Battle of the Bridge breaks the ice Saturday night
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 10, 2013 @ 12:29pm
College rivalry games always garner attention, but they’re particularly spicy when both squads are fresh off NCAA Tournament appearances and there’s compelling recent history between the two.
The Canisius College Golden Griffins men’s hockey program visits Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena at 7:05 p.m. Saturday for the team’s season opener and first Battle of the Bridge meeting of the 2013-14 campaign.
Single-game tickets range from $12 to $35 and can be purchased here.
While Canisius’ only result this year was a 7-1 exhibition thumping of Brock University, which was highlighted by a four-goal performance—including a natural hat-trick—by sophomore Ralph Cuddemi, who incidentally only scored four in 37 games in 2012-13. Too bad exhibition stats don’t count.
It’s tough to read too much into an exhibition blowout, but the Canisius Athletics Department pieced together a season preview of the Griffins, while former Buffalo.com communications manager Ben Kirst penned his own for AtlanticHockeyZone.com.
For Canisius, two seniors share the spotlight: Atlantic Hockey Preseason All-Star forward Travis Gibbons and goalie Tony Capobianco, the team’s MVP in the run to the national tournament this past spring.
Moreover, the offense benefits from the return of forward Taylor Law, who should take some of the scoring burden off Gibbons.
Want an enticing storyline to follow? Former Griff record-setter Cory Conacher—who’s plying his trade for the Ottawa Senators of the NHL—has a younger brother, Shane, who’s a freshman forward at Canisius and will wear Conacher’s pro number, 63.
The expectations that accompany his brother’s accomplishments are great, but Canisius coach Dave Smith is confident that the younger Conacher can carve out a splendid career with the Griffs—even if he’s a complementary piece in 2013-14.
All is not well on Monteagle Ridge, however, as Niagara—picked atop the coaches’ preseason poll this fall after winning the Atlantic Hockey Association regular season title last year—was swept by Clarkson last weekend and begins the season 0-2.
Purple Eagles head coach Dave Burkholder spoke calmly about the team’s struggles in the post-game press conference following the first loss to Clarkson, praising freshman goalie Jackson Teichroeb’s debut—which showered him with Goaltender of the Week and Rookie of the Week honors from the AHA.
Despite its national ranking in the preseason, Niagara is suffering from the decision of senior forward Ryan Murphy, who was suspended for 18 games after his DWI arrest in Lewiston. Until he returns Jan. 17, junior forward Chris Lochner and senior forwards Ryan Rashid and Patrick Divjak will be expected to help replace Murphy’s production.
A win for Niagara would do wonders for team morale, especially given the high standard Burkholder has set for the program. Canisius, while being the visitor, strikes us as the heavy favorite heading into Saturday night’s Battle of the Bridge.