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Staffing changes for Canisius hockey

by Amy Moritz

Sometimes to get to the next level, you have to make changes.

And that seems to be the case for the Canisius hockey program.

Assistant coaches B.J. Adams and John Daigneau are no longer part of the Golden Griffins staff.

"I have a great amount of respect for B.J. and John as hockey coaches, and more importantly as people," Canisius head coach Dave Smith said in a prepared statement. "They have worked hard to help elevate our program and they have both been excellent ambassadors for the college. I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors."

While the Griffs returned to the Atlantic Hockey championship game, where they lost to Robert Morris, the team entered the conference tournament as the seventh seed for the second-straight year. Their 11-13-3 regular season mark felt like potential unfilled after returning the bulk of their roster from the 2013 championship team.

Adams was in his fifth season with the program. He played for Bowling Green from 1996-2000.

"This is a mutual agreement that allows me to continue my professional development in hockey," Adams said. "Winning the 2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship, getting to the conference finals again this year and playing a part in building a strong hockey program have been great experiences. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in my time at Canisius. I wish the program all the best in the future."

Daigneau was in his fourth year with Canisius. He played for Harvard from 2002-06.

"I appreciate the opportunity to start my collegiate coaching career here at Canisius," Daigneau said. "We accomplished a lot during my four years at the college and I feel like I have helped elevate the program during that time. I really enjoyed working with the student-athletes and the staff at Canisius. As I move forward with my coaching career, I wish the program continued success in the future."

Smith just finished his ninth year as the head coach for the Griffs. Last May he signed a contract extension with Canisius through the 2016-17 season.

The Griffs, who finished this season 17-21-3, move their hockey program to HarborCenter in the fall ushering in a new era for the hockey program.

 

Licata played with a torn hip labrum

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior Joe Licata played all of last season with a torn hip labrum and a bone impingement the quarterback confirmed on Wednesday.

The Williamsville South product who started all 13 games in 2013, said he suffered the injury during training camp last summer in early August. Licata will be limited for spring practice which started today at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse and will miss the annual Blue/White Game on April 19.

Licata had surgery on Jan. 7.

“I went into the training room and thought it was a groin injury maybe or a hip flexor,” said Licata, who is nearly month three of the 4-6 month recovery process. “It didn’t get any better and it kept getting worse. I took a couple of helmet hits to the hip.”

A month after the injury, UB’s trainers realized it wasn’t a hip flexor but a hip labrum injury. Doctors confirmed the diagnoses after the Bulls bowl game loss to San Diego State and Licata underwent surgery.

“It hurt but I took a couple of Advil before the game,” he said. “I iced it down afterwards and I had it wrapped during games. It was wrapped for practices. I was smart about it. It’s the price you pay for touchdowns.”

UB coach Jeff Quinn said he isn’t worried about Licata missing spring workouts.

“He certainly has a sharp mind and has a handle on the offense,” Quinn said. “Joe is still going to be the guy that we develop into being an even better quarterback than he was a year ago.”

Licata was limited to sideline work as were fullback Boomer Brock and right guard Dillon Guy, a pair of seniors, sophomore offensive lineman Dan Collura and defensive linemen Zach Smekal and tailback Joe Schillace, who are redshirt freshmen.

Also, junior linebacker Nick Gilbo left practice with an apparent injury to his left knee which was wrapped heavily in ice.

****

Junior Tony Daniel took snaps with the first unit while sophomore Collin Michael was with the second team.

“We were a little bit off with our timing but that’s part of this,” Quinn said. “Spring ball is about repetition and repetition is the mother of learning and I think our kids are only going to get better.”

Licata liked what he saw from the sidelines.

“They looked good, it’s a great opportunity for them to get more reps during the spring,” he said. “It’s weird to watch the backside of it, but I get to help coach those guys up and I think Tony did a great job today as did Collin.”

****
Early enrollees Juwan Jackson and offense lineman Matt Murphy participated in practice on Wednesday. Jackson is a 6-foot4, 215-pound linebacker from Newark N.J., while the 6-7, 295-pound Murphy hails from London, England. Both players enrolled in January.  … The Bulls are off tomorrow but will resume practice on Friday at UB Stadium.

Licata will be limited in spring drills

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior quarterback Joe Licata will be limited during spring practice as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, coach Jeff Quinn said today. Spring practice begins Wednesday.

Licata, who started all 13 games last season, had hip surgery in January and was expected to be out until June. It is unclear whether Licata will play in the annual Blue/White game April 19.

Licata, who starred at Williamsville South, threw for 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 58 percent of his passes as a sophomore.

