CCHA commissioner meets with prospective schools

Central Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Fred Pletsch and other league executives had an informative discussion today in Erie, Pa. with representatives from the four Atlantic Hockey schools the league is courting.

Athletic departments from the four schools — Canisius, Niagara, Robert Morris and Mercyhurst — released a joint statement regarding Tuesday’s discussion.

“We had a very frank and open discussion with Commissioner Pletsch and members of his executive committee about joining the CCHA. The CCHA offers several exciting opportunities for our institutions, however each of us feels the need to bring the information we discussed back to campus and discuss it with our school president and our hockey staff.

“In addition, we will need to have discussions with Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio and his executive committee. Once we have completed our due diligence, we have agreed to meet at a future date to continue to explore our opportunities. At this point in time, no decisions have been made about leaving Atlantic Hockey or joining the CCHA.”

The following members were in attendance from the four schools:

— Canisius: Athletic Director Bill Maher and Associate Athletic Director John Maddock.
— Niagara: Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin.
— Robert Morris: Athletic Director Craig Coleman.
— Mercyhurst: Athletic Director Joe Kimball and Senior Associate Athletic Director Aaron Kemp.

UPDATE: Representing the CCHA at the meeting along with Pletsch were Ferris State Athletic Director Perk Weisenburger and Bowling Green Associate Athletic Director Jim Elsasser, according to

“We are committed to having further dialogue in the future to potentially accommodate those schools, while representing the interests of our member schools that are committed to staying in the CCHA for the 2013-14 season and beyond,” Pletsch said, according to the report.

McLaughlin is the only one of the six who appears to have an active Twitter account (@NiagaraPurpsAD), though not surprisingly, he has not tweeted anything about the hockey team.

All four schools are set to compete in Atlantic Hockey next season. Any potential conference switch is likely to going into effect starting in the 2013-2014 season, when several current CCHA schools will leave to enter new conferences.


Canisius, Niagara to meet with CCHA tomorrow

Representatives from the Canisius College hockey team, as well as those from Niagara, Mercyhurst and Robert Morris, will meet tomorrow with Central Collegiate Hockey Association executives in Erie, Pa. to further discuss the possibility of joining the league.

Attending the meeting for Canisius will be Athletic Director Bill Maher and Associate Athletic Director John Maddock, the athletic department said today. No formal agreements are likely to be made, rather the schools are going to “explore opportunities” presented to them by the CCHA.

All four schools currently play in the 12-team Atlantic Hockey Association, with Niagara and RMU joining last season after their previous league, College Hockey America, folded.

The CCHA is likely looking to add member schools starting in the 2013-2014 season, when three of its current members (Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) will leave to join the new Big Ten hockey conference and Miami (Ohio) University leaves for the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The biggest selling point to joining the CCHA, aside from the prestige, is the increase in scholarships schools are allowed to award. Schools in Atlantic Hockey are limited to 12, while the CCHA allows 18 scholarship players.

Administrators from the four schools have been in contact with each other about the possibility of moving conferences. Canisius said it is still a ways off from announcing anything formal, but the prospect of playing in the CCHA is “very interesting to the college.”

As for the rumors regarding Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula funding a hockey arena on the Canisius campus, the athletic department said the Sabres have “had conversations” with the school, though discussions are still in the beginning phase.

There is still no plan at this point where the rink would be placed. Several sites on the Canisius campus, such as the Demske Sports Complex and the Health Science building and its surrounding lots, are off-limits for a hockey rink because water extending from Forest Lawn Cemetery flows beneath them.

The athletic department did not say whether it was Pegula personally who has been in contact with the school or just front office members, but offered this prepared statement from Maher:

“We have had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres front office concerning a practice site for the Sabres on the Canisius campus, and we are very excited about the possibility of developing a partnership. The partnership being discussed would not only benefit the Sabres and our NCAA Division I hockey program, it would also have a significant impact on amateur hockey in Western New York. Canisius College is carefully studying this opportunity with the goal of putting together a plan that benefits both organizations.”

