April 14, 2005
Canisius Hires Smith

By James Jahnke

Canisius introduced Dave Smith as its new head coach at a news conference late Friday afternoon. The 36-year-old had been an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Mercyhurst, Atlantic Hockey’s version of the Cradle of Coaches, the past three years and also spent time on the staffs at Bowling Green and Miami.

At Canisius, Smith walks into the still-smoldering aftermath of the Golden Griffins’ tumultuous 2004-05 season, during which longtime head coach Brian Cavanaugh was fired for “irreconcilable differences” with the players in December and athletic director Tim Dillon resigned a couple of months later in the midst of an investigation into the hockey team’s rabble-rousing trip to North Dakota.

Smith will have to deal with the fallout of those incidents — and, to a lesser extent, rumors that Canisius might be interested in moving into College Hockey America — during his first year on the job, but he will inherit a talented roster that is capable of challenging for a league title.

“This is a very exciting moment for me as a coach and for my family,” Smith, a native of Arthur, Ontario, said in a statement released by the school. “We look forward to becoming a part of the Canisius College community and the city of Buffalo. I am excited to continue the strong tradition of Golden Griffin hockey and the challenge of taking the program to the next level.”

Canisius finished 16-15-4 overall and 14-7-3 in Atlantic Hockey last season, good enough to tie for second place with, coincidentally, Mercyhurst. But the Golden Griffins were upset by Bentley in the first round of the conference playoffs, while the Lakers won the tournament and nearly toppled No. 1 seed Boston College in the NCAA Tournament.

Smith, who ranks 14th on Ohio State’s all-time points list with 140, takes over at Canisius from interim coaches Clancy Seymour and Stephen Fabiilli, who have run the program since Cavanaugh’s dismissal. It is unclear whether Smith intends to retain Seymour or Fabiilli on his staff.

Also unclear is who will fill Smith’s spot at Mercyhurst. However, Lakers head coach Rick Gotkin has had practice plugging such holes. In the last several years, he’s lost Seth Appert (to Denver), Greg Klym (to Union) and Mike Sisti (to the Lakers’ women’s team).

“It’s always a little bittersweet when something like this happens,” Gotkin said. “But Dave is an awesome guy, and he’s very much ready for this. He’s been a huge part of any success we’ve had at Mercyhurst in the last few years. His fingerprints are all over this program. He will be missed.”

Gotkin said he had already gotten about 20 inquiries about the assistant job as of Friday afternoon, but he’s in no hurry to make a hire.

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