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Capobianco and Muto among those at NHL development camps

by Amy Moritz

What did you do on your summer vacation?

For a number of college hockey players the answer to that question includes spending a week at an NHL development camp.

Two players from Canisius and one for Niagara are participating in prospect camps along with a number of other players from Atlantic Hockey. (This of course without the official release of the Buffalo Sabres development camp roster. That camp opens on Monday.)

Tony Capobianco, the most decorated goaltender in Canisius program history, was invited to the Philadelphia Flyers Develoment Camp which began on Thursday. Capobianco, who graduated from Canisius in May,finished with school records in saves (3,061), save percentage (.920), goals against average (2.71) and shutouts (eight).

James Mazza, who verbally committed to the Golden Griffins for 2015, is participating in the New York Islanders develoment camp.

Niagara defenseman Vince Muto (Niagara Falls) is finishing his time with the Montreal Canadiens. In his freshman season, Muto played in 37 games notching 19 points from the blue line (five goals, 14 assists).

Mercyhurst has five players at development camps, leading tally in Atlantic Hockey. Senior Matthew Zay is with the Chicago Blackhawks while recent graduates Dan O'Donoghue and Nick Jones are with Arizona and San Jose, respectively.

Verbal recruits for 2015 also participating are Tommasco Bucci and Chris Makowski, both with the Islanders.

Others from Atlantic Hockey include Air Force senior Cole Gunner (Chicago), Bentley senior Alex Grieve (Islanders), Robert Morris junior Brandon Denham (Calgary) and Sacred Heart junior Alex Vazzano (Ottawa).

Canisius hockey releases full schedule

by Amy Moritz

We already knew that Canisius was playing at Niagara and hosting RIT. Now we get the full picture of the Golden Griffins' first year at HarborCenter after the team released its schedule Wednesday morning.

The opening game at HarborCenter will be a two-game series against Ohio State on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Both games are set for a 7:35 p.m. start. 

The first Atlantic Hockey games in the new digs come Nov. 14-15 when RIT comes to Buffalo.

With HarborCenter a few weeks behind schedule, Canisius will open the season in First Niagara Center, hosting Western Michigan (NCHC) Oct. 10-11. It will be the first time Canisius has played in First Niagara Center since the 2003-04 season when the hosted New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell along with Niagara for the Punch Imlach College Hockey Showcase.

Their other non-conference series is a two-game set at Maine, Jan. 2-3.

The home schedule features a five-game conference homestand to close out the first semester, playing Mercyhurst (Nov. 22), Air Force (Nov. 28-29) and AIC (Dec. 5-6) at HarborCenter before the holiday break.

New this year is a Kids' Day game as the Griffs have scheduled an 11:05 a.m. game on Friday, Jan.9 against Holy Cross.

The rematch of last year's conference championship game won't happen until the last month of the regular season when Canisius travels to Robert Morris Feb. 6-7. It's the only time the teams are scheduled to meet after the Colonials upended the Griffs in the title game last March.

Canisius closes out the regular season with two games at Air Force (Feb. 27-28) with the regular season home finale against Mercyhurst Feb. 21.

Overall the Griffs will play 16 regular-season games at HarborCenter.

The complete Canisius schedule:

Oct. 10 -- Western Michigan (First Niagara Center), 7:35 p.m.
Oct. 11 -- Western Michigan (First NIagara Center), 7:35 p.m.
Oct. 17 -- at Army, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 18 -- at Army, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 24 -- at AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 25 -- at AIC, 7:05 p.m.
Oct. 31 -- Ohio State, 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 1 -- Ohio State, 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 7 -- at Sacred Heart, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 8 -- at Sacred Heart, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 14 -- RIT, 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 15 -- RIT, 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 21 -- at Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 22 -- Mercyhurst, 7:35 p.m.
Nov. 28 -- Air Force, 2:05 p.m.
Nov. 29 -- Air Force, 7:35 p.m.
Dec. 5 -- AIC, 7:35 p.m.
Dec. 6 -- AIC, 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 2 -- at Maine, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 3 -- at Maine, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 9 -- Holy Cross (Kid's Day), 11:05 a.m.
Jan. 10 -- Holy Cross, 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 16 -- Bentley, 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 17 -- Bentley, 7:35 p.m.
Jan. 22 -- at Niagara, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 24 -- at Niagara, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 6 -- at Robert Morris, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 7 -- at Robert Morris, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 13 -- Army, 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 14 -- Army, 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 20 -- at Mercyhurst, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 21 -- Mercyhurst, 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 27 -- at Air Force, 9:05 p.m.
Feb. 28 -- at Air Force, TBA

