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Ryan Schmelzer continues the positive culture at Canisius

Ryan Schmelzer doesn't have any particular numbers in mind. He's not aiming for a certain number of goals, or points, or even wins.

What matters are the key wins, the wins that build a program, the wins that get the Canisius College Golden Griffins back to the Atlantic Hockey championship.

The senior from Buffalo has seen a bit of everything in his four year collegiate career. His freshman season, he had 14 points and was part of a Griffs team that reached the Atlantic Hockey semifinals. Sophomore year was a different story. He was part of one of the best scoring lines in college hockey that season, along with Ralph Cuddemi and Shane Conacher. Schmelzer scored 10 goals that season with 22 assists, but the Griffs lacked offensive depth and dipped to a disappointing 12-22-5 record.

Then came last year and the individual totals improved again — 12 goals and 30 points. Conference accolades came along as well as he won top defensive forward honors and was a second team selection in Atlantic Hockey. But more importantly to Schmelzer was the team success, the 21-11-7 record along with the regular season Atlantic Hockey title.

He's seen a little bit of everything college hockey has to offer. Personal success is nice, but doesn't guarantee team success. And hockey is most fun when the team is winning.

"Whatever it takes to get the team where it needs to be, that's my goal this year," Schmelzer said. "I haven't really put numbers or anything like that on it. Just as long as we're winning, I'm happy."

While Schmelzer will be expected to provide offense for Canisius, his contributions as team captain will also be key. Culture isn't just a cliche hockey term around HarborCenter — it's the focus of everything the Griffs do.

"I've definitely learned a lot of things since I've been here and the culture that we have established has allowed me to grow as a person and put me to where I am today," Schmelzer said. "It certainly has allowed me to be a leader."

Schmelzer describes his leadership style as motivating people through effort. It's about accountability. It's about honesty. It's about communication.

It's not a coincidence that those are also the key components the Griffs tout as the culture of their hockey program. And that was a key for Trevor Large who earned the promotion to head coach this season after three years as an assistant under Dave Smith.

"Culture is huge in the room," Large said. "That message was loud and clear to me in the process to become the head coach. That's going to stay and we protect that at all costs."

Which is why Schmelzer was the obvious choice for captain.

"He's an extremely positive person," Large said. "His biggest skill as leader is he believes in service leadership. He believes in bringing other people along. My expectation for him is that he brings the group together and keeps it positive, keeps them level when we're up, keeps them level when we're down. I think he's going to do a great job with that."

Canisius opened its season Friday night hosting Robert Morris in HarborCenter. The Griffs rank first in the nation in percentage of points and goals returning, bringing back 98 percent of their goal production and 95 percent of their point production from last season.

Canisius ranked fifth in the nation last season in scoring defense, allowing just 2.18 goals per game. That was in large part the work of fifth-year senior Charles Williams, who graduated.

Junior Simon Hofley got the start in the opener for the Griffs. Hofley, who played in two games last season, has an 8-13-5 record in his first two years at Canisius with a 2.86 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.

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