November 27, 2013 - 11:07 AM
By Bob DiCesare
Stand them side by side and there’s little similarity between the UB’s Branden Oliver and Bowling Green’s Travis Greene, the two workhorse running backs in the Black Friday showdown at The Ralph.
Oliver, a senior, goes 5-foot-8, 208 pounds and looks like he could win a head-on collision with a Dodge Ram. Greene, a sophomore, goes 5-10, 176 and looks like he should be playing wide receiver.
Size hasn’t mattered. Greene has carried 205 times for 1,293 yards and nine touchdowns this season and is within striking distance of the school single-season record for rushing yards. No other running back on the roster has carried more than 45 times, although the Falcons typically turn to 260-pound William Houston (11 TDs) in goal-line situations.
When did BG coach Dave Clawson, a Youngstown native and former Lew-Port quarterback, know he had something special in Greene?
November 27, 2013 - 8:29 AM
by Amy Moritz
Perhaps one of the things the Purple Eagles are thankful for is to be finished with their non-conference schedule. Because nothing seemed to go right for Niagara in those games.
Tuesday, the Purps closed out their non-conference slate with a 4-2 loss at No. 14 Cornell. That makes Niagara 0-7-0 in games outside Atlantic Hockey and 0-7-1 in road games.
But the real kicker came when Big Red freshman Mitch Gillam, making his first collegiate start, scored a goal with 8.6 seconds left to ice the game.
The good news: While Niagara dug itself a 2-0 hole, the team played well and battled back to tie the game, 2-2 in the second period.
The heartbreaker: After the Purps killed off a series of penalties, Cornell freshman Patrick McCarron faked his defender to the ice and tucked a perfect shot inside the left post with less than five seconds left in the second period.
The goal heard 'round Twitter: As Niagara pulled its goaltender to put six skaters on the ice, Matt Chartrain shot the puck into the Cornell zone. Gillam gloved the shot, dropped it to his stick and fired in the length of the ice. He became the eighth goalie in NCAA Division I history to be credited with a goal. The last goalie goal was by Kyle Richter of Harvard in 2008. Only two other goaltenders have actively shot the puck into the other team's net -- Mike Mantua (Western Michigan, 2002) and Chad Alban (Michigan State, 1998).
November 26, 2013 - 10:49 AM
By Bob DiCesare
Ohio coach Frank Solich is in his 15th season as a head coach, his ninth at Ohio. A Bobcats program that was in tatters before his arrival is bowl-eligible for a fifth straight season (although it's ending the regular season on the skids). Looking ahead to Friday's showdown at The Ralph, I asked him on this week's MAC coaches conference call what makes Bowling Green such a formidable defensive team. Here's what he had to say:
"The last two years we’ve played them they’ve been an excellent football team, maybe arguably the best in the MAC. i think a combination of things. I think they’ve got very good personnel and so when you have excellent personnel and you’re a football team that’s not prone to mistakes, not prone to breakdowns, you’re very gap oriented, your coverages, you don’t have breaks in them, and you’re playing with good players, then you’re tough to beat.
November 26, 2013 - 10:30 AM
November 26, 2013 - 8:40 AM
Hugo Turcotte has four goals and four assists for Niagara (purpleeagles.com)
by Amy Moritz
There have been two major stumbling blocks for the Niagara hockey team this season -- road games and non-conference opponents.
The Purple Eagles have struggled away from Dwyer Arena and with a difficult schedule. It doesn't get easier tonight as they play No. 14 Cornell at Lynah Rink tonight.
Here are the numbers:
- Niagara is 0-6-1 in road games and 0-6-0 against non-conference opponents.
- The last time Niagara had this bad a start was the 2009-10 season when they started 0-6-0 on the road and 0-7-2 against non-conference opponents.
- The Purps finished that 2009-10 season, the last of College Hockey America, 12-20-4. It was the last time the team had a losing season.
- Niagara has never beaten Cornell at Lynah Rink. The Big Red are 8-0 against the Purps at home.
- Cornell (6-3-1) has won three straight and its power play ranks first nationally at 30.61 percent (15 of 49).
But there is good news for the Purps. Despite the road weary record and non-conference woes, they are in second place in Atlantic Hockey. Their 3-2-1 conference record gives them seven points, one behind league-leading Army.
