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Zanette a Hobey Baker finalist

Niagara's hockey season may be over, but senior Paul Zanette collected multiple honors Thursday. Zanette was named a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate hockey player, and was also named the Atlantic Hockey Association Player of the Year Thursday.

Zanette is just the second Purple Eagle ever to earn the Hobey Walker distinction after scoring 29 goals with 55 points this season. His points mark tied the NU record. Zanette ranks second nationally in points per game (1.57) and goals per game (0.83).

"I'm honored and humbled by being included on this list," Zanette said. "It was a great season, but without the help of my team and coaches, this wouldn't have been possible."

"Paul had an amazing year offensively on a young team where we didn't know where the offense would have come from," head coach Dave Burkholder added. "He performed under a great deal of pressure at a record pace. We are all so proud of his accomplishments this season."

Niagara finished its season 18-13-4 overall and 15-10-2 in AHA play.

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Casey takes Transitions lead

Paul Casey changed his schedule leading up the Masters, and it's starting to look like a good move.

Once the fog lifted, Casey played bogey-free on the tough Copperhead course at Innisbrook on Thursday for a 7-under 64 that gave him a two-shot lead after one round of the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.

"The state of my game is going in the right direction," Casey said.

Casey made back-to-back birdies late in his round to surge past Nick Watney, who is coming off the biggest win of his career in the World Golf Championship at Doral. Watney had seven birdies in 12 holes before missing a few greens toward the end of his round and settling for a 66. Garrett Willis, Martin Laird and Scott Stallings each had a 66 in the afternoon.

Defending champion Jim Furyk led a large group at 67 that included Honda Classic winner Rory Sabbatini and Justin Leonard.

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Venus out of Key Biscayne tourney

Venus Williams withdrew from the upcoming Sony Ericsson Open on Thursday, citing an abdominal injury that has sidelined her for nearly two months.

Williams is a three-time champion at the tournament, which begins Tuesday in Key Biscayne, Fla. She hasn't played since retiring because of the injury in the third round of the Australian Open on Jan. 21.

Her sister Serena also is missing from the field, having been out of action since winning Wimbledon for the fourth time in July. She underwent surgery twice for a cut on her foot and last month had a pulmonary embolism and was hospitalized to remove a hematoma.

Compiled from News and wire service reports.

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