By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
- Men’s Hockey Travels to North Dakota and Alaska
The beginning of the 2016-17 season for Men’s Hockey will be definitely a memorable one for not only the coaching staff, but for the players. Oct. 7 and 8, the Griffs will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota to take on last year’s National Champion, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. The following week, the Griffs will take the trek up to the northernmost state, Alaska, to face Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage in the Brice Alaska Gold Rush on Oct. 13 and 14.
“We have put together an exciting and challenging schedule this season,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said in a press release. “We play the defending national champions, in addition to a great travel experience out to Alaska. We play a number of high-quality programs.”
North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena, which was built in 2001, has a capacity of 11,634 and is the fourth largest in the NCAA, while also being the largest arena solely based for hockey in the NCAA. Following the trip to North Dakota, the Griffs will be playing in the state of Alaska since the 2012-13 season when Canisius played the same teams on October 12 and 13.
- Women’s Lacrosse Looks To Repeat, Yet Again
The Women’s Lacrosse team, under the coaching of Scott Teeter, will look to win their sixth Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title in the last seven seasons this upcoming year. Erica Evans, Tessa Chad, and Jourdan Roemer, who are all major keys to the Griffs potent offense, will all be returning.
In her sophomore year, while earning Canisius’ Female Athlete of the Year, Evans scored 72 goals last season, which was third best in the nation. Last season, Evans broke the team’s seasonal point record (91) by 10, which was set by Maria Kotas in 2014. Evans also currently ranks eighth in team history with 110 and 10th in all-time scoring (138).
Chad, in her first collegiate season, scored 38 times, while assisting on four others. In 20 games last season, Chad started 18 games and had the third highest amount of goals, trailing Evans and Taylor Giglio, who had 51.
Roemer, a freshman last year like Chad, was not only a goal-scorer but an assisting machine for the Griffs. Roemer tied the freshman assist leader, Ashley Gray in 2006, with 19 assists. On top of the 19 assists last season, Roemer added 25 goals to place third on the team in scoring.
- Return of the Big Four Classic
On December 17, the KeyBank Center will host basketball again. The University at Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Niagara, and Canisius will all play one game at the KeyBank Center. This will be the first time that the Big Four schools will all play at the arena since November 29 of the 2014-15 season.
The last time the arena hosted basketball among the Big 4 teams, each team donned Buffalo Braves throwback uniforms to pay tribute to the former NBA team that called Buffalo home from 1970-1978. This season, each team gave the fans the ability to vote on which jerseys they would like them to wear. The voting ended on August 15 and the results have not been released. The options Canisius had were between the 1956-57 NCAA team, the 1980’s era, or the 1990’s era uniforms.
“Western New York basketball fans and alumni from all four schools always express their nostalgia for the Saturday doubleheaders in the Aud,” Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said in a press release. “The Big 4 Basketball Classic allows all four schools to pay homage to the importance of college basketball in the history of our city.”
- New Coach, New Players, No Problems
In late May, the Canisius men’s basketball program announced that Jim Baron would be retiring, three months after signing a 3-year contract extension. Eight days following the announcement that Baron would be retiring, Reggie Witherspoon was announced to be the new head coach for the program. Witherspoon has not been a head coach since he was with the University at Buffalo, but he is looking forward to assuming the role of head coach again.
“I am excited to take over at Canisius,” Witherspoon said in a press release announcing the coaching change. “I remember going to see a lot of Canisius games as a kid, and then as I grew older, I started to become friends with guys that played or were playing at Canisius. The College has such a great academic reputation, and I know the school’s alumni base and fans are dedicated and passionate.”
Players Malcolm McMillan and Kevin Bleeker both graduated, while Raven Owen, Cassidy Ryan, and Isaiah Gurley all transferred. Adam Weir is staying at Canisius, but has elected to leave the basketball program and pursue his MBA in business. Jim Baron’s two recruits from last season, Malik Johnson and Spencer Foley, have stayed at Canisius to begin their freshman seasons. Witherspoon has brought in transfer players Selvedin Planincic, Isaiah Reece, Dantai St. Louis, and Jibreel Faulkner.
On top of the new coach and players, the first matchup on the schedule for Canisius will be extremely difficult. The Griffs will travel to Lexington, Kentucky to play against the University of Kentucky at the legendary Rupp Arena on November 15. Canisius has played Kentucky twice before, losing both contests. It will be the first contest against the Wildcats since the 1997-98, in which Kentucky was ranked 4th in the nation and the Griffs lost the contest, 81-54.
- NCAA Tournament Returns to Buffalo
Canisius College and Niagara University, along with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will host the NCAA Tournament on March 16 and 18 in 2017 at the KeyBank Center. It’s the sixth time that Canisius, Niagara, and the MAAC have hosted the NCAA Tournament and will be the third time Buffalo is hosting the tournament in the last 7 years.
“The Buffalo–Niagara region has once again been selected to host the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship,” said Maher, who is a Tournament co-director, in a press release. “This area has embraced NCAA Championship events each time we have hosted and that pattern of success is a key factor in the NCAA’s willingness to have Buffalo serve as a host city.”
In 2014, the NCAA Tournament had eight teams appear in Buffalo. Those teams consisted of Ohio State, Dayton, Syracuse, Western Michigan, Saint Joseph’s, Villanova, Milwaukee, and the eventual National Champions, Connecticut. Tickets for this year’s tournament will go on sale to the general public on October 15 at 10am.