“He’s not going to be out there full bore,” Quinn said. “He’s fine, it’s just a matter of time but he’s done very well.”

Junior Tony Daniel will take the majority of the snaps in spring drills and will be backed up by sophomore Collin Michael and redshirt freshman Craig Slowik.

The only other player who will be limited in the spring will be senior fullback Boomer Brock (knee). Also, Quinn confirmed tailback James Potts is no longer enrolled in school and will not return to the team. Quinn wouldn’t go in specifics, but a source told The News Potts was academically ineligible.

While the Bulls have good depth at tailback, they have suffered numerous injures over the years at the position and Potts provided insurance. He appeared in nine games as a backup to Bo Oliver and Anthone Taylor last season and rushed for 222 yards on 58 carries.

Season analysis: Canisius hockey

by Amy Moritz

They were 20 minutes from dead.

Already down a game in the best-of-three series at Bentley, the Canisius Golden Griffins were trailing, 4-1, after two periods. Facing one of the most talented scoring lines in the conference, the Griffs were a period away from the end of their season.

But Canisius rallied. They won the game in double overtime. They won game three. Double overtime in the conference semifinals against the No. 1 seed? Sure, why not. As disappointing as the 7-4 loss to Robert Morris in the championship game was, getting back to the Atlantic Hockey title game was almost as improbable as the Griffs winning the whole thing last year.

Final record: 17-21-3

Playoff run: After sweeping Sacred Heart in the opening round, the Griffs had come-from-behind wins over Bentley to knock off the No. 2 seed and advance to Atlantic Hockey semifinals for the third time under coach Dave Smith. It took double overtime to upset Mercyhurst but then the Griffs ran into a hot Robert Morris team. And the Colonials have had the Griffs' number. The Canisius senior class went just 4-9 against Robert Morris, including a five-game losing streak. Not helping the cause were a pair of injuries in the Bentley series as defensman Geoff Fortman (shoulder) and Cody Freeman (head) were both out for the final three games. Illness also ran through the team with Logan Roe and Chris Rumble missing playoff games.

What we learned: Resiliency may be the foundational word of the Canisius program. The ability of the Griffs to respond positively to adversity is what helped them return to the championship game. Count Canisius down and out at your own peril. As injuries and illness occurred, the team's depth came into play. But when talking about depth, it wasn't just about having talent to step into the lineup. It was about players who often found themselves on the outside looking in understanding their importance to the team. It was about those scratches staying ready, focused and passionate to play and it was about the team trusting those players to do their jobs when their number was called.

Losses: This is a tough senior class to say goodbye to. Seven seniors will leave the Griffs -- forwards Patrick Sullivan, Kyle Gibbons, Taylor Law and Ryan Bohrer, defensmen Ben Danford and Duncan McKellar and goaltender Tony Capobianco. While Gibbons, Danford and Capobianco went out with some down performances, they leave their mark all over the program. Among the statistical notables:

Capobianco holds the career record for saves and shutouts.

Danford played in all 158 games of his Canisius career and holds the program record for assists by a defensman.

Gibbons finished with 131 career points, ranking fourth all-time in program history. HIs 57 goals is second only to Cory Conacher's record of 62.

Cory Conacher may be the most famous alum of the program, but he never made it to a championship game. This senior class created its own legacy, one that not only produced results but crafted a culture and helped bring college hockey to a new level of relevancy in the cluttered Western New York sports landscape.

Who's back: There's nothing quite as motivating as being on the ice when the other team is celebrating a championship. The bad taste that leaves in the mouths of the returning players could be motivational fuel for another run next year. And there's plenty of good news on the roster. The line of Mitch McCrank-Ralph Cuddemi-Shane Conacher was one of the best in the postseason scoring 11 of the team's 17 goals in the last four games. Cody Freeman, who notched program's first post-season hat trick, was playing well until he suffered a head injury in Game 2 in Bentley. Defensemen Chris Rumble and Doug Jessey were both on the Atlantic Hockey All-Tournament team and junior goalie Keegan Asmundson had a 2.51 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 13 games for the Griffs this year.

Season analysis: Niagara hockey

by Amy Moritz

While they were picked to finish first in the preseason coaches' poll, the Niagara Purple Eagles were going to have a difficult year. They lost a deep, talented and passionate senior class and their starting goaltender left school early to pursue professional hockey opportunities. The 2013-14 season was going to be a struggle and it looked, well, kinda ugly through the first three months.

The underclassmen started gaining experience and, more importantly, the players bought into the team-as-family concept. Confidence and trust go a long way and that allowed Niagara to make a late season push and end up back in the Atlantic Hockey Final Four.

