There are a lot of fresh faces in the lineup for Canisius, but the Griffs will not be as green as one might think.
“We’ll be young, but not as bad as if you just see the new names in the media guide,” said Griffs coach Dave Smith, entering his second season behind the Canisius bench. “We do have a large group of freshmen, but we have a couple of transfers as well.”
Significant holes were left by the graduation of Brandon Irish-Baker and Andrew Dawe, as well as the early departure of goaltender Dan Giffin, who appeared in 20 games for Canisius last season and posted an outstanding .920 save percentage.
“Dan left for the pro ranks,” said Smith. “But I like what we have in net. Max Buetow has some experience (29 games in three seasons), plus we have Bryce Luker.”
Luker played in the USHL last season, but had previously started 31 games for Michigan Tech in two seasons.
“Buetow is injured right now, so Bryce will be our starter,” said Smith. “He’s got the experience.”
Also transferring in via the USHL is defenseman Kyle Bushee, who played for Des Moines last season after spending two years at Western Michigan, where he had eight points in 63 games.
Also back and expected to make a big contribution is Dave Kasch, who played just eight games last year before an injury ended his season.
“Kasch will be our best centerman,” said Smith. “He’ll help to establish some offensive depth. Last year we had (Mike) Cohen way up there in scoring (32 points), but nobody else close. We need to be more balanced.”
Cohen will be joined by forwards Joel Kitchen and Joey Coccimiglio. In all, the Griffs return four of their top five scorers.
Canisius hosts four games this season at the Pepsi Center in Amherst, N.Y., with the rest being played at Buffalo State.
“(The games at) the Pepsi Center are important to continue to build a fan base,” said Smith. “Amherst is a good hockey town, and everybody in Western New York knows about the Pepsi Center and what a great facility it is. We tried to spread those games out and pick the teams we play there (Mercyhurst, Army, RIT twice) and raise awareness in the community.”
“We’ve got a good group of new players and a good group of veterans,” said Smith. “I like our chances.”