by Amy Moritz
Atlantic Hockey released its all-conference teams yesterday and there was a notable snub.
But before we get to that, let's talk about the players who did make the team from Western New York -- Kevin Ryan and Ben Danford, both named the defensemen on the third team.
Ryan, a senior at Niagara, has had a down year offensively, but that was easily predicitable after the Purple Eagles lost offense and feature a power play that's, well, not very productive. Ryan has had more defensive zone responsibilities this season with Niagara dressing three freshmen at the blueline and starting rookies in goal.
Danford, a senior at Cansius, leads all Ice Griff defenders with 24 points (four goals, 20 assists). He has played in every single game of his four-year career -- that's 153 games heading into tonight's Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals at Bentley. He owns the Canisius career record for assists by a defenseman with 72 and ranks second in points with 81.
Yes, every year for every conference in every sport, someone somewhere is unhappy about all-conference selections. This year that someone is me.
Gibbons' numbers aren't through the roof and there with more parity in the league this season more players can have a case to make for all-conference status. But Gibbons' numbers haven''t slipped that far from last year. He ranks higher in scoring in Atlantic Hockey games than three players who made the cut and his seven power play goals in conference rank second in the league.
As a career body of work (and yes, I know that all-conference teams are about the season and not a career, allegedly) he ranks second all-time in goals and fourth all-time in points for Canisius.
But I'm not here to argue analytics. That's not what I do.
Gibbons is the guy every single opposing coach game plans against. He is the reason teams don't want to be short-handed against Canisius. He is the one taking questionable slashes across the wrist (see: Robert Morris game on Feb. 22). And with all that attention, he's provided room for other players to step up their games, which they have. He's a player on your team who makes others better, plays with emotion and wears his heart on his sleeve. And that's one of the more dangerous kinds of guys to face, regardless of what his points-per-game ratio is.
Oh and on that point-per-gamer ratio: Gibbons averages 1.58 in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
Could this snub be a motivtor? Publicly, no. But consider that snubs are the fuel for Gibbons' emotional game and this could be the best thing opposing coaches have done for him.
"Any coach that knows me knows that’s how you get under my skin," Gibbons said last week. "You want a reaction out of me, that’s what you do. You put me on the bench or you take things away from me, like shifts, power play time, whatever it might be. That makes my blood boil."
Being left off the third-team All-Atlantic Hockey isn't exactly the same as skipping his number late in games when the team is down a goal. But it's all fuel for the fire, isn't it?
"He was a good player even as a freshman," said Griffs all-time leading scorer and current Buffalo Sabre Cory Conacher, who played his senior year with Gibbons. "He's good enough to get three in a game. He can get hot. He's a good player and I'm sure he'll be able to go play somewhere after Canisius."