If there’s any theme to the 2005-06 hockey campaign for Canisius, it would be new beginnings.
A year ago, despite having wonderful on-ice success, the Griffs took a major black eye when head coach Brian Cavanaugh was fired after a player revolt. With Cavanaugh out, multiple disciplinary problems ensued that led to the resignation of Canisius athletic director Tim Dillon.
The summer, though, brought winds of change at Canisius. The school began by hiring Bill Maher, a 1989 Canisius graduated who understands the tradition of hockey on the Canisius campus, to replace Dillon as AD. With sights set on building a new future, Maher selected Mercyhurst assistant Dave Smith as head coach.
Since Smith has taken over, the program has done its best to begin to heal. Smith’s crusade early has not been to talk about what great hockey players that he might have, but rather to tell the world that, above all else, Canisius’ hockey team is filled with good guys.
With a reputation changing, Smith and his club will look to repeat on-ice success, hoping to take things an inch farther. Despite finishing tied for second place last year, the Griffs fell at home to Bentley in the first round of the playoffs, making for a far-too-early exit from the postseason.
What’s lost from the successful team of a year ago, though, is significant. Goaltender Bryan Worosz was a stalwart between the pipes. Though he’d always posted good numbers throughout his career, Worosz last year turned heads and was thought of among the upper echelon of goaltenders in a league filled with great duffel bags.
Replacing Worosz initially will be two rookie goaltenders whom Smith believes can do the job in Ryan Hatch and Dan Griffen. The third goaltender, sophomore Max Buetow, will be sidelined with an injury until at least November 1. Last year Buetow was winless in four decisions.
At the forward position, the Griffs should shine. The top seven scorers from a year ago all return, including rookie sensation Mike Ruberto, who Smith hopes is among a handful of guys who will have breakout seasons.
“Our biggest challenge is to see which one of the pieces to the puzzle can break into the top tier of the league,” said Smith. “We have some potential guys in Michael Cohen, Michael Ruberto, Tim Songin and Joel Kitchen. If they can make it to the top tier of the league, that will allow us to play a couple of different styles.”
What will happen is in the future, as Smith points out. But for today, his job is to continue to make his club the best it can be.
“We have to try to be an everyday champion,” Smith said. “I can’t beat [Mercyhurst] on December 9 until December 9. All we can try to do is figure out what can we do today.”