The Canisius College hockey program
finds itself mired in yet another troubling situation
with last week's dismissal of four players due to
an unspecified violation of athletic department policy.
Sophomore forward Mike Ruberto, sophomore
defensemen Matt Ruberto and Craig Nooyen and freshman
goalie Ryan Hatch were dismissed from the team just
prior to last weekend's series with Holy Cross.
"The Department of Athletics has
a clear set of expectations for all of our student-athletes,"
said athletic director Bill Maher in a statement.
"Unfortunately, coach Dave Smith and I have determined
that the seriousness of this situation necessitates
the student-athletes' dismissal from our hockey program."
The four players figured prominently
in Smith's plans.
"I guess the impact will be determined
at the end of the year when we look back," Smith
told Inside College Hockey. "It's hard to predict
right now. An opportunity arises now for somebody
to fill their shoes."
The Golden Griffins were informed of
the dismissals just prior to the Holy Cross series.
"We spoke with the team and they
understand where the decision came from," Smith
said. "The reaction that I see on the ice and
in the locker room...they are still very focused in
practice. They are still determined to improve every
day. I don't want to say, no, they weren't shocked.
They handled it like responsible young men."
For the Holy Cross series, Spencer Churchill
played alongside Mike Ruberto's recent linemates,
Chris Angelo and David Ovcjak. Bret Norris was paired
with Brandon Irish-Baker, who replaced Matt Ruberto.
Irish-Baker was formerly Nooyen's blue line partner.
"(The changes) won't be something
that happens overnight," Smith said. "We
have other guys on the roster that we like and believe
in. We're going to give them a chance."
Holy Cross won by scores of 4-2 and
5-1, posting two power play goals on each evening.
"It was a tough weekend,"
Smith said. "Holy Cross played well. We got down
early on Friday night, and still this is a team of
competitors. We battled hard. We outshot them on the
night. I thought we played hard and the difference
in the game was special teams. When you play a Holy
Cross, or any team really, and you lose the special
teams game, 2-0, it's hard to win.
"Saturday night Holy Cross beat
us...they controlled the play. They were playing at
a level this weekend that we're not at on the weekend.
They were better than us."
Mike Ruberto was tied for second on
the team in scoring with 12 points on six goals and
six assists in 12 games. He had played in 47 career
contests and posted 15 goals and 19 assists. Matt
Ruberto had tallied an assist in 10 games this season.
He played in 39 career contests and posted two goals
and 10 assists.
Nooyen amassed two assists and 10 penalty
minutes in nine games this season. He had a goal and
seven assists in 41 career games.
Hatch made five appearances in net,
posting a 3-1 record and 2.73 goals against average.
He stopped 90.4 percent of the shots fired at him.
Trouble has seemed to follow the Canisius
program in recent years. Five years ago the school
suspended coach Brian Cavanaugh for five days while
a review took place over a practice incident involving
player Matt Coulter. Cavanaugh hit Coulter in the
helmet with a stick; Cavanaugh said it was a light
tap to get the player's attention while Coulter claimed
it was a vicious hit. The school later cleared Cavanaugh
of any wrongdoing.
Cavanaugh, a 24-year bench veteran,
was fired one year ago this week, the school citing
"irreconcilable differences." Allegedly,
the team threatened to sit out a game against Mercyhurst
unless Cavanaugh was fired. Clancy Seymour and Stephen
Fabilli took over the team on an interim basis.
The following week Canisius made a trip
to North Dakota. A handful of players were involved
in a drinking incident, which led to a brawl. There
was damage to a hotel room and one player was injured
in the fracas. A school investigation discovered the
alcohol was purchased on a college credit card, and
four players were suspended for a weekend series late
in January. Following the investigation, athletic
director Tim Dillon, who supported Cavanaugh, quit
Smith worked as an assistant under Mercyhurst
coach Rick Gotkin until this spring. Gotkin said Smith
has not told him of the incident, and the former boss
supports all that Smith is doing.
"I think it's terrible news,"
Gotkin said of the dismissals. "Dave is a professional.
He obviously is upset about what happened.
"I think Dave Smith is doing all
the right things there. I think he knew it wasn't
going to be easy and turned around overnight. He needs
time to instill his philosophies and his recruits
and what not. I hope everything works out positively
for him there."
SEEN AND HEARD IN ATLANTIC HOCKEY
Looking up at West Point:
There was a time, not long ago, when a friend of Army
coach Brian Riley came up to him and said, "You
don't look too good." Having lost all seven games
to open the hockey season, it's no wonder.
