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5 home college matches to watch: Sept. 15-18

This week's edition is littered with Big 4 rivalry matches as well as an underrated women's Division III match between two upstart programs. Let's get to it:

*MATCH OF THE WEEK: University at Buffalo men (6-0) at Niagara University (1-3-1), 7 p.m. Sept. 15

Why you should go: The Big 4 Shield is on the line! The Bulls narrowly kept the hardware by beating Canisius on a late second-half goal by David Enstrom, and now must go on the road again - albeit not far - to face another local foe.

Under new head coach Bill Boyle, the Purple Eagles' record isn't quite indicative of how they've shown recently. A 1-0 loss to veteran-laden St. Francis qualifies as a good result, and there's enough young talent on the roster to potentially scare favored UB. Keep an eye on attackers Absalom Solorio and Mackenzie Roach.

The Bulls are flying, though, as Stu Riddle's team narrowly missed a spot in the NCAA Top 25 Coaches Poll, and even hit mainstream media on Sunday night when freshman Rikard Lindqvist scored this highlight-reel goal.

Buoyed by poaching five goals in a 9-0 spanking of Daemen, Russell Cicerone leads the country in goals, with eight, while the Bulls' goals-against average of .16 ranks second in the land.

Whom you might know: You've likely heard of UB's Cicerone, the decorated senior midfielder from Michigan, by now, but Braden Scales - a graduate of St. Joe's Collegiate Institute now in his redshirt senior season - has already posted a season-high four goals and serves as a menace on the wing opposite Cicerone.

Although Boyle recruited heavily from Ontario, his Niagara roster still has a bit of local flavor in keeper Steven Casey, a Williamsville South grad, who spent the summer with FC Buffalo and has posted a .95 goals against average in four fall starts.

UB's Braden Scales, middle, already has a career-high in goals. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

UB's Braden Scales, middle, already has a career-high in goals. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

[Calendar: Composite schedule for all men's and women's Division I teams]

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*St. Bonaventure men (0-4-1) at Canisius (2-4), 7 p.m. Sept. 16

Why you should go: St. Bonaventure doesn't make the roughly 90-minute trip to Buffalo-Niagara very often - twice this year, once last year - so Friday serves as a chance to see the Bonnies up close without making the scenic drive to Olean.

In fact, Kwame Oduro's side plays the rest of the Big 4 over a six-day span, offering a fair barometer to see how far the Bonnies are trailing behind the pack. (Warning: It might be by a lot).

Canisius has only scored two goals in a game once this year - I know, I'm really selling this match - but Friday's contest could be an opportunity to snap out of the offensive funk, as St. Bonaventure concedes an average of three per game. Don't be surprised to see Mathew Santos and Melvin Blair each notch their first of the season.

Some top players: St. Bonaventure's best hope for offense comes through junior Kieran Toland, who had a bright summer with FC Buffalo, as well as Kosi Nwafornso, who scored half of the team's goals last season (four of eight).

Kieran Toland, pictured against Rochester, scored the game's first goal in FC Buffalo's 3-0 blanking of AFC Cleveland. (Matt Weinberg/Special to The News)

Kieran Toland, with the ball, played for FC Buffalo this summer. (Matt Weinberg/Special to The News)

[Read: Toland as part of FC Buffalo's entertaining trio of Scots]

The Bonnies' Anthony Gaglianese saw success late in the summer with the Rochester River Dogz, and he's both a willing defender and solid distributor. Isaiah Wilson, Matt Lane, Noel Orozco, Remi Dujardin, Kyle Kleckner and Anthony Sileo are all returning starters.

You can read all about this year's Canisius squad in our thorough early-season look.

Whom you might know: For the visitors, Kleckner (East Aurora) is the lone rotation player hailing from Section VI, but a number of other players on the roster - Parker Shetler (Lancaster), Josh Beshaw (Lockport, red-shirting this year) and Kyle Cunningham (Clarence, backup keeper) - could play a role in the near future should St. Bonaventure continue to struggle.

The Griffs' Troy Brady (Grand Island) has already started three matches as a freshman, while Jake Montante and Mitch Cancilla (Canisius HS), Evan Walsh (Empire Academy), Francesco Strangio (Niagara Wheatfield) and Joe Farrell (Grand Island) have all seen action this year.

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*Niagara men (1-3-1) at St. Bonaventure (0-4-1), 3 p.m. Sept. 18

Why you should go: Sunday will be a good test for Niagara - two high-intensity games over a four-day span, serving as clear underdogs in the first match before assuming the role of favorites against the Bonnies. That's a dangerous setup for Boyle's team, especially if the Purple Eagles show well Thursday.

On the other side, this is Bonaventure's best chance to pull three points from the Big 4 - which would be a massive accomplishment considering the Bonnies haven't won a Big 4 contest since beating UB and Niagara on the same weekend in 2013.

The rivalry week - which continues Wednesday when the Bonnies visit UB - will be invaluable for Oduro's freshman starters: Nick Mazzola, Jacob Dyck and Jon-Michael Perkins.

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*D'Youville women (3-1-1) host Alfred University (4-1), 7 p.m. Sept. 16

Why you should go: Quietly, the Spartans women have stormed out of the gate this fall, beating SUNY Potsdam, 2-0, before drawing a consistently strong Houghton program.

Sure, the 1-0 home loss to Brockport puts a damper on things, but there's little time to pout with 4-1 Alfred charging into town.

Some top players: Head coach Jim Hesch only has a roster of 15 players, with all but four recruited from Section VI. Keeper Megan Dulniak (Cheektowaga) owns a microscopic .19 goals against average; Brockport's tally was the first she's allowed all season.

Six different players have potted goals for D'Youville, with Magen Magee leading the way with four.

Whom you might know: In addition to the 11 Section VI players on D'Youville, Alfred trots out five of its own, including senior captain Hayley Hammer and reigning Empire 8 Offensive Player of the Week Amanda Roberts, a freshman from Amherst who's registered at least a point in all but one match.

[Calendar: Full schedule for all local Division II and Division II teams]

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*Hilbert College doubleheader: St. Vincent (1-2-1) vs. Hilbert women (3-2), 1 p.m.; St. Vincent (1-4) vs. Hilbert men (1-4), 3:15 p.m., both at Hilbert.

Why you should go: Both Hilbert teams are on winning streaks, and they're playing back-to-back! Women's head coach Kelly Starchok helped her side rebound from a 4-0 loss to Alfred, guiding the Hawks to ensuing wins over Chatham and Thiel. St. Vincent has been competitive in all four of its matches this year, though, meaning it won't be easy sailing for the home team.

Selim Talbi's men captured their first victory of the campaign, downing Thiel, 3-1, and Saturday's foe looks entirely beatable, having already dropped matches 5-0 and 6-0. It's important for the Hawks men to build momentum from their last match before conference play begins.

Some top players: Division I transfers Shannon Rogers (Niagara) and Jennifer Colvin (UB) have made Hilbert their home over the last few years, while seniors Courtney Vaccaro and Jackie Morgan get one last hurrah in the college game. For a benchmark, the women's program has not had a winning season since 2006, but this could be their year.

Hard-nosed Garrett Rehner is a defensive force for the Hawks, while Erie Community College transfer Wade Bergum and Travis Hicks, both juniors, are expected to pace the offense.

*Honorable mention: D'Youville College at Buffalo State, 4 p.m. Sept. 16 at Coyer field.

Email Ben Tsujimoto, who thinks Chatham and Thiel sounds like a comedy duo, at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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