Final record: 15-20-5

Playoff recap: Niagara swept American International in the first round of the playoffs at Dwyer Arena. The Purps then traveled to Colorado Springs to face Air Force. Running into travel problems, the adversity made the team stronger and after dropping the first game, Niagara came back to win the next two and advance back to Rochester.

It was the third-straight trip to the conference semifinals. While Niagara rallied with a pair of goals late in the game, the Purps couldn't match Robert Morris in overtime, losing to the eventual conference champs, 5-4. Niagara had several players out of the lineup with injuries, including leading goal-scorer Isaac Kohls. And in the end of a long playoff run, that hurt.

What we learned: Skilled players can win games but individual efforts can only go so far. The Purple Eagles run back to the semifinals was fueled by a much better team game which allowed for more consistent goal production. Also, when you make a decision on your starting goaltender, the confidence can be contagious.

Losses: Niagara says goodbye to four seniors -- defensemen Kevin Ryan and Matt Williams and forwards Patrick Divjak and Ryan Rashid. Rashid had 21 points this season and finishes his Niagara career with 38 goals, 50 assists. Divjak had 14 points this year and closes out his collegiate career with 21 goals and 56 assists.

Who's back: If experience is the greatest teacher and the Purps were paying attention, they could be very dangerous next year. Sophomore Hugo Turcotte finished as the team's leading scorer with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists). Kohls, a junior, had 12 goals and 12 assists while missing the final four playoff games with an upper body injury. The freshman class had breakout moments, in particular forward TJ Sarcona (22 points) and defenseman Vince Muto (19 points). 

Then there's goaltender Jackson Teichroeb who started the last 11 games of the season and went 5-5-1 in that span after starting the season going 4-9-2.

Villanova gets shot down as its shots won't go down

By John Vogl

Villanova had a fantastic second half in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, pouring in 46 points to run away from Milwaukee. When the Wildcats opened 5 of 8 with two three-pointers against Connecticut, it looked like more of the same.

Instead, the offense disappeared -- and so did a 19-9 lead. Villanova missed 10 straight shots and had 15 scoreless possessions in a row as the Huskies climbed back and earned a 77-65 victory in First Niagara Center.

"Our main focus is defense," Wildcats guard James Bell said. "Did we even know we missed 15 straight or went 15 straight possessions? No. I mean, probably could have taken a little better shots."

Villanova shot just 35.3 percent from the field and was just 7 for 20 on two-point shots.

"I really thought we were going to shoot the ball well," coach Jay Wright said. "I don't think they came out really agressive, but once we went on that little run, they stepped up the defense big-time. They really stepped it up."

UConn 77, Villanova 65: How the game was won

By John Vogl

How Connecticut won: The Huskies won the same way they usually do, with a huge helping of Shabazz Napier. The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year poured in a game-high 25 points, including 21 in the second half. The senior refused to end his career short of the Sweet 16.

Turning point: Villanova pulled within three points, 42-39, on a three-pointer by James Bell. UConn showed it wouldn’t fold as Lasan Kromah hit a three and Napier followed with back-to-back bombs for a 9-1 run. It gave the Huskies breathing room at 51-40 with 8:59 to go.

Player of the game: If you can’t tell by now … of course it was Napier. The senior hobbled to the bench with a leg injury with 4:01 to go. Villanova became emboldened while looking at Napier with a towel on his face, but he wasn’t gone long enough for the Wildcats to take advantage. He returned 40 seconds later, and so did UConn’s swagger.

Stat of the game: Villanova had a decent night from three-point land in going 11 for 31. From inside the arc, however, Villanova was just 7 for 20. Shooting 35.3 percent overall simply won’t cut it.

He Said It: “They showed resiliency. They showed toughness. Everybody was strong, and we’re going to the Garden.” – UConn coach Kevin Ollie, whose team trailed by 10 points early.

Up next: UConn plays in the Sweet 16 in New York City against the winner of today’s matchup between No. 3 seed Iowa State and sixth-seeded North Carolina.

Napier refuses to let college career end, leads UConn over Villanova and into Sweet 16

By John Vogl

Shabazz Napier is a modern-day rarity, a college star who stuck around for four years. Because of his play, Connecticut is sticking around for the Sweet 16.

Napier refused to let his collegiate career come to an end in Buffalo, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half as seventh-seeded UConn upset No. 2 Villanova, 77-65, early this morning. The Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference was 9 for 13 from the field, including 4 of 8 from three-point range.

The Huskies will head to New York City this week for the East Region portion of the Sweet 16. They will play the winner of today’s game between No. 3 seed Iowa State and sixth-seeded North Carolina.