And Niagara returns to Atlantic Hockey for the rest of the season after tonight. They play at Connecticut on Dec. 6-7.
November 25, 2013 - 2:34 PM
By Bob DiCesare
UB senior Khalil Mack displayed his customary humility today in reacting to the announcement he's been named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award presented to college football's top linebacker.
Mack gave credit for him making the cut to his teammates and coaches while attending coach Jeff Quinn's weekly news conference at UB Stadium today. Mack has maintained all season that his success has been a product of those around him, especially Quinn and defensive coordinator Lou Tepper.
"It’s a blessing," Mack said. "It’s a tribute to coach Quinn, coach Tepper, all the coaches that have made it happen. I’m blessed. I can’t say anything other than I’m blessed. And thankful."
Mack is the only one of the five finalists who plays outside a BCS AQ conference. Also in contention for the award are Anthony Barr of UCLA, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Ryan Shazier of Ohio State and Shayne Skov of Stanford. Shazier, a junior, is the lone non-senior in the group.
The winner is scheduled to be announced on Dec. 10. The award panel consists of 81 coaches, scouts and journalists.
November 20, 2013 - 10:34 AM
Tony Capobianco got his first win of the season against RIT on Tuesday night. (GoGriffs.com)
by Amy Moritz
Tuesday night belonged to Kyle Gibbons and his 100-point milestone.
But don't lose sight of another key factor for Canisius -- its penalty killing unit.
Last year, the penalty kill was record-setting for the Golden Giffins as their 90.1 percent efficiency ranked as the 11th-best mark in NCAA history. This season, they stumbled, giving up a power play goal in each of their first seven games for just a 68.8 percent success rate.
But it started to turn around against Mercyhurst when Canisius killed off a five minute major at the end of the game to preserve a 4-3 win over the Lakers. And the unit has rolled since then, killing off the last 13 power play attempts for opponents. What's finally clicked?
"We had a great PK last year and I think for a moment there our guys, including the goalies, just forgot how hard it is to be a man down," said senior goaltender Tony Capobianco. "Just how hard you have to work to get in shot lanes, block shots and for the goalie to control your rebound and make it easier for the guys in front of you. Definitley being more aggressive has helped us."
Capobianco made some key saves in Tuesday's 5-2 win over RIT to end his 0-5-0 start to the season. It was a shaky start after he set program records last season in saves, save percentage, shutouts and wins.
"The first three or four games were kind of sloppy for my part," the senior said. "I definitely wasn't happy with my performances. I felt like I was letting the team down. Last weekend at Ohio State I felt like I gave the team a chance to win. I felt like I was getting my sharpness back."
"He's had to work at it," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "It's more fun when it just comes naturally, but he's worked really hard and I thought at the end of the game he was that confident Capo we saw last year."
November 20, 2013 - 9:20 AM
by Amy Moritz
In the back hallway at the Buffalo State Ice Arena, Kyle Gibbons emerged for his post-game interviews wearing a yellow hard hard. It's the traditional prize awarded in the Canisius dressing room to the team's player of the game. And Tuesday was most definitely Gibbons' night.
The senior scored twice in the third period to help pace the Golden Griffins to a come-from-behind 5-2 win over RIT. Add his assist on Ben Danford's power play goal in the first period and Gibbons had a three-point to reach the 100-point milestone. He had been sitting at 97 career points for the last four games.
But he's had longer scoring droughts. Just look to last season.
Gibbons did not record a point in his first nine games last season. He then came back to lead the country in scoring after Jan. 1 with 35 points. The valuable lesson, however, came not in the comeback, but in the struggle.
"There was a moment early in the year when he was playing some of his best hockey ever," Canisius coach Dave Smith said. "And I told him. And he followed it up with his worst hockey ever. Throughout that time he was not getting points but he was very valuable to our team. I think that's the mature Kyle. Even when he's not producing, he's capable of helping. But when he gets that fire and opportunity he can produce really well. That's a mature senior with high skill. It's fun to coach that."
Gibbons became the eighth player in the Griffs' Division I era to reach the 100-point mark. He is now tied for seventh place on the program's career scoring list with Michael Cohen (2003-07). His 47 career goals ranks fifth all-time.