The last CCHA school to win a national title was Michigan State in 2007. The conference’s 11 current members (in order of last season’s standings) are: Michigan, Notre Dame, Miami, Western Michigan, Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Alaska, Lake Superior, Ohio State, Michigan State and Bowling Green.

Canisius-Niagara hockey preview

Canisius' active points leader Cory Conacher

It has been nearly two years to the day since the Canisius and Niagara hockey teams last met. When Tuesday rolls around, the Griffs are hoping the wait will be well worth it.

“This is going to be a big game,” senior captain Phil Rauch said. “Probably the biggest of our college careers. Ever since we lost to them two years ago, we’ve wanted to get back at them.”

Canisius has beaten Niagara only three times since 2002, but this time, things may be different.

Canisius is coming off one of its best seasons in recent history, which included a trip to the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, and has started out hot this year. Niagara, on the other hand, had its league (College Hockey America) disband after the conclusion of last season. Niagara joined the Atlantic Hockey Association when no other league offered it membership.

Canisius has scored 19 goals so far this season and owns a 3-1-1 record, while Niagara has found the back of the net only 10 times and is still searching for its first win on this young season.

Historically, Niagara has gotten the better of the Griffs when they have met on the ice. In total, the two teams have played each other 19 times from since 1997, and Niagara leads the all-time series 12-6-1. Niagara has also outscored Canisius 74-47 in those games.

Canisius’ offense will be led by the senior duo of Cory Conacher and Vincent Scarsella, who have a combined six goals and 13 points through five games. The Griffs also have very good depth that will provide secondary scoring should Niagara shut down the top line.

The Canisius power play, which was such an asset last year, is looking strong again, even with newcomers running the unit. Special teams may be the difference against Niagara.

“I think it’s going to come down to the power-play goals on Tuesday,” Conacher said. “Against Niagara it’s always a battle. It’s going to be all about the PK and PP, and whoever wins that game is probably going to win the overall game.”

Niagara captain Ryan Annesley

Junior Dan Morrison has been a workhorse in goal, playing every game this season. He will have to contend with Niagara’s Paul Zanette and Ryan Annesley, the team’s captain. Zanette has scored three goals in four games, two of them coming on the power play, while Annesley leads the Purple Eagles with five points from defense.

Conacher currently leads Canisius in points with eight, and his five goals tie him for fourth nationally. Freshman Kyle Gibbons is not far behind with three goals and two assists. However, Gibbons isn’t the only young player who is playing well.

“Just because [the other freshmen] are not on the scoresheet doesn’t mean they’re not doing as much as Gibbons,” Scarsella said.

The newcomers are filling the holes well and make every line a threat to score. “This year we have a lot more depth than we’ve ever had,” Rauch said. “We can count on every line to go out there in any situation and get it done.”

The veterans are using their experience to set an example for the younger guys on the team going into a game this big.

“I remember my freshman year, I think I shook the whole time leading up to the [Niagara] game,” Rauch said. “You just have to stay calm; it’s just like any other game. You just have to go out there and give it your all.”

The teams meet at the Buffalo State Sports Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. All students at the game will receive a free “White Out” t-shirt. There will be a shuttle running back and forth from the Student Center to Buff St., starting an hour before the game. Admission is free for all students with a valid ID.

Goaltender comparison: Morrison vs. Chubak

Junior Dan Morrison will be between the pipes for Canisius, and, in all likelihood, it will be freshman Carsen Chubak for Niagara. So far this season, Chubak has been named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Week, while Morrison is the reigning Atlantic Hockey Goaltender of the Week.

The Griffin took a look at the two goaltenders; only to find out they have extremely similar numbers. Here’s a look at how the pads stack up:

Canisius roster: 

 Niagara roster:

Stats of 10/28

All-time series:

This post is the extended version of an article appearing in The Griffin, Friday, Oct. 29, that was cut for space constraints. The piece was a collaborative work by two writers, whose names are withheld for privacy. You can see the article here.