2001-02 Canisius Season Preview

Brian Cavanaugh, like any college coach in the country, looks forward to the start of the college hockey season every year. In his speech at the MAAC’s media day, Cavanaugh noted that the start of the college hockey season this year may allow us to feel a bit more of a sense of normalcy, given the incidents of September 11 and with the recent loss of Shawn Walsh to cancer.

So it’s clear that Cavanaugh is excited about the start of the season. But he’s not the only person excited in Buffalo, N.Y.

Sean Weaver, a breakthrough goaltender two seasons ago as a sophomore, is probably the most excited player in the country to start his senior year.

“I can see the gleam in his eye,” said Cavanaugh about the well-thought-of netminder.

The gleam is because Weaver has returned to full health after a nagging knee injury that affected his performance and eventually sidelined him for much of last year.

“He’s finally back to 100 percent and he’s practicing real well,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s anxiously looking forward to getting back and playing games.

“His knee wasn’t right from December on last year. He didn’t get it fixed until February and that basically eliminated the season for him.”

With a healthy goaltender, Cavanaugh and his squad will look to leave their mark on what he terms a difficult league.

“When I look at the league, I think legitimately eight teams have a chance to win the league, especially considering single elimination in the playoffs,” Cavanaugh said.

“Our goaltending will be key. Weaver is going to have to bounce back for his senior year and one of our freshmen will have to play well when I do use them. The freshmen need to give Weaver time to rest now and then because of our travel schedule.

“Our defense is a year older and a year more stable. It will boil down to how quickly our freshmen get acclimated.”

That freshman class includes nine, three of whom are goaltenders. After Weaver, Cavanaugh said he has no clear number-two goaltender.

Cavanaugh also wants to right the special-teams ship. Once a successful part of the game plan, it’s now an extreme concern.

“Our struggle for the last two years has been special teams,” Cavanaugh said. “Three years ago [when Canisius advanced to the league championship], I had the number-one power play in the country. Last year, I had the worst power play in the country.

The fact that Canisius was a third-place team last year with a struggling power play and without Weaver speaks wonders for what could happen if the stars fall into alignment.

“Our special teams were at the bottom of the league and you can’t have that,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s amazing that we won as many games as we did without our number-one goaltender most of the year, the inability to score goals and such poor special teams.”