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A shootout win for Capobianco as he makes an unexpected AHL debut

Tony Capobianco picked up his first pro win. (


by Amy Moritz

The first intermission was almost over and Adirondack's starting goaltender Carsen Chubak was still in the training room with an undisclosed injury. The Phantoms needed someone to lead them out onto the ice and, oh yeah, take the net.

Hey, Tony Capobianco. You're up.

The former Canisius College goalie saw his first action in the American Hockey League Wednesday night and picked up his first professional win as the Phantoms defeated the Syracuse Crunch, 5-4, in a shootout in Onondaga County War Memorial Arena.

Capobianco had just signed an amateur tryout contract with the Phantoms over the weekend as injuries in the Philadelphia Flyers organization had a trickle-down effect. (Buffalo Sabres fans, you know the drill.) He had originally signed a contract with Elmira of the East Coast Hockey League after the Golden Griffins' season ended in the Atlantic Hockey championship game. He played in two games for the Jackals but the team ended up with a glut of goalies and Capobianco was released.

When his agent called with the opportunity from Adirondack, he jumped on it, although he wasn't expecting to jump into his first game quite like that.

"The first shot was a breakaway and I made the save. That helped my confidence," Capobianco said. "The second shot was a breakaway and they scored on it. I thought, 'This will be interesting if this is the way it's going to go.' The guys played well in front of me and helped me settle down."

Capobianco gave up two goals in the third period, the second one which he would like back. The Phantoms tied the game and after a scoreless overtime it went to a shootout -- which lasted nine rounds.

The last time Capobianco participated in a shootout?

"I can't even remember it but it had to be juniors," he said. "The guys on the bench were laughing about it, that it was my first game and I was throw into a shootout. I only had two or three skates with the team before the game and I never took any breakaways or shootouts with them. I aksed the ref about the rules for skating from the crease, touching the puck. I didn't want to make a rookie mistake and look foolish."

The shootout went back and forth with Capobianco making the final two saves to earn the win.

The Phantoms, who did not qualify for the AHL playoffs, have two games left in the season. Capobianco isn't sure if he'll get a call back into the net or if Chubak will return.

The two goalies and former rivals are now actually roommates. Chubak stared for Niagara in the 2012-13 season winning Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year. He left school last year after his junior season to pursue pro hockey opportunities.

Capobianco stayed for his senior season and became the most decorated goaltender in Canisius College history (seriously, if you need a reminder, revisit

The two have plenty to talk about.

"We talked about last year and playing against each other and other guys in the league," Capobianco said. "I'm rooming with him for the rest of my stay here. We have some common ground to talk some Atlantic Hockey."

The highlight package features the goals, so not exactly Capo at his best, but does finish with his game-winning stop in the shootout.

Conacher named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Month


Shane Conacher was named Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Month. (

by Amy Moritz

Shane Conacher finished his freshman season at Canisius College with some incredibly strong performances in the playoffs. Hence, he caps off the season being named Atlantic Hockey's Rookie of the Month.

Not a bad way to end the year after a bad luck start. Conacher missed nine games after his jaw was broken in the season opener at Niagara.

He found his stride as the season progressed and came into his own in seven post season games where he posted eight points (three goals, five assists) and was a plus-8.

His first career game-winning goal came in his first collegiate playoff game as the Golden Griffins swept Sacred Heart int he first round.

He was instrumental in the Griffs' third-period rally in an elimination game second-seeded Bentley. He had three points, a goal and two assists, as the Griffs rallied from a 4-1 deficit for a dramatic 5-4 double-overtime win in Game 2. He then picked up an assist on the game-winning goal in the decisive Game 3.

At the Atlantic Hockey Final Four in Rochester, he had two assists in the semifinal win over top-seeded Mercyhurst and scored a third-period goal against Robert Morris in the title game.

Conacher finished his rookie season with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 32 games.

Two transfer from St. Bonaventure

By Rodney McKissic

Add two more names to the ever expanding transfer list: St. Bonaventure's Matthias Runs and Jean Yves Toupane who the school announced will not return to the program.

These aren’t huge losses. Runs, a 7-foot sophomore center from Hilversum, Netherlands, played in just two games while Toupane, a 6-foot-7 forward from Dakar, Senegal, played in six and scored four points.

The only other Big 4 player who has elected to transfer thus far is Niagara's Tajere McCall.

Canisius and Niagara's Class of 2014 in the pros: An update

by Amy Moritz

Ben Danford never missed a game in his four-year career at Canisius College. Not one single game. The defenseman from Minnesota played in 158 games for the Golden Griffins -- the 13th longest streak in NCAA history.

So of course he gets injured in his first pro hockey stint.

Danford signed an amateur tryout contract with the Manchester Monarchs, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, when the Griffs' season ended in the Atlantic Hockey title game.

He played in three games for the Monarchs and had a plus-one rating before injuring his knee last Sunday. Danford said it was an awkward hit where his knee bent inwards. The injury appears to be short term and Danford is already working out and putting the knee through rehab.

Catching up on the other seniors who signed professional deals first for Canisius:

Kyle Gibbons -- signed with the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League. The Walleye did not make the playoffs but Gibbons recorded three assists in 10 games.

Taylor Law --  played in four games and scored two goals for the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. The Jackals played their last game on Sunday and Law was released from his amateur tryout contract on Monday.

