It's time for the Canisius College hockey program to start a new era.
The Golden Griffins got 12 good years from head coach Dave Smith, but he has accepted the job as head coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Troy college announced Wednesday afternoon it will hold a news conference at noon Thursday to introduce its new coach.
Canisius has a strong in-house candidate to replace Smith in assistant coach Trevor Large, who will be named interim head coach in the wake of Smith's move.
The Griffs have had remarkable stability in their hockey program. Smith went 170-223-59 in his Canisius tenure. His predecessor, Brian Cavanaugh, coached the Griffs for 24 seasons. Smith coached Canisius to its lone NCAA Tournament appearance in 2013. The Griffs claimed their first-ever regular-season title in the Atlantic Hockey Conference this season. They had a 17-game unbeaten streak and finished 21-11-7.
Large has spent the past three seasons as Canisius' top aide and recruiting coordinator. The Griffs' overall program and its recruiting efforts were strengthened by the move into the 1,800-seat HarborCenter arena downtown as its home rink in October 2014. Prior to joining Canisius, Large spent six seasons as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Army.
Canisius graduates only three seniors from its team. One of them is goalie Charles Williams, the national leader in save percentage. Smith is a finalist for the Spencer Penrose national coach of the year award.
Canisius has not released any comment on Smith's departure because RPI has not yet officially announced Smith's hiring.
In taking the RPI job, Smith is stepping up in conference affiliation into the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which includes Final Four qualifier Harvard. Smith steps into a challenging job. RPI went 8-28-1 last season and finished 11th out of 12 in the ECAC, at 6-16. RPI fired coach Seth Alpert a month ago. He posted a 152-221-48 record over 11 seasons.
RPI won the NCAA title in 1985. The Engineers have made the NCAA Tournament only once in the last 22 years (in 2011). RPI plays in the third-oldest rink in Division I, although the arena underwent renovations a few years ago.