By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
In lieu of The Griffin not publishing in print this week, we will keep you in the loop of all things going on with the athletics teams at Canisius for this weekend.
The hottest team on campus gets their last crack at owning the nation’s longest unbeaten streak in the country this season. The Griffs are currently tied for the season’s longest unbeaten streak, 14, with the Denver Pioneers who also went unbeaten in 14 consecutive games earlier in the year.
Canisius will welcome the Mercyhurst Lakers to HARBORCENTER on Thursday (Feb. 23) for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop. The first 500 spectators in attendance to the game will receive a Cory Conacher bobblehead. The game will also be Senior Night for three Canisius seniors: Geoff Fortman, Charles Williams and Josh Kielich.
The Griffs lost to Mercyhurst the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25), 5-1. Jesse Pereira was the lone goal scorer for Canisius. Williams, who currently ranks in the top five nationally in both save percentage (.942 – best in nation) and goals against average (1.90 – fifth best), started the game in net for the Griffs.
Canisius is coming off a home-and-home sweep of the Niagara Purple Eagles last Wednesday and Friday, enabling the Griffs to sweep the season series and claim the Canal Cup for yet another year.
The time has come for bracketelogy and it is alive and well. Many implications are still in store for the men’s team as they are vying for a first-round bye in the MAAC Tournament in Albany, N.Y. (March 2-6). Monmouth is guaranteed the top seed in the tournament, but the rest of the tournament’s seedings are up for grabs.
Morey Hershgordon, a student-reporter from Quinnipiac University, summed up all of the seeding implications from Monday. The only difference from the tweet, see below, is that Siena, Saint Peter’s and Iona have all clinched first-round byes with Fairfield’s loss to Monmouth on Tuesday.
The Griffs will welcome the Fairfield Stags to the Koessler Athletic Center for a pivotal last weekend MAAC game, tipoff is at 7 p.m. Canisius defeated the Stags in Fairfield on Jan. 10, 86-72.
On Sunday, which will also be the Canisius Athletic Hall of Fame Day, Canisius will host the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, tipoff is 2 p.m. There will be a ceremony commemorating those who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at halfime.
The Griffs narrowly defeated the Peacocks in Jersey City on Feb. 6 off a Malik Johnson layup in the dying seconds. The video, from Canisius radio play-by-play man, Ben Wagner, of Johnson’s layup can be found below:
Two wins is extremely helpful for a first-round bye. However, going 1-1 may be risky since Canisius would need to get some help from teams finishing below the Griffs in the standings. Going 0-2 would force the Griffs to play a Thursday play-in game, with the winner playing the next day.
The women’s basketball team will endure arguably the hardest road trip they will have all season long. The Griffs will travel to Fairfield for a Thursday night matchup before a Saturday matinee with top seeded Quinnipiac. Canisius boasts an 8-10 record within the MAAC. If the Griffs are able to come out with at least one win will give Canisius either a 6 or 7 seed, depending how Marist does in the final weekend of games. The Griffs are guaranteed a game on Thursday, time will vary based on the seed Canisius ends up with.
Canisius defeated Fairfield at home earlier in the season (Jan. 22), 63-49. The Griffs earned double-figure scoring from four players, including Sara Hinriksdóttir who had a game-high 17 points in the win. Márgret Hálfdanardóttir, Maria Welch and Saliah Serrette all added 11 points in the defeat over the Stags.
The Griffs, however, were bested by Quinnipiac at home on Jan. 7, 64-53.
Quinnipiac, notoriously known as the MAAC’s best team since they entered the conference, earned their eighth consecutive win over the Griffs in as many meetings. Hálfdanardóttir led the Griffs’ balanced scoring attack with 11 points in the loss, while Hinriksdóttir and Lauren D’Hont each added 10.
After the Griffs were thrashed by nationally-ranked Syracuse last weekend, the Griffs return home to play their home opener this weekend. Canisius welcomes Columbia (1-1) to the Demske Sports Complex for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday.
Columbia dropped their season opener at Drexel on Feb. 19 by a score of 14-8. The Lions returned their 2017 season opener with a 13-11 win over Fairfield on Wednesday.
The home game will be the only game at the Demske Sports Complex for the women’s team until March 8 when the Griffs host Duquesne.
What is beginning to be a trend amongst Canisius athletics is playing the top dogs in the country. The men’s lacrosse team will travel to Denver to play a pair of games this weekend in the Faceoff Classic.
Canisius will face Air Force on Saturday at 1 p.m. before playing the nation’s top team, Denver, on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Men’s hockey, men’s basketball and now men’s lacrosse will have played the nation’s top teams this season. Softball will potentially play the nation’s top team in the middle of March when they play Florida State on March 15.
Air Force (1-2) played their first game on Feb. 5 when they traveled to Duke, besting the Blue Devils, 11-10. Since they defeated Duke, the Falcons have dropped their last two games to Denver and Marist. Air Force lost to Denver, 14-6, before being beat by the Red Foxes, 10-6.
Denver (2-0-1) has been notoriously known as one of the better lacrosse programs in the nation. Before the Pioneers defeated Air Force, they tied with Johns Hopkins, 13-13, on Jan. 28. The Pioneers also beat Duke on Feb. 18 by a score of 14-9.
Cleveland State will also participate in the Faceoff Classic, but will not play Canisius.
This weekend’s forecast in Buffalo may seem good enough to play baseball, but the Griffs’ baseball team will be traveling to much warmer weather. Canisius will play four games while they stay in Lake Point, Ga.
Canisius will play one game on Friday, with a twin-bill scheduled for Saturday and their finale on Sunday. Friday’s game will be against IPFW, while the doubleheader will be played against Chicago State at 3 p.m. and NJIT at 6 p.m. Sunday, the Griffs will face off against IPFW, again, with a first pitch slated for 11 am.
Canisius is coming off a four-game series against Gardner Webb in which Canisius split. Canisius won the opening two games, 10-7 and 9-5, respectively before dropping their latter contests, 6-5 and 5-0.