Duncan McKellar -- played in one game for Elmira and was released from his ATO on March 31.

Tony Capobianco -- signed with Elmira and was released by the team. He then signed an amateur tryout contract on Monday with the Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. Capobianco, the most decorated goalie in Canisius history, played in two games with Elmira recording 38 saves including 31 in his only start for the Jackals. He joins a goaltending corps in Glens Falls which includes, wait for it, Carsen Chubak who left Niagara after his junior season last year to pursue pro hockey opportunities.

Speaking of Niagara:

Kevin Ryan -- signed with with the South Carolina Stingrays. The defenseman was officially named to the team's playoff roster as the Stingrays compete for the Kelly Cup. Ryan played in eight regular season games and has a goal and two assists.

Ryan Rashid -- played six game with the Elmira Jackals with two goals and two assists.

Matt Williams -- went the Central Hockey League (CHL) route and signed with the Brampton Beast. He had one goal in three games for the Beast, who were eliminated from the playoffs.

Patrick Divjak -- also signed with the CHL making the Rapid City Rush roster for the playoffs. He has yet to play a game.

Hartman takes position at Rice

By Rodney McKissic

Carlin Hartman will join the staff at Rice University and serve as associate head coach under first-year coach Mike Rhoades.

Hartman, who starred at Grand Island and is a 1990 graduate, recently completed his fourth season at Columbia University where he was also the associate head coach. Columbia finished this past season tied for third-place in the Ivy League with an overall record of 21-13 and 8-6 in league play.

Hartman, who played at Tulane 1990-94, returns to where his coaching career began in 1996 when he was an assistant at Rice. He also served as the director of basketball operations at the school from 2002-04. This is Hartman’s eighth stop in his coaching career.   

Bonnies look to extend Schmidt's contract

By Rodney McKissic

Now that Mark Schmidt has moved on from Boston College, St. Bonaventure is looking to extend his contract.

Schmidt’s current deal runs through the 2018-19 season and the Bonnies hope to extend the coach another two years, according to a source.

“We are thrilled that Mark has decided to continue as the head coach of our men’s basketball program," St. Bonaventure AD Steve Watson said in a statement released by the school. “He has done a remarkable job of building the program. We hope Mark will be our coach for a long time, and to that end, we have started discussions about an extension of our commitment to him.”

ESPN reported Tuesday morning that Schmidt was no longer an option at Boston College. A source confirmed that Schmidt spoke with former South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler, whose search firm is working on behalf of Boston College. According to the source, Boston College athletics director Brad Bates did not ask St. Bonaventure athletics director Steve Watson permission to speak with Schmidt, a common practice among ADs, although Bates was not obligated to do so.

Fogler spoke directly to Schmidt, who kept Watson apprised of the proceedings, the source said. Neither Schmidt nor Watson were available for comment.

Schmidt has a 106-109 record at St. Bonaventure and in 2012 he led the Bonnies to their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2000. Schmidt played at Boston College from 1981-85.

“It is an honor to be the head coach at St. Bonaventure,” Schmidt said in a statement released by the school. “This is a fantastic University with passionate fans in a community my family and I are proud to call home.”

Report: Schmidt no longer an option at Boston College

By Rodney McKissic

St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt is no longer an option at Boston College, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. Goodman is also reporting that Syracuse University assistant Mike Hopkins is no longer under consideration as well.

Schmidt reportedly interviewed at Boston College last week; nevertheless according to Mark Blaudschun of, Schmidt spoke with Eddie Fogler, whose search firm is working on behalf of the school last week. Schmidt played at BC from 1981-85.

Hopkins interviewed on campus on Saturday and on Monday Ohio University coach Jim Christian emerged as a viable candidate which stands to reason because he’s one of Fogler’s clients. Christian’s head coaching stops include Kent State and TCU.  It is unknown if Christian has scheduled an interview.

Schmidt, who was unavailable for comment, recently completed his seventh season at St. Bonaventure where he has a 106-109 record. In 2012, Schmidt led the Bonnies to their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2000.

Staffing changes for Canisius hockey

by Amy Moritz

Sometimes to get to the next level, you have to make changes.

And that seems to be the case for the Canisius hockey program.

Assistant coaches B.J. Adams and John Daigneau are no longer part of the Golden Griffins staff.

"I have a great amount of respect for B.J. and John as hockey coaches, and more importantly as people," Canisius head coach Dave Smith said in a prepared statement. "They have worked hard to help elevate our program and they have both been excellent ambassadors for the college. I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors."

While the Griffs returned to the Atlantic Hockey championship game, where they lost to Robert Morris, the team entered the conference tournament as the seventh seed for the second-straight year. Their 11-13-3 regular season mark felt like potential unfilled after returning the bulk of their roster from the 2013 championship team.

Adams was in his fifth season with the program. He played for Bowling Green from 1996-2000.

"This is a mutual agreement that allows me to continue my professional development in hockey," Adams said. "Winning the 2013 Atlantic Hockey Championship, getting to the conference finals again this year and playing a part in building a strong hockey program have been great experiences. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish in my time at Canisius. I wish the program all the best in the future."

Daigneau was in his fourth year with Canisius. He played for Harvard from 2002-06.

"I appreciate the opportunity to start my collegiate coaching career here at Canisius," Daigneau said. "We accomplished a lot during my four years at the college and I feel like I have helped elevate the program during that time. I really enjoyed working with the student-athletes and the staff at Canisius. As I move forward with my coaching career, I wish the program continued success in the future."

