January 13, 2005
Ignoring Distractions at Canisius

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Bryan Worosz and Canisius are atop Atlantic Hockey.

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No one would blame the Canisius Golden Griffins if they were a little distracted by the recent firing of longtime head coach Brian Cavanaugh – even though they reportedly forced the issue with the threat of a mutiny.

But, thus far, the Griffs haven’t missed a beat.

Canisius was in first place in Atlantic Hockey when Cavanaugh was fired for “irreconcilable differences” with the team in early December, and that’s where the Griffs continue to perch today. They have gone 1-0-2 in league games under interim co-coaches Clancy Seymour and Stephen Fabiilli, and last Saturday, they thumped crosstown rival Niagara, 5-2, on the Purple Eagles’ home ice. Seymour says the success stems from blocking out the off-ice distractions.

“The situation was tumultuous, but it’s my job to try to continue to have the team focus on detail,” Seymour said. “It would be my mistake if I allowed us to pay attention to the extraneous stuff outside the locker room.”

Seymour and Fabiilli, both of whom played and coached under Cavanaugh, will finish out the season as interim coaches. It’s not known whether either of them will be a candidate when athletic director Tim Dillon fills the full-time job this spring. Seymour, who is a lead bench coach for the first time in his career, said he doesn’t view these next few months as an audition for the head coaching position. He’s just concentrating on doing what he can for “the boys.”

“I’m a role model for these guys, so I’ve got to tune everything out and show them I’m focused,” Seymour said. “If we all concentrate on the task at hand, things will take care of themselves.”

What’s immediately at hand for Canisius is a crucial five-day stretch for a squad nursing a one-point lead over Holy Cross in the standings. After American International stops by the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Friday, the Crusaders visit Saturday for a 1 vs. 2 showdown. Then it’s off to Erie on Tuesday for a tussle against third-place and ever-dangerous Mercyhurst. Four or five points out of those games would continue a successful season that not many saw coming – with or without coaching turmoil.

“What people on the outside might not see is that we’re all unified and working toward a common goal,” sophomore winger Billy Irish-Baker said. “We’re serious about winning and we want to work hard to do that.

“Sometimes, it’s tough to block stuff from the outside out, but we’re all here to play hockey. The fact that we’re all together makes everything easier to deal with than if we were alone. We can talk through stuff if we need to and work things out that way.”


Remembering Hofacre – Robert Morris hockey lost a friend Saturday when athletic director Susan Hofacre died after a short battle with cancer. She was 54. Hofacre was the driving force behind the creation of the Colonials’ Division I program, which is in its maiden season. She attended every hockey home game during the first semester, and reportedly beamed with pride that RMU was the first school in Pittsburgh to upgrade to DI in the sport.

“It’s a big loss for Robert Morris and for the CHA as a whole, because she was a very smart woman,” said Colonials head coach Derek Schooley, who was hired by Hofacre. “It’s a tough time for our athletic department right now. You don’t replace someone like that overnight.

“I remember calling her at 10 p.m. after we beat Canisius and telling her we won (our first game in history). I’ll always remember her for giving me my first head coaching job. She was the one who believed in me, and she gave me space to run the program and the space needed to succeed and fail.”

Hofacre, who came to RMU in 1989 and became AD in 2000, also is credited with developing the new track and field at the school’s Island Sports Center, the current construction of a football stadium and athletic administration building, and adding six new Division I sports in addition to men’s hockey. Don Smith is serving as RMU’s interim AD.

Center of attention – There’s still uncertainty as to whether, on the whole, the NHL lockout has been good for the college game. But there’s no doubt that on Feb. 12, Atlantic Hockey will be glad the pros aren’t playing. The league office has put together a doubleheader for that day to be played in Boston’s FleetCenter, home of the locked-out Bruins. Holy Cross will take on Quinnipiac in the first game, followed by Bentley against Connecticut. The event was the brainchild of AHA commissioner Bob DeGregorio, and he had no trouble convincing the four New England schools to take part.

“Growing up as a Bruins fan, it will be really nice,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “It’s not the Garden, but it’s the next best thing.”

To make the doubleheader work, a few of the programs have to reschedule games already planned for Feb. 12. Quinnipiac’s scheduled contest at AIC is expected to be moved to a Tuesday around the same time. Holy Cross will move its home game against Sacred Heart to Feb. 18, and the Pioneers will switch their home game against AIC to Feb. 12. Holy Cross’ game against Quinnipiac that originally was scheduled for Jan. 21 will now be at the FleetCenter, as will the Bentley vs. UConn game originally slated for Storrs. Tickets to the FleetCenter event are $10 for the public and $5 for students at the four schools.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Army at Air Force (Fri.-Sat.)
If it’s good enough to be CSTV’s game of the week, it’s good enough for us. For all you fans of physical hockey, make sure to tune into Friday’s TV broadcast, because whenever these service academies collide, the hitting is ferocious. Aside from that, two solid goaltenders, Air Force’s Peter Foster and Army’s newly recovered Brad Roberts, will be on display and ready to feast on two struggling offenses. It’s tough to predict rivalry games, but don’t expect to need two hands to count goals this weekend.

