The steadily-improving Golden Griffins are probably a year away from challenging for an Atlantic Hockey title, but things are certainly moving in the right direction.
“This is the most talented team I’ve had,” said coach Dave Smith. “We’ve had two really good recruiting classes and I think we have a third. Every class has come in unproven and stepped up to make significant contributions.”
The large junior class includes Josh Heidinger (26 points last season), Jason Weeks (20), defenseman Carl Hudson (four power-play goals) and goaltender Andrew Loewen (.911 save percentage).
If it seems like these guys have already been at Canisius a long time, it’s because they were given significant responsibilities as rookies.
“From day one we have expected a lot from that class,” said Smith. “Now they’re upperclassmen and even more comfortable with what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Add last year’s freshmen to the mix — Vinnie Scarsella led the team with 31 points, and Cory Conacher’s 0.85 points per game was tops for Canisius — and you have the makings of a team that’s both young and experienced.
“Our seniors have been our character guys and good leaders,” said Smith, “We’ll miss David (Kasch) and Kyle (Bushee). But I think we have more skill than ever before.
“Winning takes depth. You need to be able to go four lines deep in this league and I think we’re able to do that. Depth takes time but I think we’re there.”
The Griffs’ nonconference schedule will take them to Ferris State for a pair to open the season, with a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Clarkson.
“It’s a tough test on the road right away,” said Smith. “Then we get right into league play at Holy Cross. We’ll reassess after those four games and have a better idea of what we have.”