Smith just finished his ninth year as the head coach for the Griffs. Last May he signed a contract extension with Canisius through the 2016-17 season.

The Griffs, who finished this season 17-21-3, move their hockey program to HarborCenter in the fall ushering in a new era for the hockey program.


Licata played with a torn hip labrum

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior Joe Licata played all of last season with a torn hip labrum and a bone impingement the quarterback confirmed on Wednesday.

The Williamsville South product who started all 13 games in 2013, said he suffered the injury during training camp last summer in early August. Licata will be limited for spring practice which started today at the Buffalo Bills Fieldhouse and will miss the annual Blue/White Game on April 19.

Licata had surgery on Jan. 7.

“I went into the training room and thought it was a groin injury maybe or a hip flexor,” said Licata, who is nearly month three of the 4-6 month recovery process. “It didn’t get any better and it kept getting worse. I took a couple of helmet hits to the hip.”

A month after the injury, UB’s trainers realized it wasn’t a hip flexor but a hip labrum injury. Doctors confirmed the diagnoses after the Bulls bowl game loss to San Diego State and Licata underwent surgery.

“It hurt but I took a couple of Advil before the game,” he said. “I iced it down afterwards and I had it wrapped during games. It was wrapped for practices. I was smart about it. It’s the price you pay for touchdowns.”

UB coach Jeff Quinn said he isn’t worried about Licata missing spring workouts.

“He certainly has a sharp mind and has a handle on the offense,” Quinn said. “Joe is still going to be the guy that we develop into being an even better quarterback than he was a year ago.”

Licata was limited to sideline work as were fullback Boomer Brock and right guard Dillon Guy, a pair of seniors, sophomore offensive lineman Dan Collura and defensive linemen Zach Smekal and tailback Joe Schillace, who are redshirt freshmen.

Also, junior linebacker Nick Gilbo left practice with an apparent injury to his left knee which was wrapped heavily in ice.


Junior Tony Daniel took snaps with the first unit while sophomore Collin Michael was with the second team.

“We were a little bit off with our timing but that’s part of this,” Quinn said. “Spring ball is about repetition and repetition is the mother of learning and I think our kids are only going to get better.”

Licata liked what he saw from the sidelines.

“They looked good, it’s a great opportunity for them to get more reps during the spring,” he said. “It’s weird to watch the backside of it, but I get to help coach those guys up and I think Tony did a great job today as did Collin.”

Early enrollees Juwan Jackson and offense lineman Matt Murphy participated in practice on Wednesday. Jackson is a 6-foot4, 215-pound linebacker from Newark N.J., while the 6-7, 295-pound Murphy hails from London, England. Both players enrolled in January.  … The Bulls are off tomorrow but will resume practice on Friday at UB Stadium.

Licata will be limited in spring drills

By Rodney McKissic

UB junior quarterback Joe Licata will be limited during spring practice as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, coach Jeff Quinn said today. Spring practice begins Wednesday.

Licata, who started all 13 games last season, had hip surgery in January and was expected to be out until June. It is unclear whether Licata will play in the annual Blue/White game April 19.

Licata, who starred at Williamsville South, threw for 2,824 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 58 percent of his passes as a sophomore.

“He’s not going to be out there full bore,” Quinn said. “He’s fine, it’s just a matter of time but he’s done very well.”

Junior Tony Daniel will take the majority of the snaps in spring drills and will be backed up by sophomore Collin Michael and redshirt freshman Craig Slowik.

The only other player who will be limited in the spring will be senior fullback Boomer Brock (knee). Also, Quinn confirmed tailback James Potts is no longer enrolled in school and will not return to the team. Quinn wouldn’t go in specifics, but a source told The News Potts was academically ineligible.

While the Bulls have good depth at tailback, they have suffered numerous injures over the years at the position and Potts provided insurance. He appeared in nine games as a backup to Bo Oliver and Anthone Taylor last season and rushed for 222 yards on 58 carries.

Season analysis: Canisius hockey

by Amy Moritz

They were 20 minutes from dead.

Already down a game in the best-of-three series at Bentley, the Canisius Golden Griffins were trailing, 4-1, after two periods. Facing one of the most talented scoring lines in the conference, the Griffs were a period away from the end of their season.

But Canisius rallied. They won the game in double overtime. They won game three. Double overtime in the conference semifinals against the No. 1 seed? Sure, why not. As disappointing as the 7-4 loss to Robert Morris in the championship game was, getting back to the Atlantic Hockey title game was almost as improbable as the Griffs winning the whole thing last year.

Final record: 17-21-3

Playoff run: After sweeping Sacred Heart in the opening round, the Griffs had come-from-behind wins over Bentley to knock off the No. 2 seed and advance to Atlantic Hockey semifinals for the third time under coach Dave Smith. It took double overtime to upset Mercyhurst but then the Griffs ran into a hot Robert Morris team. And the Colonials have had the Griffs' number. The Canisius senior class went just 4-9 against Robert Morris, including a five-game losing streak. Not helping the cause were a pair of injuries in the Bentley series as defensman Geoff Fortman (shoulder) and Cody Freeman (head) were both out for the final three games. Illness also ran through the team with Logan Roe and Chris Rumble missing playoff games.

