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Atlantic Hockey Championship: Preview

by Amy Moritz

For the second-straight year Canisius finds itself in the Atlantic Hockey Championship game and this season they did it in dramatic, dare we say epic, fashion. Here's what you need to know for tonight's final against Robert Morris.

Game time: 7:05 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

Tickets: Blue Cross Arena Box Office. Adults $16; Children (6-12) $6.75; Students $12.

About Robert Morris: The Colonials advanced to their first title game with a 5-4 overtime win over Niagara. They are speedy with offensive skill (particularly Cody Wydo) but the X-Factor has been freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk. Sophomore starter Terry Shafer left in the middle of the Colonials'' first-round Game 3 against Army. (The guess is an injury although Robert Morris hasn't said much about it.) Izyk came in and has been fantastic, going 4-0-0 in the playoffs. He has giving up just six goals over 141 shots with a 1.55 goals against average and a .957 save percentage. Note that four of those six goals came against Niagara on Friday night.

Regular season series: Robert Morris won the two games in Pittsburgh while Canisius won the game at Buffalo State. On Nov. 8, the Colonials took a 6-1 win over the Griffs in Pittsburgh. The teams then split a home-and-home in late February. Robert Morris won 4-1 and Canisius won 6-3.

Overtime with the Griffs: With their 5-4 double-overtime win against Mercyhurst in the semifinals, the Griffs have played three overtime games in this playoff run including a pair of double-overtime games. Last night's semifinal of 93 minutes, 30 seconds was the longest in Canisius program history.

Capobinaco with the save: Senior Tony Capobianco made 58 saves for the Griffs setting a playoff record for most saves in a playoff game. He withstood a Mercyhurst attack which threw 16 shots at him in the first overtime.

Ralph Cuddemi vs. Mercyhurst: With two goals against the Lakers last night, Cuddemi has scored four goals against Mercyhurst in two playoff games. What is it about playing the Lakers? "I guess I must not like the color green or something like that," the sophomore forward said. "I mean I wish I could play them every night but that’s not the way it works."

Highlights from the Griffs' semifinal win:

Live blog at 7 p.m.: Canisius vs. Robert Morris Atlantic Hockey championship

Season ends in semis for Niagara

by Amy Moritz

ROCHESTER -- For the third straight year, Niagara advanced to the Atlantic Hockey Final Four in Rochester.

For the third straight year, the Purple Eagles are headed home after the semifinals.

Niagara rallied late in the third period to force overtime but dropped a 5-4 decision to Robert Morris Friday at Blue Cross Arena.

Robert Morris had taken a 4-2 lead but a shot went off Patrick Divjak’s skate with 3:03 left in regulation then 47 seconds later Hugo Turcotte scored his second of the game.

The teams traded chances in overtime until Scott Jacklin put the puck past Jackson Teichroeb at 14:56 to give Robert Morris the win.

The loss ends Niagara’s season with a 15-20-5 season.

“The adversity was stacked up against us but our motto was you have to let your desire be stronger than any excuses you can have,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said. “I thought that won out for us for the most part. … Hindsight it’s a big deal to get here. As much as I hate saying goodbye to the seniors, they’ve left the program in a better spot than when they came in. There’s a lot of young kids who gained experience and that will make us better next year."

Robert Morris will meet Canisius in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday in Blue Cross Arena.

Live blog: Atlantic Hockey semifinals Niagara vs. Robert Morris, 7:30 p.m.

Duke Lost??

By Bob DiCesare

Sometimes the participants are the last to know.

UConn seniors Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey were fielding questions from the riser Friday afternoon when they were asked to comment on the uncertain nature of the NCAA Tournament, what with Louisville barely escaping and Duke getting beat. It went like this:

Giffey: Duke lost?
Napier Duke lost?
Moderator Paul Vecchio: Duke lost, yeah, to Mercer.
Napier: Oh, wow!
Vecchio: I like your focus. You haven't been paying attention.
Giffey: No, I haven't.
Napier: Wow! That's just how the tournament is. Just on any given day, Duke can lose. Louisville could have lost. Who did they play? Mercer?
Vecchio: Mercer.
Napier: That's a good team.

Villanova will need more accurate long-distance dialups to keep playing

283324 Villanova Milwauk#18
By John Vogl

Villanova and Connecticut took different roads to their pending matchup in the NCAA Tournament. UConn advanced with its three-point shooting. Villanova moved on despite it.

UConn earned an 89-81 overtime victory against Saint Joseph's on the strength of its 11-for-24 showing from beyond the arc. The Huskies' accuracy allowed them to stay close after Saint Joseph's came out firing.

Villanova, meanwhile, was just 4 for 23 from three-point land and missed its first 16 attempts. It resulted in a scare for the second-seeded Wildcats, who eventually pulled away for a 73-53 win over Milwaukee.

Villanova will need to shoot much better to drop the Huskies on Saturday in the third round of their East Regional.

"We've had some games like this," coach Jay Wright said today in First Niagara Center. "I think it's like baseball. If you're a .300 hitter, the numbers are going to play out and you're going to make shots.

"I know these guys are good shooters. After it's over and you win, I like it better because you get the confidence that we can win when we're not making shots."

Villanova (29-4) had a shooting percentage of .365 on three-pointers entering the tournament, but it was slowed by James Bell's 0-for-8 showing Thursday. He was 81 of 211 (38.4 percent) during the season.

"As a shooter, you're going to have good nights, and you're going to have bad nights," Bell said. "It's not about making the shots. It's about taking the right ones and recognizing you're open."

Jay Wright's first NCAA trip to Buffalo: 'We got hammered after the game'

 

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Jay Wright, coach from Villanova, says he loves Buffalo. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)


By Tim Graham

Hey, Buffalo. Meet your new favorite college basketball coach.