Missed opportunities for Atlantic Hockey

by Amy Moritz

Niagara and Canisius will only play twice in the regular season. Both games will be at Niagara's Dwyer Arena. They will not play each other in the brand new HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo, which is the new home for Canisius hockey.

Wait. What?

Confusion and disbelief were the typical reactions after the Atlantic Hockey schedule was released with little consideration apparently given to Western New York rivalries.

First up, a look at the basics of the conference scheduling. 

With Connecticut leaving Atlantic Hockey for this year for Hockey East (despite the Huskies still being on the official Atlantic Hockey website), Atlantic Hockey is down to 11 members. So the conference decided that scheduling would go like this: programs would play four teams four times. The remaining six teams would be played only twice -- three of them in two-game home series, three of them in two-game road series.

Explained Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio, "It’s going to be a cycle over the next few years. … Some years you will play people away and not home and some years you will be playing people both home and away. With 11 schools it takes 10 years to complete the cycle."

In an article last May on USCHO.com, Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio said, "We are still working out the formula. Our intention is to be fair and also maintain local rivalries."

But when asked about the schedule and local rivalries on Wednesday, DeGregorio spoke only of the difficulty in working with an odd number of teams.

"We presented the schedule to the coaches at the coaches’ meeting and it passed. It wasn’t unanimous, but it passed at the coaches' meeting," DeGregorio said. "Then we presented it to the directors and it passed unanimously. The final decision is in the directors’ hands. In perfect honesty with 11 schools it’s very difficult to do a schedule. It stinks. We’re making the best of it. For the first time people who never traveled to Air Force every year will have to go to Air Force a couple of years in a row. That’s the way it works. There’s no easy solution to this unless we get a 12th team and then go back to the drawing board."

So, if Canisius and Niagara drew only two games this year, why not make sure they played in the inaugural year of HarborCenter and let Niagara host next year?

"As far as First Niagara Center, that’s up to them once they get the schedule where they want to play, it’s up to them to move their home games," was DeGregorio's response.

Of course, that doesn't quite answer the question from Western New York fans for two reasons. First, FNC is only hosting two regular season games for Canisius because HarborCenter won't be done until the end of October. Second, the two games are Niagara's home games which is the point of contention. In this inaugural year of HarborCenter, a Niagara-Canisius game would sellout in downtown Buffalo and draw potential new fans. Don't want to cut Niagara out of home games? Make sure that Canisius and Niagara play four times this season.

"We're certainly disappointed to not be playing Niagara in the HarborCenter," Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said. "It's something we hoped could have been worked out. Given the complexities of the Atlantic Hockey schedule and moving to 28 conference games, it was not possible. I do know the commissioner worked very hard and he just wasn't able to make it work.

"You're trying to work with 11 schools all of which have their own levels of priorities. Then you try to balance the east and the west split and travel partners. It's a complex mouse trap. ... Every school has one vote and therein lies the challenge. There are a number of things in our world we would decide differently, but we're one of 11. That's what happens with membership."

While scheduling is complicated, Atlantic Hockey is missing the opportunity to not only protect regional rivalries but enchance them, which in turn helps grow interest in the teams, the league and college hockey as a whole.

Apparently Canisius and Niagara are not consider local rivalries worthy of maintaining.

Neither is Canisius and RIT. Those two teams will also only play twice, both times at HarborCenter with no return games to RIT's brand new campus facility, the Polisseni Center.

This is terribly short-sighted of Atlantic Hockey.

Regional rivalries drive college sports and while fans in Western New York may not yet embrace Atlantic Hockey, they do understand Canisius-Niagara which has a 100-plus year tradition. RIT is new on the scene and Division III in all sports with the exception of the elevated hockey program. But already it hasn't taken long for Buffalo and Lewiston to develop rivalries with Rochester.

