Leading the Griffins
Upon being named head coach at Canisius
in April, Dave Smith felt a great sense a relief.
“There are a lot of great assistants
who I know want to be head coaches,’’
said Smith, who spent the past seven years as an assistant
at Miami (Ohio), Bowling Green and Mercyhurst. “It
was like, ‘Holy cow, I’ve wanted this
for a long time,’ and also, ‘Holy cow,
there are a lot of other guys out there that also
wanted this and could do a great job also.’’’
Smith, 36, joins a select group of 59
NCAA Division I head coaches and is the lone rookie
mentor in the Atlantic Hockey Association. He won
his exhibition debut on Oct. 6 against Brock and won
his regular-season debut at Robert Morris, 6-4, on
Canisius has since lost to Niagara,
3-2, and dropped an exhibition to the USA National
Under-18 team, 5-2.
“It’s been a lot of fun,’’
said Smith, who scored 140 points in four seasons
with Ohio State and played five full seasons in the
American Hockey League and National Hockey League.
“The people here at the college have been very
supportive, from the administrators to other coaches.
It’s been a long-time goal to become a Division
I hockey coach and I am excited to do it here in Buffalo
Changing hats from assistant coach to
head coach has not been a difficult transition at
all, Smith said. That’s because his former bosses
– Mark Mazzoleni at Miami, Buddy Powers at Bowling
Green and Rick Gotkin at Mercyhurst – gave Smith
a lot of responsibility, especially the last three
seasons as Mercyhurst won two league championships
and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
“Whether it was running practice
or meetings or fund-raising or video exchange or team
travel, I was involved in all aspects of the program
there,’’ Smith said. “I would like
to think Rick had great confidence in me and we were
a great team together, and the success we had on the
ice was a by-product of the relationship that Rick
Gotkin and I had.
“Coming here, there haven’t
been any surprises yet, which is a nice feeling that
tells me that I was ready and prepared for this,’’
Mere weeks into the season, Smith said
the uncertainty of knowing what his team can and can’t
do is dissipating. He is not afraid to pick up the
phone and call mentors such as Gotkin and Mark Taylor
at Hobart College to sound out ideas. He would like
to get out on the road recruiting but he is leaving
much of that to first-year assistants Chris Bernard
and Mike Mankowski for now.
Asked what his favorite head coaching
moment has been thus far, Smith replied, with a laugh:
“Winning.’’ Freshman goalie Dan
Giffin received the actual game puck for beating Robert
Morris, but Smith managed to get two more game pucks
and give them to his young daughters, Ellis and Kylie.
“They were down there,’’
Smith said, “and they are very important pieces
in my life and I wanted them to be part of it.’’
Smith was not afraid to get sentimental
when asked about what has truly been special.
“It’s been getting to know
and see the impact that we as a staff have on the
guys,’’ Smith said. “I know that
sounds a little cliché but we have a really
good group of guys (and) to see them respond every
day to what we ask them to do is very rewarding. There
hasn’t been a day that has gone by where they
haven’t given us their all. They are a great
group of kids. And … from the outgoing alums
who have passed along their support to the present
players, I look forward to every day coming and I
don’t think that is going to stop."
AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
75 miles of road ahead –
Western New York’s I-90 rivalry is
back following a seven-year hiatus.
Rochester Institute of Technology and
Canisius play a home-and-home series this weekend,
starting Friday night at Buffalo State. It’s
a non-league matchup this season but RIT joins Atlantic
Hockey for the 2006-07 season.
“I have heard our players talk
about this,’’ said Canisius coach Dave
Smith. “It’s exciting to have a new rivalry
in RIT. We, as a program, know they are going to be
very good. They have a great commitment, they have
great coaches and they’ve already gotten their
first win under their belt. They will be tough games.’’
The last time the schools met on the
ice was Feb. 10, 1998, an 8-1 victory posted by RIT.
In fact, the Tigers won the last seven meetings and
dominated the series in the Division III ranks by
a 30-6-1 margin.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Merrimack (Fri.-Sat.)
The last time these schools
met they exchanged hockey helmets for party
hats on New Year’s Eve. The Huskies came
out with the hangover while Merrimack started
the new year on a high following a 4-1 victory.
UConn is coming off a 4-4 draw at Union. The
Warriors will still be licking the wounds from
a 9-2 pounding at Michigan on Sunday.
You’re There: A trip to Boston’s
famous bars to celebrate the Red Sox last hold
on the World Series title (or to drown out the
sorrows of the BoSox’s early playoff exit).
For more serene settings, head north into New
Hampshire for views of peak fall foliage.
is second in the league with 68 penalty minutes
but multiple trips to the sin bin has not hurt
the Falcons thus far. Bentley killed off 10
Air Force power plays in the opening round of
the Q-Cup and stuffed Quinnipiac on nine power
plays the next night. The 19-for-19 effort has
Bentley ranked first in the nation.
The NCAA announced it was going to crack down
on blind hits this season but apparently Army
didn’t get the memo. At last week’s
Maverick Stampede in Omaha, Neb., the Black
Knights were penalized five times for checking
from behind, and four of those infractions were
of the nickel-and-dime variety: that is, five-minute
major and 10-minute misconduct. Save the hitting
for the battlefield, guys.
By the way, the Thruway toll is $1.65
Welcome back, Jordan –
If Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin had any worries
about goaltending depth, his concerns were diminished
with the triumphant return of Jordan Wakefield. The
junior, who missed all of last season with an injury,
posted 27 saves in an 8-0 exhibition victory over
Brock. Jordan was 6-6 with a 3.19 GAA in 2003-04.
Late last month, Gotkin dismissed goalie
Andy Franck. The senior had started 88 games for the
Lakers but lost his job to Mike Ella at the close
of last season. Ella started the final eight games,
including the NCAA tourney opener against Boston College.
Ella made 25 stops in a season-opening loss at Michigan
Tech. Freshman Tyler Small started the second game
and beat Tech with a 41-save effort.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Army, the team with the worst power play in the nation
last season, scored on its first man-up situation
of the season. The Black Knights came up empty on
their next seven power plays against Nebraska-Omaha
and went 1-for-8 against Ferris State, both losses.
Waiting for the 1-triple-oh. Army’s next
victory will be the 1,000th in the storied program’s
history. Army will be the 13th school to post 1,000
Holy Cross has played one exhibition game and
may have already lost a player for the season. Junior
defenseman Frank O’Grady has suffered a serious
leg injury and had surgery last Friday. Coach Paul
Pearl is holding out hope that O’Grady, who
had 11 assists in 36 games last season, can return
“He plays a lot,’’
Pearl said of O’Grady, “but we have a
lot of good players so it will some other (defensemen)
a chance to step up and maybe take his role.’’
American International tabbed former player
Patrick Tabb ’03 to serve as a volunteer assistant
coach. Tabb played 115 games for AIC.
Boarding took on a whole new meaning in Mercyhurst’s
home opener. A broken board at the Ice Center required
a repair job of 43 minutes, forcing officials to put
an early halt to the second period. That gave the
Lakers more time to admire their Atlantic Hockey championship
rings, presented during a pregame ceremony.
AIC’s home-and-home series with Quinnipiac
will be only the third and fourth games the Yellow
Jackets have ever played against a foe from the ECAC
Hockey League. While both teams were Atlantic Hockey
members, Quinnipiac won the last five meetings, including
a four-game sweep last season. AIC’s last win
over the Bobcats was a 4-2 decision on Feb. 7, 2004.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation
of this report.