Canisius College kicks off its hockey season with a banner raising as the Golden Griffins host Robert Morris for a two-game Atlantic Hockey series in HarborCenter.
The team will hoist a banner for winning last year's regular season Atlantic Hockey championship before its 7:35 p.m. game on Friday. The teams will meet again at 7:35 p.m. on Saturday.
Here's what you need to know:
1. This is a revenge game. Robert Morris upended Canisius in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament last year, ending the Griffs program-record season. Canisius had been on a 17-game unbeaten streak heading into the championship weekend and had captured its first regular season title. You can bet that the Griffs remember that loss and are motivated to start the season with a strong showing against one of this year's conference favorites.
"It's definitely fuel in the fire a little bit," Canisius senior captain Ryan Schmelzer said. "They ended something we didn't want to end last year. We're using that a little bit as motivation."
2. Canisius is looking for a goaltender. You may have heard this already as goaltending has been the constant theme of the pending season for the Griffs ever since eligibility ran out on fifth-year senior Charles Williams. Williams set a number of program records and was the Atlantic Hockey player of the year. He was the reason the Griffs were able to make a run to the semifinals, backstopping the team to wins as it found its offense. Right now, it looks like the competition for the net will be between junior Simon Hofley and sophomore Daniel Urbani.
3. The Griffs return a lot. Canisius returns 24 letterwinners from last season's squad. That's a ton of experience from a team that won a ton of games. Among the returning leaders are Schmelzer, junior Dylan McLaughlin and junior Cameron Heath. McLaughlin led the team in scoring with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) while Schmelzer had 30 points and was named Atlantic Hockey's Top Defensive Forward. Heath led Canisius defenders in goals (seven) and points (18).
4. It's the first game as a head coach for Trevor Large. But don't expect a ton of changes. Large was an assistant coach for three years with the Griffs before earning the head coaching job when Dave Smith left for RPI.
"He put his own touches on some things he wanted to do, but pretty much everything as far as systems, culture, have been flowing like they did last year," Schmelzer said of the transition. "Those were big parts of our success last year."
And those things Large does not want to change. "That's exactly what I want them to feel," Large said. "We have so many positives from our group last year. ... We just want to be a little more offensive, add a little more creativity this year."
5. Robert Morris is primed for a win. The Colonials are chomping for a re-do in Western New York after losing to Niagara in Dwyer Arena last week. The Colonials came back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime, but Niagara earned the win in the extra period. Senior Brady Ferguson returns for his senior season after leading Atlantic Hockey in scoring (24 goals, 34 assists) in his junior year.