Atlantic Hockey did preserve the integrity Niagara-RIT rivalry which will be a pair of home-and-home weekends. But the rivalry has to go deeper than superficial one always pointed out by higher ups. Yes, Niagara coach Dave Burkholder was an All-American goalie for RIT in the 1980s. But that was before the current roster of playres was born (sorry Burkie). RIT may hold on to that memory, but without a long tradition against the Tigers, it merely registers as an interesting footnote at Niagara.

There are better reasons to enchance the rivalries and one of them is to create games which showcase three of the strong programs in the league pitted against each other.

So let's look at the three Western New York programs:

Niagara entered Atlantic Hockey after College Hockey America folded. It has four NCAA appearances on its resume including the first (and currently only) at-large bid to the NCAA tournament from Atlantic Hockey, which came in 2013.

RIT has a history of national success at the Division III level before elevating to Division I in 2006. The Tigers are the only Atlantic Hockey team with a Frozen Four appearance. That came in 2010. RIT will begin play in the brand-spanking new Pollisseni Center this year -- a $38-million facility which will seat about 4,000, perfect for its very enthusiastic fan base which also travels well, especially to regional games. 

Canisius made its first NCAA tournament last year and again made it to the conference championship game. Their success and clear investment in hockey helped land the deal with the Buffalo Sabres to move the Golden Griffins into the new HarborCenter, an 1,800-seat state-of-the-art rink attached to First Niagara Center and an NHL-quality facility.

There are good things happening with programs within Atlantic Hockey. But the league's strategy to grow the league seems to go along the lines of, "Hey look! We have some good teams, players and coaches. You really should come see us." Marketing doesn't work that way. And the work the individual schools are doing to enhance their programs needs better support at the league level.

Which is where the schedule comes into play.

A strong trio in Western New York helps strengthen the entire league, which among the 59 Division I teams has the nine worst average attendance figures. Scheduling Canisius, Niagara and RIT to play each other four times during the regular season, particularly in a year where two of them are opening brand-spanking-new facilities, is an opportunity to draw in, and possibly retain, new fans. It's an opportunity to showcase the best of what's going on in the league. It's an opportunity to increase exposure for the individual teams and for the league.

But all it turned out to be was another opportunity wasted.

Niagara releases hockey schedule

by Amy Moritz

It's an interesting schedule for the Niagara hockey team.

The Atlantic Hockey season is capped with home-and-home series against the defending champion while its local rivalry has been cut in half. And the six non-conference games are pretty challenging as the Purple Eagles released their 2014-15 hockey schedule late Tuesday afternoon.

Niagara opens the season at Dwyer Arena Oct. 10-11 with two games against ECAC teams. Clarkson comes to Monteagle RIdge on Oct. 10 with St. Lawrence visiting Oct. 11.

Niagara then kicks off Atlantic Hockey play against defending champion Robert Morris, traveling to Moon Township on Oct. 17 and returning to Dwyer on Oct. 18. They close out the regular season against the Colonials, the team which defeated Niagara in overtime in the conference semifinals last season, playing at Dwyer on Feb. 27 and in Moon Township on Feb. 28.

Along with the ECAC openers, Niagara's non-conference schedule includes two-game road series at Notre Dame (Oct. 24-25) and at North Dakota (Jan. 16-17).

Now for the mixed news for Western New York college hockey fans.

Niagara will meet RIT four times, with home-and-home series. They meet Dec. 12 and Feb. 7 at the new Polisseni Center on the RIT campus and Dec. 13 and Feb. 6 at Dwyer Arena.

But the annual Western New York grudge match on ice will be a disappointing two games this year, both at Dwyer Arena. Niagara hosts Canisius on Thursday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 24.

With Atlantic Hockey membership dropping to 11 teams this season, the league went to a new scheduling format -- play four teams four times then play the other six only twice.

The conference apparently decided that Niagara-RIT was a protected rivalry and not Niagara-Canisius. It also means one of the most interesting matchups in the league will not get a showcase in the Golden Griffins' new home at HarborCenter.