Since then, Army (4-9-2) has surged
forward with four wins and two ties in its last eight
contests that includes a rare league road win at Connecticut
and a triumph over recent league-leader Sacred Heart.
Riley is thrilled with the recent stretch, but he
said his team was never as bad as the record indicated.
"We hadn't been playing bad,"
Riley said. "It was tough to convince people
of that – even the players – but you are
looking at the schedule and wondering if we are ever
going to win a game."
The breakout came on the weekend of
Nov. 11-12 with a home sweep of academy rival Air
Force. "There is no better way to break out of
a slump," said Riley, who is well-versed in the
historical significance of the series with Air Force.
"It was nice to see the guys rewarded for their
effort. They knew they had the potential to be a good
team but until they experienced a positive weekend
like they did against Air Force they had to believe
Defense has carried the Black Knights
of late. In eight games since the start of November,
Army has posted one shutout, allowed one goal on three
occasions and twice surrendered two goals. Army has
moved up to 24th in the nation at 2.80 goals allowed
"It's team defense," Riley
said, "and that starts with Brad Roberts in goal...he
gives you a chance to win every game. Our guys understand
that we're never going to be a high-powered offensive
team, so if that's the case you better be good defensively.
"A team can learn to play defense
if they bring a work ethic, if they are willing to
do the little things like block shots and win the
one-on-one battles along the boards. Our guys have
always done that. Hopefully the offense will continue
to get better and the defense will continue to get
better as well. That will put us in a good situation
now that we have gotten through that first half."
A well-earned rest:
This weekend's limited schedule essentially wraps
up the first half of college sports' longest season.
College hockey starts in early October (two weeks
ahead of basketball) and concludes April 8 (a week
after basketball ends).
"I don't think people realize how
long the college hockey season is," said Mercyhurst
coach Rick Gotkin, who knows about lengthy seasons
with the Lakers' recent participation in the NCAA
Tournament. "You go on the ice October 1, you
don't have Thanksgiving off and if you are lucky you
have a Sunday to catch your breath."
As long as the folks in college hockey
insist on playing the majority of their games on weekends,
the 34-game regular-season schedule mandates the long
"I think the college hockey season
is too long...that is my personal feeling," Gotkin
said, surely echoing the sentiments of many. "It
is a grind."
Sitting atop Atlantic Hockey headed
into the final fall weekend, Gotkin is happy to get
the ice-monkey off his back. The Lakers had dropped
three games in a row (Yale and two against Ferris
State) before coming away with a 7-4 and 10-5 sweep
of visiting Bentley last weekend.
"It feels good to win again,"
Gotkin said. "It was nice to go out and play
fairly well against a good team like Bentley, a hard-working
team. You could sense in the locker room the mood
was different after winning a game."
Give Gotkin a little credit. Mercyhurst's
power play struggled against Ferris State so the veteran
coach tinkered with the lineups. Gotkin paired Chris
Trafford with Ben Cottreau and Dave Borrelli on one
man-up unit, and put Kyle Gourgon with Scott Champagne
and Matt Warrern on another. The result was 10 power
play goals on 22 man-up situations against the Falcons.
"It has given us two different
looks," Gotkin said.
Good to see you again:
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin and Canisius coach Dave
Smith meet for the first time this weekend as head
coaches. Smith was an assistant at Mercyhurst until
this past spring.
“Dave Smith is a great coach and
will have them fired up to play,’’ Gotkin
says of the weekend series split between Erie and
Buffalo. “I know my guys will be fired up for
Smitty....He knows what we do. We’re not changing
Gotkin is glad Smith finally got a Division
I head coaching job, but he does not feel this series
is Rick Gotkin vs. Dave Smith.
“I’m not trying to be coy
or anything,’’ Gotkin said, “but
I’ve been here 18 years with big wins and big
losses. This just feels like another game...another
“Dave and I are good friends and
always will be,’’ added Gotkin, who speaks
with Smith by telephone every couple of weeks. “We
talk about the families. He likes to know about how
the recruits are doing here.’’
the first time Gotkin has faced a former member of
his staff. Craig Barnett moved on to Findlay and the
schools faced one another 10 times from 1996-97 through
2001-02. Gotkin won the first four meetings (including
a 7-1 rout on Dec. 13, 1996, in their first encounter),
but Barnett’s Findlay team won four of the last
six outings, including the final two in fall
Great Weekend Getaway
Canisius vs. Mercyhurst
(Fri. in Erie, Sat. in Buffalo) Mercyhurst coach
Rick Gotin meets up with former assistant Dave
Smith, now the head guy at Canisius. Canisius'
recent player dismissals may not be the distraction
that everyone thinks – a year ago these
same two schools met up just as former Canisius
coach Brian Cavanaugh was fired, and the Golden
Griffins served up a 4-3 win in Erie and a 2-2
tie in Buffalo.