What we learned: Resiliency may be the foundational word of the Canisius program. The ability of the Griffs to respond positively to adversity is what helped them return to the championship game. Count Canisius down and out at your own peril. As injuries and illness occurred, the team's depth came into play. But when talking about depth, it wasn't just about having talent to step into the lineup. It was about players who often found themselves on the outside looking in understanding their importance to the team. It was about those scratches staying ready, focused and passionate to play and it was about the team trusting those players to do their jobs when their number was called.

Losses: This is a tough senior class to say goodbye to. Seven seniors will leave the Griffs -- forwards Patrick Sullivan, Kyle Gibbons, Taylor Law and Ryan Bohrer, defensmen Ben Danford and Duncan McKellar and goaltender Tony Capobianco. While Gibbons, Danford and Capobianco went out with some down performances, they leave their mark all over the program. Among the statistical notables:

Capobianco holds the career record for saves and shutouts.

Danford played in all 158 games of his Canisius career and holds the program record for assists by a defensman.

Gibbons finished with 131 career points, ranking fourth all-time in program history. HIs 57 goals is second only to Cory Conacher's record of 62.

Cory Conacher may be the most famous alum of the program, but he never made it to a championship game. This senior class created its own legacy, one that not only produced results but crafted a culture and helped bring college hockey to a new level of relevancy in the cluttered Western New York sports landscape.

Who's back: There's nothing quite as motivating as being on the ice when the other team is celebrating a championship. The bad taste that leaves in the mouths of the returning players could be motivational fuel for another run next year. And there's plenty of good news on the roster. The line of Mitch McCrank-Ralph Cuddemi-Shane Conacher was one of the best in the postseason scoring 11 of the team's 17 goals in the last four games. Cody Freeman, who notched program's first post-season hat trick, was playing well until he suffered a head injury in Game 2 in Bentley. Defensemen Chris Rumble and Doug Jessey were both on the Atlantic Hockey All-Tournament team and junior goalie Keegan Asmundson had a 2.51 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 13 games for the Griffs this year.

Season analysis: Niagara hockey

by Amy Moritz

While they were picked to finish first in the preseason coaches' poll, the Niagara Purple Eagles were going to have a difficult year. They lost a deep, talented and passionate senior class and their starting goaltender left school early to pursue professional hockey opportunities. The 2013-14 season was going to be a struggle and it looked, well, kinda ugly through the first three months.

The underclassmen started gaining experience and, more importantly, the players bought into the team-as-family concept. Confidence and trust go a long way and that allowed Niagara to make a late season push and end up back in the Atlantic Hockey Final Four.

Final record: 15-20-5

Playoff recap: Niagara swept American International in the first round of the playoffs at Dwyer Arena. The Purps then traveled to Colorado Springs to face Air Force. Running into travel problems, the adversity made the team stronger and after dropping the first game, Niagara came back to win the next two and advance back to Rochester.

It was the third-straight trip to the conference semifinals. While Niagara rallied with a pair of goals late in the game, the Purps couldn't match Robert Morris in overtime, losing to the eventual conference champs, 5-4. Niagara had several players out of the lineup with injuries, including leading goal-scorer Isaac Kohls. And in the end of a long playoff run, that hurt.

What we learned: Skilled players can win games but individual efforts can only go so far. The Purple Eagles run back to the semifinals was fueled by a much better team game which allowed for more consistent goal production. Also, when you make a decision on your starting goaltender, the confidence can be contagious.

Losses: Niagara says goodbye to four seniors -- defensemen Kevin Ryan and Matt Williams and forwards Patrick Divjak and Ryan Rashid. Rashid had 21 points this season and finishes his Niagara career with 38 goals, 50 assists. Divjak had 14 points this year and closes out his collegiate career with 21 goals and 56 assists.

Who's back: If experience is the greatest teacher and the Purps were paying attention, they could be very dangerous next year. Sophomore Hugo Turcotte finished as the team's leading scorer with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists). Kohls, a junior, had 12 goals and 12 assists while missing the final four playoff games with an upper body injury. The freshman class had breakout moments, in particular forward TJ Sarcona (22 points) and defenseman Vince Muto (19 points). 

Then there's goaltender Jackson Teichroeb who started the last 11 games of the season and went 5-5-1 in that span after starting the season going 4-9-2.

Villanova gets shot down as its shots won't go down

By John Vogl

Villanova had a fantastic second half in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, pouring in 46 points to run away from Milwaukee. When the Wildcats opened 5 of 8 with two three-pointers against Connecticut, it looked like more of the same.

Instead, the offense disappeared -- and so did a 19-9 lead. Villanova missed 10 straight shots and had 15 scoreless possessions in a row as the Huskies climbed back and earned a 77-65 victory in First Niagara Center.

"Our main focus is defense," Wildcats guard James Bell said. "Did we even know we missed 15 straight or went 15 straight possessions? No. I mean, probably could have taken a little better shots."

Villanova shot just 35.3 percent from the field and was just 7 for 20 on two-point shots.

"I really thought we were going to shoot the ball well," coach Jay Wright said. "I don't think they came out really agressive, but once we went on that little run, they stepped up the defense big-time. They really stepped it up."

UConn 77, Villanova 65: How the game was won

By John Vogl

How Connecticut won: The Huskies won the same way they usually do, with a huge helping of Shabazz Napier. The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year poured in a game-high 25 points, including 21 in the second half. The senior refused to end his career short of the Sweet 16.