Niagara's complete hockey schedule:

Oct. 10 -- Clarkson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 -- St. Lawrence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 -- at Robert Morris, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 -- Robert Morris, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 -- at Notre Dame, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 -- at Notre Dame, 7 p.m
Oct. 31 -- AIC, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 -- AIC, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 -- at Bentley, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 8 -- at Bentley, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 21 -- Army, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 22 -- Army, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5 -- Holy Cross, 7 p.m.
Dec. 6 -- Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 12 -- at RIT, 7 p.m.
Dec. 13 -- RIT, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 2 -- at Sacred Heart, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 3 -- at Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
Jan. 9 -- at Air Force, 9 p.m.
Jan. 10 -- at Air Force, 9 p.m.
Jan. 16 -- at North Dakota, 8 p.m.
Jan. 17 -- at North Dakota, 8 p.m.
Jan. 22 -- Canisius, 7 p.m.
Jan. 24 -- Canisius, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 30 -- at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 -- at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6 -- RIT, 7 p.m.
Feb. 7 -- at RIT, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 13 -- at Mercyhurst, 7 p.m.
Feb. 14 -- at Mercyhurst, 7 p.m.
Feb. 20 -- Air Force, 7 p.m.
Feb. 21 -- Air Force, 7 p.m.
Feb. 27 -- Robert Morris, 7 p.m.
Feb. 28 -- at Robert Morris, 7 p.m.

 

News and notes from WNY college hockey

by Amy Moritz

Time for some college hockey news and notes to get you through a post-holiday work week:

Development Camp Update

NHL development camps are underway (or soon to be) and Niagara and Canisius already have some players getting the advantage that comes with a week training with an NHL organization. Niagara freshman Vince Muto is at the Montreal Canadiens development camp this week while James Mazza, a 2015 verbal commitment to Canisius, is at the New York Islanders development camp.

Student-Athletes of the Year

To be a Student-Athlete of the Year in Atlantic Hockey, players must havae a 4.0 grade point average. This year, the league announced 10 winners, including two each from Canisius and Niagara. Golden Griffin sophomore Stephen Miller earned his second-straight honor along with senior Ryan Bohrer. For Niagara, graduate student Kevin Ryan (Eden) and freshman Kevin Patterson earned the nod.

All-Academic Teams

The league also announced all-academic teams, for players who post a 3.0 grade point average.

Canisius had a program record 23 players earn all-academic status with 15 of those returning honorees. The list includes: Bohrer, senior Tony Capobianco, freshman Shane Conacher, sophomore Ralph Cuddemi, senior Ben Danford, sophomore Stephen Farrell, freshman Geoff Fortman, junior Cody Freeman, senior Kyle Gibbons, junior Matthew Grazen (East Amherst), sophomore Adam Harris, freshman Jack Hidi, junior Doug Jessey, freshman Josh Kielich (Orchard Park, junior Carl Larsson, senior Taylor Law, junior Mitch McCrank, Miller, junior Braeden Rigney, junior Logan Roe, sophomore Chris Rumble, senior Patrick Sullivan (Derby) and junior Tyler Wiseman.

Niagara placed 11 players on the all-academic team with seven retuners: freshman Tyler Akeson, junior Michael Benedict (Eden), sophomore Matt Chiarantano, sophomore Matt Dineen, sophomore Dan Kolenda, freshman Phil Nasca, Patterson, sophomore Christopher Paulin (Lockport), senior Ryan Rashid, Ryan and senior Matthew Williams.

NOCO donates to Canisius

In case you missed it earlier, NOCO donated $25,000 to the Canisius Locker Room Fund to help finance the Griffs new home at HarborCenter. The Griffs are scheduled to move in to the building at the end of October.

Walsh named intern assist coach

Tyler Walsh, who spent last season as the director of hockey operations for Canisius, was named the intern assistant coach for the U.S. National Under-17 Team, part of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

While with the Griffs, Walsh was responsible for the video coordination and travel while assisting with scouting reports.

A graduate of Maine, Walsh is the son of Shawn Walsh, former head coach for the Black Bears (1984-2001) while his grandfather, Ron Mason, was recently inducted into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame for his coaching career with Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State.

Canisius hockey locker room gets lift from NOCO

by Amy Moritz

The Canisius College hockey locker room just got a little boost.

NOCO announced a $25,000 donation to the Locker Room Project for the Golden Griffins new home at HarborCenter. The Griffs are scheduled to open in the new building at the end of October.