While You're There: Hmmmmm ... what to do in Colorado during the winter. All those mountains. All that snow. What to do, what to do. I give up.

Stick Salute

Good stuff all around at Niagara this week. Not only was Dwyer Arena sold out in advance for the Canisius game – the first time the Purple Eagles ever have sold out a game in advance – but the team also registered its highest cumulative grade-point average (3.25) in the nine-year history of the program. Freshmen Cliff Ketchen and Scott Mollison even constructed perfect 4.0s during the fall. Lousy, overachieving freshmen.

Bench Minor

Too bad that the first shutout in Robert Morris history won’t go into the record books as a win. That’s kind of like pitching a no-hitter and losing (Hello, Ken Johnson). But at least the scoreless tie with Mercyhurst was a better Colonial showing than the first time the Keystone State rivals met, an 8-2 Lakers win back in October.

• There seems to be credence to this Air Force-to-Atlantic Hockey rumor. Mike Saks, a senior associate athletic director at the academy, confirmed that AHA officials will make a campus visit in the near future. “We’re going through the process right now,” Saks said. No further timetable is known.

• INCH has learned that Atlantic Hockey members will play 28 league games next season, when the conference enrollment drops from nine to eight with Quinnipiac leaving for the ECACHL. Each league team will play every other league team four times. Currently, the nine AHA teams play each other three times each, providing for 24 conference games.

• Because the extra league games will cut into non-conference opportunities, intrastate rivals Quinnipiac and Connecticut will not play next season. That means that this year’s winner of the Heroes Hat traveling trophy will keep it for at least two seasons. The clubs meet in a home-and-home series this weekend, followed by a single game March 3 in Storrs. The team will the best record in the three-game series earns the Hat.

Bemidji State’s Andrew Murray, the only NHL draft pick in College Hockey America, became Bemidji State’s career Division I scoring leader with three points last weekend. The Columbus Blue Jackets property now has 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists), surpassing Marty Goulet’s 100. Murray has been the hottest player in the league of late, riding a nine-game points streak during which he has nine goals and 10 assists.

Canisius’ win over Niagara kept Atlantic Hockey from being shut out in the inaugural Commissioners’ Cup series – which pits the six DI conferences against each other – but it won’t be enough to escape last place. The AHA finished 1-6-0. The CHA, on the other hand, is tied for third place at 3-3-0 - even with the CCHA and two points ahead of the all-powerful WCHA. Raise your hand if you predicted that at the beginning of the year. The CHA has one Cup game remaining, Wayne State at Nebraska-Omaha on Jan. 29, as does the WCHA. The CCHA has two.

• At about $10 for a ticket into Tate Rink, fans attending last weekend’s Army vs. Connecticut series paid a hefty Alex Hamilton per goal scored. But take heart, bargain hunters, each save made cost just 18 cents. The pair of 1-0 games – one going for each team – didn’t give the goal judges much thumb exercise, but they were welcomed by the participating goalies – Army’s Treye Kettwick and Brad Roberts and UConn’s Scott Tomes. Saturday’s shutout victory was Roberts’ first action since injuring a knee in late October. He made 29 saves. Tomes, too, missed about a month early in the season with a knee injury. He stopped 54 shots during the weekend.

Air Force set a CHA record for fastest two goals to start a game when they took a 2-0 lead in just 38 seconds Friday at Bemidji State. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Bemidji pulled starting goalie Layne Sedevie after the second goal and replaced him with Matt Climie, who kept Air Force scoreless the rest of the way and led the Beavers to a 4-2 win. In Saturday’s rematch, Climie was in net again, and Air Force continued to be snakebitten. The Falcons took a 3-2 to lead into the final minute, but BSU’s Murray scored an extra-attacker goal to send the game into overtime, where, you guessed it, the Beavers won, 4-3, on a tally by Jean-Guy Gervais. All that prompted AFA head coach Frank Serratore, who fell to 0-12-1 all-time against Bemidji State to lament, “This is as painful as it gets. They stole this one from us. This is a very, very painful loss. Gut-wrenching.”

Robert Morris, which has added to its roster throughout the year, welcomed Nick Pernula into the fold during the break. Pernula played on the Tri-City Storm’s 2004 USHL Anderson Cup championship team with fellow Colonials Doug Conley, Jace Buzek and David Boguslawski. He most recently was playing for the Green Bay Gamblers.

• I’d say Rick Gotkin’s Mercyhurst Lakers deserve an extra helping of grub at their next pregame meal, considering five of their last seven games have gone into overtime. In those contests, Mercyhurst is 1-0-4. The most recent extra frame yielded a 0-0 tie with Robert Morris – the first scoreless tie in the Lakers’ 18-year history.

• Cool move by the American International skaters to meet with 60 local sixth-graders Monday and speak with them about leadership and goal setting. “If one more kid goes to college ... because of this, then we’ve done something great,” forward Jeff Valdes told The Republican.

(Now, just because I’m a jerk:) There was no word, however, about whether the kids gave the Yellow Jackets any goal-related advice. AIC is second-to-last in the nation in scoring (1.57 goals per game).

Air Force forward Mike Knaeble, who has been out since November with a broken leg, is listed as questionable for this weekend’s series against Army.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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