By Thomas Baldwin email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — There are worse ways the Niagara University hockey could've started its season.
After dropping their first two regular season games to Clarkson last weekend, the Purple Eagles get a shot at redemption when play hated rival Canisius at 7 p.m. tonight in Dwyer Arena. It is doubtful Niagara — the defending Atlantic Hockey regular season champions — will get any sympathy from the Golden Griffins.
Adding insult to injury after the season-opening losses, word spread that senior Ryan Murphy had been suspended for half of the season after being arrested for driving while intoxicated in a two-car accident on Sept. 29. He won’t rejoin the club until January 14, 2014.
Niagara coach Dave Burkholder did not comment on how the Murphy suspension would resonate in the Purple Eagles’ locker room. However, he was hopeful players would step up to replace Niagara’s leading scorer from last season.
“We lost much to graduation, especially offensively with Giancarlo (Iuorio) and Marc (Zanette) and our seniors on defense,” he said. “We are going to have a whole crop, whether it be freshman or returning upperclassmen, step up and carry us. I think we are deep at a lot of positions, and I think we should be fine once we get some games under our belts.
"You’ll see, as is the case in past years at Niagara, someone step up and produce for us.”
The Golden Griffins were average during the regular season last year before going on a roll late, beating NU in the AHA Tournament, winning the conference championship and earning a bid in the NCAA Tournament. On paper they're deep, with eight of their top-10 scorers returning along with goaltender Tony Capobianco. The senior netminder went 18-19-4 last season with a 2.40 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.
“They are a very old and mature team,” Burkholder said. “There is nothing better for a team than having experience going through a playoff run like that, and have everyone back from last year’s team. I think it is a challenge for our league.
“You talk about it all year as a coach. You hope to be playing your best hockey in March, and they were. We have a lot of respect for them. They are very old and very deep, and it is a huge challenge for us.”
Entering the season, goaltending seemed to be a question mark for Niagara. It certainly has not been so far. Jackson Teichroeb will get the start in goal tonight. The freshman made 39 saves in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Clarkson.
“We are going to stick with the rotation early in the season,” Burkholder said. “So we are going to come back with Jackson, who had a phenomenal opening game, albeit we lost. We will go back with the rotation and hopefully Jackson can stay hot for us.”