wrap

Canisius 69, UB 55

How Canisius Won: UB captured the first 28 minutes, 49-40. Canisius captured the last 12, 29-6, by pulverizing the Bulls in every facet of the game. UB made 3 of its last 17 shots trying to attack the Griffs zone from the perimeter. At the other end, Canisius went to the basket with a vengeance and made 55.6 percent of its second-half field goals. It was like watching Popeye after he downs his spinach.

Player of the Game: Billy Baron was his usual self, scoring a game-high 23 points. And because that's so typical of Baron the honor is free to go elsewhere, in this case to co-players of the game guard Chris Perez and forward Phil Valenti. It wasn't just that the two combined for 27 points and nine boards. It's that no one on UB could match their energy level. They were all over the court.

Leap Backward: UB has lost to both Canisius and Niagara in the same season for the first since since 2000-01. That was Reggie Witherspoon's first full year as coach and the program was in its MAC infancy.

Live By It, Die By It: UB pulled out Saturday's game against St. Bonaventure by nailing four straight threes late. This time they went just 2 of 16 from downtown in the second half while trying to solve the Canisius zone. UB is now shooting less than 30 percent from beyond the arc this season. And a long season it will be if that doesn't change because . . .

What Ever Happened To: Javon McCrea. One of the best players ever to wear a UB uniform has totaled three second-half field goal attempts over the last two games. Three. UB had better find ways to utilize him away from the basket or free up passing lanes underneath before his senior year goes to waste.

Noteworthy: Chris Manhertz's game-high nine rebounds were a season high. Four of them were on the offensive glass.

Convincingly: The Griffs have spanked opponents by 14 points or more during their three-game winning streak.

Stat Check: Canisius outscored UB 32-24 in the paint andattempted 25 free throws compared to just eight for UB. How times have changed.

What It Means:Canisius improved to 6-3 while UB fell to 4-3.

In the House: The paid attendance at First Niagara was 4,703. Or about what they'd get for a Little Three jv game back in the old days.

What's Next: Canisius heads to the big city Saturday to face St. Francis Brooklyn. UB is off until it hits the Barclays Center on Dec. 21 for a meeting with Manhattan, the preseason favorite in the MAAC.

-- Bob DiCesare

Live blog at 8:30 p.m.: Canisius vs. UB in First Niagara Center

Live blog at 6 p.m.: Niagara vs. Davidson in First Niagara Center

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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


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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