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Utah's rise in football began with Meyer

Meyer ---Utah has finished unbeaten twice in the last six seasons, with two BCS bowl wins, making it an attractive school for membership into the Pac-10. Utes' rise into the Pac-10 all started when it hired Urban Meyer away from Bowling Green.

---Niagara's Ed McLaughlin will chair the NCAA hocket rules committee. As chair, McLaughlin will coordinate and run all committee meetings, conference calls and presentations to coaching associations, administrators and officiating groups.

---Turner Gill's recruiting touch has carried over to Kansas. And thanks in part to Gill, more minority coaches are getting shots at the big stage in college football. 

---It's hard out here for Bobby Gonzalez.

---Jake Locker's Heisman Trophy campaign hits the Big Apple.

---Canadian football prospects are making their way south. 

---A new AD at Maryland could mean higher expectations.

---A Big Ten title game? Not so fast my friend.

---Jeffrey Jordan, son of you know who, is transferring to UCF.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Could expansion jolt Siena, Albany?

---Potential expansion could trickle down to leagues like the MAAC and America East.

---Expansion could slow strip away the power of the NCAA.

---Bucky Gleason says local colleges are missing out on big time Division I hockey.

---Hershey could be the new sponsor for the Orange Bowl.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Atlantic Hockey semifinals: Canisius vs. RIT

ROCHESTER -- In about 30 minutes the first semifinal of the Atlantic Hockey championships will kick off at Blue Cross Arena. It's the first showing in the semifinals for Canisius (17-14-5) since 2004 while RIT (24-11-1) is the regular season title holder. The Tigers are on an eight-game winning streak, including two wins over Canisius at the end of February.

RIT defeated the Golden Griffins, 8-0, on Feb. 26 in Rochester. Canisius put up a better showing the next night in a 5-4 loss. 

Expect typical playoff hockey -- focus on goaltending and special teams.

Check back for updates here and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/amymoritz)

First period: It took the third power play for RIT to finally break through, taking a 1-0 lead when Tyler Brenner tipped a pick right through the legs of Canisius goalie Dan Morrison. Just 52 seconds later, Taylor McReynolds made it 2-0 when Morrison was complete screened. The Tigers dominated the opening period with an 18-6 advantage in shots on goal. But The Griffs will start the second period with 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play.

Second period: Another dominating performance by RIT and the Tigers extend their lead to 3-0. The goal came on 11 seconds into a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play for RIT as a perfect passing play set up Andrew Favot with an open net to the right of Morrison.

Third period: Another power play, another tipped puck in front of the net by Brenner with 5:59 left to play nailed the season shut on Canisius. The Tigers win, 4-0. The Griffs were able to get few quality scoring chances and lost the special teams battle. RIT advances to Saturday's championships game at 7 p.m. against the winner of the second semifinal between Air Force and Sacred Heart.

-- Amy Moritz

Niagara-Bemidji State semifinal

LEWISTON -- College Hockey America hosts its final conference tournament at Dwyer Arena this weekend with semifinal action already under way. In the first semifinal, Alabama-Huntsville defeated Robert Morris, 1-0, to earn a spot in Saturday's championship game.

Niagara face eighth-ranked Bemidji State in the second semifinal, set to start in about 10 minutes.

The last CHA tournament in Dwyer was 2008 when Niagara defeated Bemidji in the title game, 3-2.

Check back for updates throughout the game.

First period: With 33.4 seconds left in the period, Ryan Olidis scored to give Niagara a 2-1 lead at the first break. Chris Noonan is playing solid in goal for Niagara, making some solid saves on a smooth, moving Beavers' offense.

Second period: Bemidji tied the game, 2-2, on a sloppy play by goalie Chris Noonan, but a power play tally from Tyler Gotto and a short-handed goal by Bryan Haczyke gives Niagara a 4-2 advantage at the break.

Third period: It was a wild west goal fest but Niagara held on for a 5-4 win earning a spot in the CHA title game against Huntsville at 8 p.m. Saturday.

-- Amy Moritz
www.twitter.com/amymoritz

GI's Zarbo has a homecoming

Grand Island's Mark Zarbo is fighting for ice time with Rensselaer Polytechic Institute this season.

He had been a healthy scratch through the Engineers' first 11 hockey games until he finally got the call to play against Niagara on Wednesday night in an arena roughly 10 minutes away from his hometown.

Zarbo, who transfered to the Troy-based school from Bentley in Waltham, Mass. after the 2006-07 season, had no goals or assists in RPI's 4-1 loss to Niagara, but he wasn't on for any goals either. That's always a good thing when a player is trying to earn a regular lineup spot.

Zarbo, a 6-foot, 190-pounder, is the ultimate stay-at-home defenseman with three goals and 12 points in 67 career games … including two goals and five points for the Engineers.

"You can't let it get to you," said Zarbo, who played in 32 games with RPI last year. "You've just got to keep working. You just got to have fun. As long as you're having fun it never becomes a job or anything like that and eventually I'll get my chance.

"Obviously this was an opportunity I've been waiting for. It was awesome to be able to play in my (old) home rink. (Dwyer Arena) is actually the rink I grew up playing in so I was real excited for this game. ... It was fun, a lot of fun."

