As if any showdown between Canisius and Niagara needs extra incentive, this weekend's home-and-home hockey series has plenty of implications for the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
While the Golden Griffins have secured a bye into the quarterfinals, they could finish anywhere from first to fifth. The Purple Eagles, meanwhile, could place anywhere from sixth to last. And Niagara doesn't want to be last yet again.
The series begins at 7:35 p.m. Friday in HarborCenter and moves to Dwyer Arena for a 7:05 p.m. start on Saturday.
Canisius won the regular season title last year but lost in the semifinals to Robert Morris. The Griffs enter the final weekend of the regular season on a three-game losing streak after being swept at Air Force. They were without senior captain Ryan Schmelzer, who has missed four games with an upper body injury while senior forward Jeff Murray has missed three, also with an upper body injury.
Junior Dylan McLaughlin continues to pace the Griffs offense with 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists). His 36 points in conference games is four points ahead of RIT's Erick Brown in the race for the Atlantic Hockey scoring title.
Niagara got off to a hot start and was ranked 20th in the country, but then the Purple Eagles were swept by Canisius in their December series and haven't quite been the same since. Since Jan. 1, Niagara is just 2-9-2.
The Purple Eagles are trying to avoid finishing last in Atlantic Hockey for the fourth straight year. Still, Niagara is better than those three seasons. At 11-18-3 overall, it's the first time they've hit double-digit wins since going 15-20-2 in 2013-14.
Noah Delmas ranks first in Atlantic Hockey and fourth in the NCAA in scoring for defensemen with 28 points (three goals, 25 assists). He leads Niagara with 16 power-play points this season.