Turning point: Villanova pulled within three points, 42-39, on a three-pointer by James Bell. UConn showed it wouldn’t fold as Lasan Kromah hit a three and Napier followed with back-to-back bombs for a 9-1 run. It gave the Huskies breathing room at 51-40 with 8:59 to go.

Player of the game: If you can’t tell by now … of course it was Napier. The senior hobbled to the bench with a leg injury with 4:01 to go. Villanova became emboldened while looking at Napier with a towel on his face, but he wasn’t gone long enough for the Wildcats to take advantage. He returned 40 seconds later, and so did UConn’s swagger.

Stat of the game: Villanova had a decent night from three-point land in going 11 for 31. From inside the arc, however, Villanova was just 7 for 20. Shooting 35.3 percent overall simply won’t cut it.

He Said It: “They showed resiliency. They showed toughness. Everybody was strong, and we’re going to the Garden.” – UConn coach Kevin Ollie, whose team trailed by 10 points early.

Up next: UConn plays in the Sweet 16 in New York City against the winner of today’s matchup between No. 3 seed Iowa State and sixth-seeded North Carolina.

Napier refuses to let college career end, leads UConn over Villanova and into Sweet 16

By John Vogl

Shabazz Napier is a modern-day rarity, a college star who stuck around for four years. Because of his play, Connecticut is sticking around for the Sweet 16.

Napier refused to let his collegiate career come to an end in Buffalo, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half as seventh-seeded UConn upset No. 2 Villanova, 77-65, early this morning. The Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference was 9 for 13 from the field, including 4 of 8 from three-point range.

The Huskies will head to New York City this week for the East Region portion of the Sweet 16. They will play the winner of today’s game between No. 3 seed Iowa State and sixth-seeded North Carolina.

The Wildcats showed the most energy it had all night when Napier hobbled to the bench with a leg injury with 4:01 to go. UConn held a 56-49 lead when he went out, with 20 of those points coming from Napier’s hot hand.

He wasn’t gone long enough for Villanova to take advantage, returning to the court less than a minute later to the relief of UConn fans and to the applause of the remaining fans in the crowd of 19,290. The next time Napier walked off the court, with 19.9 seconds left, it was with his team ready to celebrate a victory.

The Huskies (28-8) overcame 10-point deficits during both their games in Buffalo.

Connecticut came out for the second half with a one-point deficit, but a quick 9-2 run them a 33-27 lead with 2:24 off the clock.

Villanova responded with a 9-2 run of its own to go up, 36-35, its first lead since a 20-18 edge in the first half. Bell keyed the run with a pair of three-pointers.

Napier countered with his own long-distance barrage, giving the Huskies a 50-41 lead with 8:59 left on back-to-back bombs. It was his night and his show.

Both teams held the lead in the first half, though it seemed neither team wanted it. They combined to shoot just 32.7 percent with 13 turnovers.

UConn, which proved during its last game that a 10-point deficit means nothing, showed it again during the first half. Villanova ran to a 19-9 lead through the opening 8:27. The Wildcats couldn’t handle the prosperity.

Villanova had just one free throw to show for a miserable 10-minute stretch as its lead evaporated. It missed 10 straight shots from the field.

While UConn hardly looked like a world beater, it nonetheless enjoyed a 16-1 run to take a 25-20 advantage during the final minute.

The Wildcats finally woke up with 30 seconds to go, picking up another free throw and a three-pointer by Arcidiacono to cut its halftime deficit to 25-24. The Huskies shot just 34.5 percent in the first half. Villanova fired at just 30.4 percent.

We weren't lying about Dayton being way more balanced than Syracuse

By Tim Graham

Before tonight's NCAA Tournament game between the Syracuse Orange and Dayton Flyers, we took a look at how differently each team deploys its bench.

Dayton smears minutes throughout its roster. Syracuse's starters hog most of their minutes.

No different for Dayton's 55-53 victory in First Niagara Center.

Eight Flyers played at least 12 minutes, and 11 Flyers got into the game.

Only two Flyers scored in double figures, with forward Dyshawn Pierre topping out at 14 points and guard Jordan Sibert adding 10. No other starter had more than seven points.

Six Orange players accounted for 197 of the 200 possible minutes. The five starters played at least 25 minutes apiece, with guard Tyler Ennis logging all 40 minutes, forward C.J. Fair 39 minutes and forward Rakeem Christmas 37 minutes.

Dayton outworks Syracuse, but Archie Miller knows his team got a tad lucky

By Tim Graham

The Dayton Flyers knew they needed every break they could muster.

The Flyers made the NCAA Tournament as the sixth and final Atlantic 10 team. They're an 11th seed. But there they were, leading the mighty Syracuse Orange early tonight in First Niagara Center.

The Flyers led by seven points 8:23 into the game and had chances to extend their lead, perhaps even dictate if they dared. Then came some turnovers, a couple missed layups, a blocked shot, some fouls, a missed free throw.

Was Dayton flirting with disaster?

With 2:47 left in the first half, that seven-point lead had evaporated. Syracuse had its first lead.

"You're playing against a great team," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "I mean, you're playing against one of the best teams in the country, and to play them in Buffalo, to expect to push ahead, so to speak, it's not really going through your head.

"Battling every possession defensively, watching our kids compete, giving ourselves a chance to be there, be there, be there. At the end of the game, we wanted to be right where we were, which was we had a chance to win the game."