Other notes from Wednesday night's win in which Niagara experienced the thrill of victory for the first time in 11 starts:

-- A week ago freshmen Brent Vandenberg and Giancarlo Iuorio were among candidates auditioning in practice for ice time on NU's second power-play unit.

They had starring roles in the win as Niagara had three power-play goals on six chances after entering the game 4 for 37. They had the momentum-changing tallies late in the second period after RPI had tied the game at 1-1 earlier in the period and both goals were proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Vandenberg scored on the rebound after a pair of Iuorio shots were stopped, while Iuorio outmuscled a RPI defenseman 1:23 later to get his stick on a backdoor feed from Vandenberg for the not-so-easy looking tap-in goal.

-- In the search to find out when the last time Niagara junior goalie Adam Avramenko earned a win, The Buffalo News stumbled upon an inconsistency.

It appears Avramenko's last win before Wednesday came March 8, 2008 at Wayne State. That's according to archives at U.S. College Hockey Online (uscho.com), but the Niagara archives for that season credit Juliano Pagliero with that win in which both goalies played. The team's final stats for that season have Avramenko with five wins even though the archived box scores from the March 7, 2008 loss at Wayne had him with a 4-4 record. He had been 4-2 as of Jan. 11, 2008 win over Robert Morris.

So we're deducing that March 8, 2008 was the last time Avramenko earned a win before Wednesday's 19-save effort.

Regardless of how long he went in between wins, the Purple Eagles won't experience any success on the ice unless Avramenko plays with consistency. They have way too much talent up front and on defense to be 1-8-2 a week before Thanksgiving. That record speaks to a lack of consistent goaltending, which is why coach Dave Burkholder, a former goalie, has been tough on his junior netminder.

"I let him have it in the paper after one game. I let him have it in front of the team Saturday against Robert Morris. For him to respond like this ... he played great," Burkholder said. "Everything looked so easy for him (Wednesday night). ... This will help his confidence."

Burkholder has been known to be tough on goalies but also knows when to use a gentle approach to help their psyches.

"I skated by him quietly Monday … I didn't even tell (assistant coach) Greg (Gardner) this … and said, 'Hey buddy, look you're going Wednesday. Let's prepare well and have two good days.' I could just see in his face that it was like a relief I was coming back with him."

---Miguel Rodriguez

College programs feeling the pinch

After decades of steady growth in the number of teams and student-athletes, colleges and universities are slashing millions of dollars from their sports budgets. Colleges have dismissed athletic staff, reduced hours for pools and practice courts, and increased equipment and facility fees. Some have also cut the size of their travel squads, eliminated trips requiring air travel and done away with housing teams in hotels the night before home games, while others are eliminated entire programs.

None of the schools in the Big 4 are talking about cutting programs, but the college sports landscape could widen between the haves with television and sponsorship deals, and the have-nots that rely mostly on alumni and their universities for financing.

---Rodney McKissic

NCAA: Don't use Facebook to sway recruits

College sports fans: You can cheer and rant as loud as you like, but don't use social websites like Facebook and MySpace to woo recruits to your beloved school. According to the NCAA, that's a violation and an attempt to influence the college choice of a recruit.

So watch your back, the NCAA is watching.

---Rodney McKissic




College hockey showdown

LEWISTON -- Bring out the cliches about big games and do-or-die time. The two-game set between Niagara and Bemidji State which begins tonight (7 p.m.) and Friday (7 p.m.) will likely determine the regular season champ in College Hockey America.

Bemidji is in first with 19 points and Niagara trails by two, although the Purple Eagles have two games at hand over the Beavers.

On the Bemidji State roster is defenseman Chris Peluso, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2004. The 5-for-10 junior has 11 points in 26 games for the Beavers this year.

--- Amy Moritz

Niagara hockey jumps to Atlantic Hockey

It became official this week that Niagara men's hockey will move to Atlantic Hockey for the 2010-11 season. The move comes as Niagara's current conference, College Hockey America, dropped to just four teams with its automatic bid into the NCAA tournament surviving on a year-by-year NCAA approval basis.

For many, this signals that Niagara no longer takes hockey seriously since a move to Atlantic Hockey reduces the number of scholarships from 17 to 12. While taking away opportunities for student-athletes, it also could severely affect the ability of Niagara to be competitive on a national scale.

While the Purple Eagles have flirted with national rankings, they have become a nationally recongnizable program in college hockey circles and have secured at-large bids to the NCAA tourney.

The fear among many is that this move will wreck the national presence that the program has worked hard to build over the past decade of existence.

What does this mean for the future of Niagara hockey? Can they still remain nationally viable in a conference perceived as weak?

-- Amy Moritz 

Keeping it cool at RIT-Canisius

Last season, the RIT-Canisius hockey series got a bit nasty, what with one game featuring 251 penalty minutes between the two teams -- ranking third in NCAA history.

While intense and physical, tonight's game at Buffalo State Ice Arena has been relatively clean with no major penalties and just a few incidents of minor "jawing after the whistle."

At least, so far.

After two periods, RIT leads, 4-1.

--- Amy Moritz

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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


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 | rmckissic@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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