The Wildcats showed the most energy it had all night when Napier hobbled to the bench with a leg injury with 4:01 to go. UConn held a 56-49 lead when he went out, with 20 of those points coming from Napier’s hot hand.

He wasn’t gone long enough for Villanova to take advantage, returning to the court less than a minute later to the relief of UConn fans and to the applause of the remaining fans in the crowd of 19,290. The next time Napier walked off the court, with 19.9 seconds left, it was with his team ready to celebrate a victory.

The Huskies (28-8) overcame 10-point deficits during both their games in Buffalo.

Connecticut came out for the second half with a one-point deficit, but a quick 9-2 run them a 33-27 lead with 2:24 off the clock.

Villanova responded with a 9-2 run of its own to go up, 36-35, its first lead since a 20-18 edge in the first half. Bell keyed the run with a pair of three-pointers.

Napier countered with his own long-distance barrage, giving the Huskies a 50-41 lead with 8:59 left on back-to-back bombs. It was his night and his show.

Both teams held the lead in the first half, though it seemed neither team wanted it. They combined to shoot just 32.7 percent with 13 turnovers.

UConn, which proved during its last game that a 10-point deficit means nothing, showed it again during the first half. Villanova ran to a 19-9 lead through the opening 8:27. The Wildcats couldn’t handle the prosperity.

Villanova had just one free throw to show for a miserable 10-minute stretch as its lead evaporated. It missed 10 straight shots from the field.

While UConn hardly looked like a world beater, it nonetheless enjoyed a 16-1 run to take a 25-20 advantage during the final minute.

The Wildcats finally woke up with 30 seconds to go, picking up another free throw and a three-pointer by Arcidiacono to cut its halftime deficit to 25-24. The Huskies shot just 34.5 percent in the first half. Villanova fired at just 30.4 percent.

We weren't lying about Dayton being way more balanced than Syracuse

By Tim Graham

Before tonight's NCAA Tournament game between the Syracuse Orange and Dayton Flyers, we took a look at how differently each team deploys its bench.

Dayton smears minutes throughout its roster. Syracuse's starters hog most of their minutes.

No different for Dayton's 55-53 victory in First Niagara Center.

Eight Flyers played at least 12 minutes, and 11 Flyers got into the game.

Only two Flyers scored in double figures, with forward Dyshawn Pierre topping out at 14 points and guard Jordan Sibert adding 10. No other starter had more than seven points.

Six Orange players accounted for 197 of the 200 possible minutes. The five starters played at least 25 minutes apiece, with guard Tyler Ennis logging all 40 minutes, forward C.J. Fair 39 minutes and forward Rakeem Christmas 37 minutes.

Dayton outworks Syracuse, but Archie Miller knows his team got a tad lucky

By Tim Graham

The Dayton Flyers knew they needed every break they could muster.

The Flyers made the NCAA Tournament as the sixth and final Atlantic 10 team. They're an 11th seed. But there they were, leading the mighty Syracuse Orange early tonight in First Niagara Center.

The Flyers led by seven points 8:23 into the game and had chances to extend their lead, perhaps even dictate if they dared. Then came some turnovers, a couple missed layups, a blocked shot, some fouls, a missed free throw.

Was Dayton flirting with disaster?

With 2:47 left in the first half, that seven-point lead had evaporated. Syracuse had its first lead.

"You're playing against a great team," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "I mean, you're playing against one of the best teams in the country, and to play them in Buffalo, to expect to push ahead, so to speak, it's not really going through your head.

"Battling every possession defensively, watching our kids compete, giving ourselves a chance to be there, be there, be there. At the end of the game, we wanted to be right where we were, which was we had a chance to win the game."

In one mutually miserable stretch at the end of the first half and the start of the second half, Dayton had made only two of its last 14 shots from the floor, and Syracuse had made one of its last 12, including nine straight misses. Dayton hadn't made consecutive shots the entire game to that point. Syracuse had managed the feat once.

Syracuse kept hanging around, though, and with so many Orange fans in the building, there was a sense its cache might come through at some point. Syracuse took its largest lead with 7:49 to play, when guard Tyler Ennis made a layup to go ahead, 40-37.

Dayton retook the lead 91 seconds later on a pair of free throws and never trailed again, but Syracuse remained within striking distance until Ennis' three-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.

"If you'd have told me at the end of the game, you'd have a one‑point lead with a minute or whatever, you're taking it," Miller said. "You're just going to take that.

"Fortunately tonight, they didn't hit some shots that they probably normally hit. The defense was great, but you also could play them 10 times, and I don't think that some of those shots would be missed.

"So a little bit of luck is on your head. And you need that, I think, obviously, in this tournament. You've got to be fortunate."

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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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