There: Visit the Theodore Roosevelt National
Historical Site in Buffalo for a Victorian Christmas
celebration. The Buffalo & Erie County Historical
Society is hosting the musem exhibit "Road
to Freedom: Buffalo and the Advancement of Human
it for the rookies. American International
freshman goalie Tom Fenton earned his
first collegiate victory with a 29-save effort
at Connecticut, a 5-2 triumph. He nearly completed
the sweep the next night but bowed 2-1 to the
Huskies. For the weekend, Fenton stopped 60
of 64 shots.
player dismissals from Canisius may
ultimately be the right thing for the Golden
Griffin program, but the stench of player unruliness
hangs over the program following last season's
off-ice troubles. Coach Dave Smith will guide
this program to better days, but it's time the
players grow up and do the right thing. Playing
Division I hockey is a privilege, not a right
to misbehave and disregard rules that guide
all students on campus.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Sophomore jinx?: Robb Ross was
a freshman when he led Army in scoring last season
(nine goals, eight assists). So far Robb has yet to
produce a goal in 14 contests.
• Commonwealth, common game: American
International and Bentley do battle this weekend.
Bentley won last season’s series, 2-0-1, to
take a 13-9-2 career lead. Bentley was cooled off
by Mercyhurst last weekend but AIC is coming off a
road win against Connecticut.
• Pass the Nutmeg: Connecticut
and Sacred Heart also wage an in-state battle this
weekend. Connecticut won last season’s series,
2-1, to take a 13-10-3 career advantage all-time.
• On top in Storrs: Junior goalie
Scott Tomes recently set the Connecticut career saves
record. He has 1,661 stops, moving ahead of Jason
Carey (2000-04) and his old mark of 1,616.
• Put a notch on the stick: Last
week Sacred Heart handed Rensselaer of the ECAC Hockey
League a 4-3 overtime defeat in Troy. It snapped a
15-game losing streak in non-conference games and
20-game winless streak dating back to a Feb. 22, 2003,
win at Miami (Ohio).
• Leading the nation: Mercyhurst
leads the nation with 70 goals and a 4.67 goals for
average. Sacred Heart ranks ninth with a 3.69 goals
for average. The 10 power play goals Mercyhurst scored
against Bentley last weekend vaulted the Lakers to
third nationally in power play efficiency (24.8 percent,
“I’m not surprised by that,’’
said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “We have
some gifted players.’’
• Getting offensive: Mercyhurst
juniors Jamie Hunt and Scott Champagne rank first
and third in the nation in points per game. Hunt has
four goals and a nation-leading 21 assists for 25
points (tops among all defensemen) and a
1.92 per game average. Champagne has 10 goals and
16 assists for 26 points and a 1.73 average. Teammate
Dave Borrelli (9-11-20) is tied for fourth at 1.67
per game, future league member Simon Lambert of Rochester
Institute of Technology (8-13-21) is seventh at 1.62
and Pierre-Luc O’Brien (8-12-20) of Sacred Heart
is eighth at 1.54. Tyler McGregor of Holy Cross still
leads the nation with 0.92 goals per game (11 in 12
games) and future league member Eric Ehn of Air Force
is tied for seventh at 0.75 (nine in 12 games). Sacred
Heart freshman Bear Trapp is tied for first with four
• On the defensive: Jason Smith
of Sacred Heart ranks 14th in goals-against average
(2.28), one spot ahead of Tony Quesada of Holy Cross
(2.32). Brad Roberts of Army is in 40th (2.80). Quesada
has the edge in save percentage (.924, 10th) over
Smith (.923, 12th).
• Sin bin notables:
Bentley ranks second nationally in penalty minutes
per game (28.3), trailing only Wayne State (31.7).
American International ranks eighth (25.1) and Mercyhurst
is 12th (24.1). On the positive side, Holy Cross is
fourth-best with 14.8 minutes per game and Canisius
is 12th-best at 17.3. Also helping Holy Cross is its
penalty kill, ranked second nationally at 90.8 percent
A variety of sources were utilized
in the compilation of this report.