In one mutually miserable stretch at the end of the first half and the start of the second half, Dayton had made only two of its last 14 shots from the floor, and Syracuse had made one of its last 12, including nine straight misses. Dayton hadn't made consecutive shots the entire game to that point. Syracuse had managed the feat once.

Syracuse kept hanging around, though, and with so many Orange fans in the building, there was a sense its cache might come through at some point. Syracuse took its largest lead with 7:49 to play, when guard Tyler Ennis made a layup to go ahead, 40-37.

Dayton retook the lead 91 seconds later on a pair of free throws and never trailed again, but Syracuse remained within striking distance until Ennis' three-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.

"If you'd have told me at the end of the game, you'd have a one‑point lead with a minute or whatever, you're taking it," Miller said. "You're just going to take that.

"Fortunately tonight, they didn't hit some shots that they probably normally hit. The defense was great, but you also could play them 10 times, and I don't think that some of those shots would be missed.

"So a little bit of luck is on your head. And you need that, I think, obviously, in this tournament. You've got to be fortunate."

Syracuse's Grant laments slow start in what might be his college finale

By Mark Gaughan

Syracuse forward Jerami Grant got off to a slow start and never got on track in his team's 55-53 loss to the University of Dayton on Saturday night.

If it was the last game of his Syracuse career, the 6-foot-8 sophomore went out with a whimper. There is speculation he will declare for the NBA Draft. Grant managed just four points on 2 of 3 shooting in the third-round NCAA Tournament game at First Niagara Center. He had been averaging 12.3 points this season.

"We just didn't come to play," Grant said. "I can't explain it. We weren't ready. We had a rough start. We're a better team. We weren't prepared like we should have been."

Syracuse managed just four points in the first nine minutes of the game, and trailed, 11-4, at that point. The Orange had five turnovers and three airballs and was 2 of 10 from the field over the first nine minutes.

"We probably should have took the ball to the basket a lot more," Grant said. "It was a tough game. We had an opportunity to win the game and we messed it up. We typically win games like this."

UConn vs. Villanova: First-half analysis

By John Vogl

Connecticut proved during its last game that a 10-point deficit means nothing. The Huskies did it again during the first half tonight.

UConn spotted Villanova a 19-9 lead through 8:27 in First Niagara Center, but the Wildcats couldn’t handle the prosperity. UConn enjoyed a 16-1 run as Villanova’s shooters fired blanks.

The Wildcats finally got back on the board with a free throw and three-pointer in the final 30 seconds, and the teams went to halftime with UConn holding a 25-24 lead.

The seventh-seeded Huskies shot just 34.5 percent in the first half. No. 2 Villanova fired at just 30.4 percent.

Before bottoming out, Villanova, which struck for 46 points in the second half of its opener, picked up where it left off. The Wildcats scored the first seven points and built a 13-5 cushion through the opening 4:15.

There were more commercial breaks than quality plays through the opening 12:06, as the teams struggled to find the basket or each other. Villanova held a 20-13 edge with 7:54 left by virtue of its marginally better shooting percentage (35.3 percent to 26.3 percent).

The Huskies finally found some success through a balanced attack as four of their five starters have at least four points. Ryan Arcidiacono of Villanova leads all scorers with eight points, which includes a 2-for-2 showing from three-point range.

Dayton 55, Syracuse 53: How the game was won

By Tim Graham

How Dayton won: With both teams struggling to make shots, Syracuse was doomed by an inability to convert anything but layups, putbacks and short jumpers. Syracuse missed all 10 three-pointers it attempted. Dayton, meanwhile, made seven three-pointers and held a 35-31 edge in rebounds.

Turning point: Dayton led by one point with 14 seconds to play, when guard Jordan Sibert stepped out of bounds while being pressured by two Syracuse defenders. Syracuse had a chance to take its first lead in over six minutes, but Tyler Ennis pulled up for a short jumper against his coach's wishes -- Jim Boeheim later said he ordered a drive to the basket -- and Syracuse's best opportunity to win evaporated.

Player of the game: Dayton forward Devin Oliver scored only seven points, but he recorded team-highs with 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals without committing a turnover.

Stat of the game: Syracuse failed to make a three-pointer for the first time since March 1995 against Providence.

He said it: "It was definitely going in tonight. It was online, and he was going for the win. ... Lo and behold, he misses. I thought he was going to the basket, but I saw him raise up. I didn't feel good about it. But Buffalo has been good to us these last couple days." -- Dayton coach Archie Miller on watching Ennis miss a three-pointer as time expired. Dayton also survived a failed buzzer-beater Thursday to beat Ohio State.

Up next: Dayton is moving on to Memphis for the Sweet 16 and will play the winner of Sunday's game between second-seeded Kansas and 10th-seeded Stanford.

At the buzzer: Dayton stymies Syracuse, advances to Sweet 16

By Tim Graham

For the longest time, neither team could make a basket.

Then the shots started to fall, yet pulling away was impossible.

Whether missing layups, lofting air balls or finally knocking down shots, the difference between Dayton and Syracuse remained razor thin.

At the buzzer, Dayton had done enough for a rollicking 55-53 NCAA Tournament victory Saturday night in First Niagara Center.

Dayton, an 11th seed, is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984. Syracuse, a third seed that was ranked No. 1 in the country last month, is done.