He's Jay Wright from Villanova, and he loves your town.

Wright this afternoon reminisced about his first time in Buffalo, where his 14th-seeded Hofstra squad faced third-seeded Oklahoma State in the 2000 NCAA tournament.

"We got hammered," Wright said. "We were happy to be here. We got hammered, and we got hammered after the game.

"We were so happy to be here."

Hofstra returned to the NCAA tournament again in 2001, helping Wright get the Villanova job that spring.

Villanova has gone to the tourney nine of the past 10 years, but Buffalo will always hold a special place in Wright's heart.

"My wife and I were riding over on the bus yesterday, and it was the exact same snowy, lake-effect day," Wright said. "It was St. Patrick's Day. We got hammered in this building by Oklahoma State. ... I heard Doug Gottlieb talking on TV yesterday about somebody's shooting. He couldn't make a foul shot in that game.

"We had Speedy Claxton at Hofstra. He was a great guard. They were big and physical. They had a two guard [Norm Richardson] who went to the NBA. He came off a ball screen early and ran over to me at the bench and his finger was [dislocated]. I was, like, 'Oh, we're dead now.' They re-set it, but they hammered us.

"I think Bobby Knight played his last game with Indiana here, too, that same night. It was amazing."

If UConn's Calhoun steps back into coaching, he can expect a resume from Napier

By John Vogl

During a conversation with Jim Calhoun the other day, the Connecticut coaching legend made it sound like he was ready to come back to the sidelines after two seasons away. Today, ESPN linked him to the opening at Boston College.

The Huskies wouldn't be surprised if Calhoun left his job as a university special assistant to return to coaching.

"He has so much to give," UConn guard Shabazz Napier said in First Niagara Center. "If he feels like he wants to get back in coaching, then so be it. If he does, wherever he goes, I'm going to be a fan of that team.

"Hopefully, when I'm done with my career, he'll give me a job."

Calhoun has a history of putting friends in high places. He hired Kevin Ollie as an assistant, and his former player is now the Huskies' coach. Ollie could see himself challenging his mentor for victories.

"If that's what he wants to do, I'm going to be supporting him," said Ollie, who playfully suggested Calhoun doesn't really want to come back. "I know he's enjoying his vacations he's taking in January playing golf. I don't know if he wants to pass up on those.

"But if he wants to get back in the game, more power to him. He earns that right. He earns that respect."

Ennis reunites with CIA Bounce alum Pierre

By Rodney McKissic

It will be a reunion of sorts for Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis and Dayton sophomore forward Dyshawn Pierre, who were teammates with the Canadian-based AAU program CIA Bounce.

Both are coming off strong performances in their second round matchups on Thursday. In his first NCAA Tournament game, Ennis helped the Orange easily dispatch Western Michigan, 77-53, with 16 points and six assists.

In the Flyers 60-59 upset over Ohio State, Dayton trailed 57-55 when Pierre was fouled on a three-point attempt with 26 seconds left and calmly canned all three free throws. That proved to be the difference after each team exchanged baskets, including Vee Stanford’s winner.

“Dyshawn is one of those players where you have to watch him a couple of games to really appreciate how good he is,” Ennis said. “I’ve watched him go up against nearly everybody in that class and really go at them. He’s really an underrated player and one of their keys.”

Ennis played one summer with Pierre on Bounce, the program run by Tony McIntyre, Ennis’ father. He starred at Anderson Collegiate Vocational Institute in Whitby, Ont., where he registered over 3,500 points and nearly 1,800 rebounds.

“At first you look at him and his game is a little awkward but as you keep watching him you can see his mid-range game and finishing around the basket,” Ennis said. “Offensively, he has the full package but he does a great job.”

Ennis spoke with Pierre briefly today about Bounce alums still the NCAAs and making noise throughout college basketball. That includes Ennis’ brother, Dylan, from Villanova, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Iowa State’s and Melvin Ejim and Naz Long.

“It will be a great day for Canada basketball to have two players on this level contributing and going at each other,” Ennis said. “It’s a big step for us to have this many players and having so many contributors not only playing on these teams but contributing throughout the country.”

While Dayton has been winning its close games, Syracuse has struggled

By Tim Graham

Sometimes, a team needs to learn how to win the close ones.

The Dayton Flyers have done that this season. In games decided by a single-digit margin, the Flyers have won six of their past seven, including Thursday's heart-stopping 60-59 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in First Niagara Center.

The Flyers likely need to keep it close if they want to score another upset. They'll play the Syracuse Orange downtown at 7:10 p.m. Saturday.

"You know, it's funny," Dayton forward Devin Oliver said this afternoon. "Last year, we lost about eight or nine games ... by, like, a total of 10 points or something crazy like that.

"So we went through it last year. We just happened to come out on the losing end of it."

Dayton was in six games decided by one or two points last season and lost all of them, once in overtime.

This season, Dayton went 2-2 in games decided by one point or two points, 1-1 in overtime (both games by three points) and 10-7 in games decided by single digits.

But the Flyers have been clutch since February. In the span of seven games -- all against Atlantic 10 opponents -- they won five by seven points or fewer. Their only single-digit loss in over two months was to the St. Joe's Hawks in the conference championship game.

Dayton guard Vee Sanford banked in a runner from 5 feet away with 3.8 seconds left to beat Ohio State on Thursday.

"It was a very big shot personally, but I'm kind of just getting that out of the way," Sanford said. "I want to focus on tomorrow. That's the main thing.

"It was a good win, but now it's Syracuse we've got to focus on."

Syracuse went 12-4 this season in games decided by a single-digit margin, but it lost four of its past five, a turbulent stretch that dates back to Feb. 19.

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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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