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Griffs open home schedule, face tough challenge

Griffs need scoring to complement fierce defense.

blog by Ben Kirst  • 

After splitting a pair of tournament games in Alaska and suffering two losses in Kalamazoo to 10th-ranked Western Michigan, one may think that home may be a welcome respite for the Canisius College men’s ice hockey team.

Well, it is and it isn’t—it’s probably nice to wake up in your own bed, but the Golden Griffins (1-3-0) will face a substantial challenge when the team opens its 2012-2013 home schedule tonight against Atlantic Hockey rival Air Force (0-2-2). Game time is 7 p.m. at the Buffalo State Ice Arena on the Buffalo State College campus.

The Falcons—ranked 19th in the country to start the season—have struggled through the early portion of their schedule, tying two games in the same Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage that included Canisius, Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks, and then dropped two games to nationally-ranked intrastate rivals Colorado College and Denver.

“We were exposed,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore told Chris Lerch of USCHO.com. “We’re just not a very good hockey team right now…we have a long way to go.”

Air Force—winners of five of the past six Atlantic Hockey titles—is led by senior forward Kyle De Laurell and junior defenseman Adam MacKenzie, each of whom spent time in National Hockey League developmental camps this past summer. Junior forward Tony Thomas currently leads the Falcons in scoring with two goals and two assists, while junior goaltender Jason Torf sports a 3.72 goals against average and .880 save percentage in early action. The Falcons are 5-2-1 in Buffalo in their past eight visits.

Canisius has been tough defensively this season—their team defense is eleventh in the country with a goals-against average of two goals per game—but has struggled to score, averaging just one goal per game. The Golden Griffins have been shut out twice in their first four games.

The importance of breaking the scoring drought is underscored by statistics provided by the Canisius sports information department—in the Griffs’ past 49 games, the team that scores first is a shocking 42-2-5. Canisius also has a 16-game winning streak when scoring first.

So where will the offense come from? Leading 2011-12 scorers Taylor Law and Kyle Gibbons (each of whom collected 11 goals and 15 assists last season) are back, as is slick-passing junior defenseman Ben Danford (12 assists in 2011-12). These baby Griffs—the team has only three senior skaters on the roster—will need to find new sources of offense if they hope to compete not only with the potentially high-flying Falcons but also with Minnesota, the nation’s second-ranked squad, in a road game on Sunday.

Photo from TAGGED: air force, canisius college, canisius griffins, kyle delaurell, kyle gibbons, taylor law

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