Dayton guard Jordan Sibert converted a long three-pointer with 49 seconds to go to give his team a 52-47 lead and force Syracuse to foul out of desperation.

Sibert opened the door for Syracuse by stepping out of bounds with 16 seconds to play and Syracuse down by a point, but Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis missed a short jumper.

Dayton's Dyshawn Pierre rebounded and was fouled with seven seconds on the clock. He missed the second free throw, giving Syracuse one more chance.

Ennis' three-pointer rimmed out as time expired.

No player had more than six points in the first half. Dayton shot 35 percent from the floor, while Syracuse shot 30 percent.

Syracuse missed nine straight shots at the end of the first half and the start of the second half.

Syracuse ended the drought by making two straight shots about three minutes into the second half, only the second time it had accomplished the meager feat and its first successful back-to-back attempts since the game was under 10 minutes old.

Then the Orange made three in a row for the first time. But Dayton also heated up, hitting five out of eight shots, including three three-pointers to take a 35-30 lead with about 11:20 to play.

Syracuse went on a 6-0 run to go ahead -- only its second lead of the game -- with 9:24 remaining on a Michael Gbinije layup. The Orange had made five straight shots and nine of 12 since they missed nine in a row.

The game remained a slugfest from there. They traded misses and makes seemingly on every possession.

Live blog: 2-Villanova vs. 7-Connecticut

Dayton vs. Syracuse: First-half analysis

By Tim Graham

In the 1980s, the Chicago White Sox's slogan was "Winning Ugly."

The Dayton Flyers seem to like that style, too.

For the second time in three days, the pesky, 11th-seeded Flyers are giving a pedigreed opponent problems. They lead the Syracuse Orange, 20-18, at halftime of their NCAA Tournament game in First Niagara Center.

No player has more than six points. Dayton is shooting 35 percent from the floor, while Syracuse is at 30 percent. Dayton has committed seven turnovers to Syracuse's six.

And Dayton led almost the entire half.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was steaming when screamed for a timeout 8:28 into the game. Dayton was up, 11-4, after Vee Sanford made a jump shot in transition.

Syracuse didn't let the game get out of hand, thanks in part to some point-blank misses and careless turnovers from Dayton. Syracuse had multiple chances to take its first lead and finally did on a pair of Fair free throws with 2:48 left.

Streaky Syracuse guard Trevor Cooney, one of the stars from Thursday's victory over Western Michigan, has been cold tonight. Two of this three-point attempts weren't in the same zip code. Cooney has two points.

Dayton has demonstrated its depth already, using 11 players in the first half. Syracuse has used seven, with its five starters playing at least 16 minutes apiece.

Matchup features Dayton's balance versus Syracuse's choice nucleus

By Tim Graham

Few college basketball teams are more balanced than the Dayton Flyers.

The Flyers are 23-3 when three or more players score in double figures, just 1-7 when they don't. But their leading scorer, Jordan Sibert, averages only 12.4 points a game.

Their next NCAA Tournament opponent, the Syracuse Orange, have three players who average at least as many points as Sibert does. A fourth Orange player is one-tenth of a point behind.

"They have their style. We have our style," said Syracuse forward C.J. Fair, who averages a team-high 16.6 points. "They rotate a lot of guys in and out frequently.

"For us, we play our starters the majority of the game. But it's been effective that way.  So I don't see no problem with it."

Thursday at First Niagara Center, the Flyers played the Ohio State Buckeyes to the final buzzer and had nine players with at least 13 minutes. Only two other Flyers got into the game.

"Our depth has been basically a quest to keep our team together," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "The camaraderie we have is a big deal. Why we've gotten to this point is because our guys like one another. They're together. They're tough."

Orange coach Jim Boeheim cleared his bench in a blowout victory over the Western Michigan Broncos. Thirteen players got into the game. Even so, nine Orange players went at least 13 minutes.

"I think that doesn't make a difference because we're just going to go ahead and play our game," Syracuse center Baye Moussa Keita said. "It doesn't matter if they play nine, 10, guys and we play seven or six. I think everyone is going to play their game, play the hardest we can."

Live blog: 3-Syracuse vs. 11-Dayton

Dayton and Syracuse got a sneak peek of each other in Hawaii

By Tim Graham

The Dayton Flyers came one putback away from playing the Syracuse Orange already this season.

Both participated in the Maui Invitational, the annual November mini-tournament. Dayton would've advanced to the title game with a victory over Baylor.

Dayton hadn't trailed since it was down 1-0 and led by 10 in the second half. But Baylor followed its own miss and scored with 16 seconds left to win, 67-66. Syracuse beat Baylor, 74-67, in the final.

What did Dayton glean from Syracuse to help them scout for tonight's NCAA Tournament game in First Niagara Center?

"We didn't spend a ton of time watching them, just the eye test because the Maui games are back-to-back," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "Saw them really one time because we played Cal and they did, as well.

"Obviously, the size and the length and the zone can consume you if you let it. I think offensively they have a lot of guys individually they can isolate on you, really talented. But it's a typical Syracuse team. They're very good, and they're very big. You're going to have to be organized. They thrive on the steals. They thrive on the defense creating offense.

"Down the other end, they really have some game changers in terms of [Trevor] Cooney and [C.J.] Fair, and they're really good off the glass at times as well with [Jerami] Grant. We have our work cut out for us."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was impressed by watching Miller coach in Maui.

