Perhaps it was good for the Canisius hockey team to blow a 2-0 lead against Sacred Heart.
The Golden Griffins were enjoying their lead with about six minutes left to play in a game with Sacred Heart at the Buffalo State Ice Arena two weeks ago when they had a small meltdown. Sacred Heart tied the game in the final few minutes, then scored 56 seconds into overtime to earn the win.
That loss helped coach Brian Cavanaugh get across the point he had been trying to make throughout the early season -- play hard the whole game.
"We watched that videotape several times . . . not to be negative but to show the guys, 'Look how hard you worked at the beginning of the game and look how hard you're working now,' " Cavanaugh said. "You can't do that because it's a dangerous way to play the game. . . . Experience is the best teacher."
It seems that the Griffs learned that lesson well. After beating Sacred Heart in a rematch and sweeping Connecticut, they're enjoying a nice run through the first part of the Atlantic Hockey schedule.
The Griffs, winners of three straight and five of their last six, are 6-5-1 overall, 5-1 in Atlantic Hockey conference play.
The big three -- goaltending, power play and penalty kill -- are Cavanaugh's pet keys, and largely the reason why the Griffs are experiencing a bout of success. Senior goalie Bryan Worosz has been remarkable. He ranks seventh nationally in save percentage (.936) and eighth in goals-against average (1.92). He earned conference goalie of the week honors and was named the player of the week by InsideCollegeHockey.com.
Worosz anchors the penalty-killing unit that is tied for fourth in the country while the power play ranks first in Atlantic Hockey. Of the Griffs' 36 goals, 16 have been on the power play.
While their special teams often decide games, the most noticeably improved area for the Griffs this season is scoring. Canisius, for the first time in recent memory, has a balanced attack.
Junior Andrew Dawe leads Canisius in scoring with 11 points (five goals, six assists) with freshmen Joel Kitchen (six goals, four assists) and Mike Roberto (three goals, seven assists) tied for second with 10 points. Four other players have six or more points.
"We talked a lot the last two years that we didn't have hardly any scoring," Cavanaugh said. "We were playing good defense, but we didn't have enough go-to guys. We added that to our lineup and it's made a huge difference for us. We're still playing good defense, but you've got to have all the elements. Scoring was the missing ingredient and now on every line there's potentially a kid that can put the puck in the net."
The Griffs get a stiff non-conference challenge Saturday when they travel to No. 14 Cornell (4-2-2).
Speaking of learning the lesson of playing a complete game, count on Niagara men's basketball team to recall that opening loss to Providence often. The Purple Eagles were up by as many as 13 points in the second half, only to let the game slip away. It was heartbreaking for the team and a lost opportunity to get a win over a Big East team, on the road, on national television.
In their last two wins at home over American and Central Connecticut State, the Purple Eagles had to use late game runs to put away both teams. What made the difference in those late games? They didn't want a repeat of Providence.
"Coach (Joe Mihalich) has told us that even though it was something bad that happened, let that be the best thing that happens to us this year," junior forward James Mathis said. "We don't want that to happen in March in Buffalo. Even though it was messed up how it all went down, we should just learn from it now because we're trying to win it all."
Daemen sophomore women's soccer player Kim Walker (Grand Island) was named a second-team All-American Mideast Conference selection in the North Division. She scored a school record 14 goals this season.
St. Bonaventure outfielder and relief pitcher Brian Pellegrini became the first Bonnie to be named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason All-America Third Team. Pellegrini capped an impressive freshman season in 2004 with the Atlantic 10 Championship MVP award after recording 10 RBIs, one win and two saves over four games in Bona's run to its first-ever A-10 title.
University at Buffalo junior Katie Weekley was named to the 2004 Academic All-Mid-American Conference Volleyball Team. Weekley was the only player to start all 30 of the Bulls' matches this season, and she led the team with 1.30 blocks per game, ranking third in the MAC. She is a psychology major with a 3.791 grade point average.
Buffalo State's Darnika Moseley was named the SUNYAC Women's Basketball Player of the Week after helping the Bengals to a pair of wins over the weekend. The sophomore forward led Buffalo State to the championship in the Betty Abgott Invitational as the Bengals defeated D'Youville and Elmira. Moseley averaged 17.5 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists as she was selected the tournament's MVP.
The Allegheny College men's soccer team had a run to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16, but fell to national No. 6 Messiah, 5-0, this past weekend. Chris Fedele (Williamsville North) scored four goals with one assist.
Duquesne University's Stephanie Hopkins (Sweet Home) was named the Atlantic 10 volleyball Player of the Week last week. The junior outside hitter hit .326 in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Hopkins averaged 5.0 kills and 2.9 digs per game and collected a career-best 25 kills in an upset of top-seeded Dayton. She made just three hitting errors in that match for a .423 hitting percentage and added 14 digs for her 14th double-double on the season. Hopkins had a team-best 15 kills and nine digs in the 3-2 loss to Xavier.
Sweet Home senior Jonathon McMahon signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Hartford next year. McMahon was a second-team All-Western New York goalie last season and was the Western Region's starting goalie at the Empire State Games last summer. Hartford plays in the American East Conference.
College Hockey America honored Niagara sophomore forward Katie Gray (offensive player of the week) and freshman goaltender Nikki Rudy (rookie of the week). Gray scored four goals in two wins over Quinnipiac last weekend while Rudy made 23 saves in a 3-1 victory.