"NOCO is honored to collaborate with both Canisius College and HarborCenter in establishing a first-rate hockey facility for players and fans alike," Michael Newman, executive vice president of NOCO said in a release. "We are excited about the ongoing development throughout the City of Buffalo and by contributing to the Canisius Locker Room Project we are not only supporting the college but also contributing to the revitalization of downtown Buffalo and the Canalside District."

The Griffs move into HarborCenter may be delayed a few weeks as construction finishes up, although the school said it already has a contingency plan with the Buffalo Sabres which would put games in First Niagara Center until the 1,800-seat HarborCenter arena opens at the end of October.

In the official release, coach Dave Smith echoed continuing gratitude for community support in growing college hockey in Western New York.

"We are thrilled with the commitment that NOCO has shown the Canisius hockey program,” Smith said. “Its contribution will go long a way in establishing the HarborCenter as one of the unique facilities in hockey and making our locker room state-of-the-art. We are excited to have NOCO be a part of this project and supporting Canisius hockey as we look to continue to elevate our program."

Both Canisius and Niagara are expected to release their schedules sometime in the next two weeks.

UB alum Khalil Mack guest writes Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback

By Keith McShea

As you can see by the tweet above, University at Buffalo graduate Khalil Mack stepped in for the vacationing Peter King on this week's Monday Morning Quarterback column

Some short excerpts: 

  • "Although it wasn’t a powerhouse program, I loved my time at Buffalo."
  • "The NFL is a business. We know that as players, but the experience that hammered that home for me the most was the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. ... The demands and rewards of the business are tied together and it is amazing to see how many people are behind the scenes working every day to help connect us with our fans."

Mack even does his own version of King's "10 things I think I think," which included: 

"7. I think my first impression of Oakland was, “Wow, the weather out here is nice.” It’s a lot different from where I was in Buffalo."

Some of the best stuff in the entire article is the other entries in "10 things," including the first four, which focus on how he is adapting his game to the NFL with the help of Oakland veterans. 

"But I have to be careful what I say for my opponents who might read this."

Some links to News features on Mack:

UB men's basketball to play games at Kentucky, Wisconsin

Alumni Arena
UB's nonconference schedule includes a Big 4 home game against Niagara in Alumni Arena. (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

By Taylor Nigrelli

The University at Buffalo’s men’s basketball nonconference schedule will include two games against teams who were in the Final Four last year as well as a marquee Big 4 matchup downtown, the school announced today.

The Bulls will take on 2013-14’s national runner-up, Kentucky, on Nov. 16 as part of the Cawood Ledford Classic, a 10-day, multiple-team event.

UB will also travel to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, who lost to Kentucky in a Final Four matchup in April, on Dec. 28.

According to second-year coach Bobby Hurley, the program was looking for a more challenging non-conference slate after winning its first-ever outright Mid-American Conference East Division title in 2013-14.

"We wanted to challenge ourselves in the non-conference season and we certainly accomplished that," Hurley said in a statement. "These are the types of games that the guys we are recruiting expect to play each year as we move forward.”

For the second year in a row, the First Niagara Center will play host to UB and Canisius as the two will face off Nov. 29.

The Bulls will also take on Big Four rivals St. Bonaventure and Niagara University Dec. 3 and Dec. 19, respectively. UB will host the Purple Eagles and travel to take on the Bonnies.

UB will open the season Nov. 14 with a women’s and men’s doubleheader against South Dakota State as a make up for last year’s weather-related postponement.

The Cawood Ledford Classic includes road games for the Bulls against Texas-Arlington (Nov. 18) and Grand Canyon (Nov. 25) as well as a home game against Montana State (Nov. 21).

Other non-conference opponents include: Robert Morris (Dec. 7), Drexel (Dec. 16), Binghamton (Dec. 30) and Cornell (Jan. 3).

The Bulls will also host an exhibition against Wheeling Jesuit Nov. 6. The Mid-American Conference schedule is set to be released later this summer. Season tickets for Alumni Arena will go on sale July 21.

Here is a look at the Bulls' 2014-15 nonconference slate:

Continue reading "UB men's basketball to play games at Kentucky, Wisconsin" »

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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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