"You can't scout people anymore, but we watched him over there because of the tournament," Boeheim said. "I'm just impressed with how hard his team plays, how they play together. Just a really, really well‑coached team. He's done a tremendous job coaching that team."

Jenkins' big win over the 'Freshman 15' has been a hit for Villanova

By John Vogl

The “Freshman 15” wouldn’t have worked for Kris Jenkins. The forward arrived at Villanova weighing about 295 pounds, so the fabled weight gain during the first year of college would have put him over 300. There’s no way a 6-foot-6 shooter can compete at the top NCAA level at that weight.

So while his fellow freshmen put on pounds, Jenkins lost them.

“Forty pounds,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. “He’s lost 40 pounds. He worked so hard.

“He hasn’t grown at all since he stepped on campus. He shrunk since he stepped on campus.”

It’s been noticed.

“He made great improvements from the summertime until now with dropping weight and getting his body to where it needs to be to compete at this level,” Villanova guard Darrun Hilliard said. “He’s just been all in and didn’t really complain about doing anything we asked him to, that coach has asked him to. It’s showing right now.”

Jenkins scored 11 points during Villanova’s victory over Milwaukee. He went 3 for 4 from three-point range for a team that shot only 4 for 22. He’ll need to keep it up and his teammates will need to catch up tonight against Connecticut in First Niagara Center.

“He’s going to keep improving,” Hilliard said, “and he’s going to be a great player in this program.”

Staying in school allowed UConn's Napier to grow from wild child to respected leader

By John Vogl

Shabazz Napier leads Connecticut in every way possible, both on and off the court. Kevin Ollie would be lying if he said he saw that coming.

“I ain’t going to lie,” the coach said. “There was a couple days that I was like, ‘No, it ain’t ever going to happen.’”

Napier was a rebel when he arrived as a freshman in 2010-11. Kemba Walker was the big man on campus then. Though Walker led the Huskies to the national championship, he still had to battle the new guard on the team.

“When I first started working him out, he was telling Kemba what to do,” said Ollie, who was an assistant coach then. “I was like, ‘What’s this little freshman telling Kemba where to shoot at?’ He was seeing how he was leading, but he still had a little rebellion in him a little bit, wanted to do it his own way.

“But he understood you’re not going to change UConn. UConn is going to change you. He started to conform to that, and now you see him grow into a great, amazing leader. You see everybody following him.”

Napier may have an NBA future ahead of him, but he’s a rarity in that he could go pro while staying in school for four years. The college life allowed him to grow from the wild kid to the mature Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference. He'll try to become a Sweet 16 player tonight when UConn faces Villanova in First Niagara Center.

“At the end of the day, you get to play the game you love for so many years, and that’s it,” the 22-year-old said. “My mother always told me, ‘One thing no one can take from you is your education.’ I took that to heart.

“I feel as a four-year player you learn a lot, a lot of things that you may not get the chance to learn on the next level. You may not develop as much as you need to develop. A lot of kids struggle with understanding that.

“I just feel like basketball-wise there’s always room for improvement. Outside of basketball, you get a free scholarship to this university. You’ve got to take advantage of that.”

Atlantic Hockey Championship: Preview

by Amy Moritz

For the second-straight year Canisius finds itself in the Atlantic Hockey Championship game and this season they did it in dramatic, dare we say epic, fashion. Here's what you need to know for tonight's final against Robert Morris.

Game time: 7:05 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

Tickets: Blue Cross Arena Box Office. Adults $16; Children (6-12) $6.75; Students $12.

About Robert Morris: The Colonials advanced to their first title game with a 5-4 overtime win over Niagara. They are speedy with offensive skill (particularly Cody Wydo) but the X-Factor has been freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk. Sophomore starter Terry Shafer left in the middle of the Colonials'' first-round Game 3 against Army. (The guess is an injury although Robert Morris hasn't said much about it.) Izyk came in and has been fantastic, going 4-0-0 in the playoffs. He has giving up just six goals over 141 shots with a 1.55 goals against average and a .957 save percentage. Note that four of those six goals came against Niagara on Friday night.

Regular season series: Robert Morris won the two games in Pittsburgh while Canisius won the game at Buffalo State. On Nov. 8, the Colonials took a 6-1 win over the Griffs in Pittsburgh. The teams then split a home-and-home in late February. Robert Morris won 4-1 and Canisius won 6-3.

Overtime with the Griffs: With their 5-4 double-overtime win against Mercyhurst in the semifinals, the Griffs have played three overtime games in this playoff run including a pair of double-overtime games. Last night's semifinal of 93 minutes, 30 seconds was the longest in Canisius program history.

Capobinaco with the save: Senior Tony Capobianco made 58 saves for the Griffs setting a playoff record for most saves in a playoff game. He withstood a Mercyhurst attack which threw 16 shots at him in the first overtime.

Ralph Cuddemi vs. Mercyhurst: With two goals against the Lakers last night, Cuddemi has scored four goals against Mercyhurst in two playoff games. What is it about playing the Lakers? "I guess I must not like the color green or something like that," the sophomore forward said. "I mean I wish I could play them every night but that’s not the way it works."

Highlights from the Griffs' semifinal win:

Live blog at 7 p.m.: Canisius vs. Robert Morris Atlantic Hockey championship

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | [email protected]

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | [email protected]

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]