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Canisius games to keep an eye on as winter break begins

By: Vinnie Christiano III

With most Canisius students heading home for the holiday season, some Golden Griffins will be completely removed from campus activity for over a month. The same cannot be said about winter student-athletes, who enjoy the same benefits from the academic break but athletically still have contests on the schedule.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will see action in seven games between Dec. 18 and Jan. 16, while the hockey team plays five times and the swimming and diving teams have one match over that span.

There are several games of note during the winter break as the teams combine for an interesting mix of both conference and non-conference play.

Perhaps the non-conference game on the biggest stage belongs to men’s basketball and will take place on Dec. 18, when they participate in a neutral-site contest against the UB Bulls at the KeyBank Center. The Bulls are currently 5–3 overall, with only a contest this weekend against St. John Fisher in between now and the game against the Griffs. With the Bulls as favorites in the matchup, the big stage would be a great opportunity for Canisius to capture an upset victory in their penultimate game before Christmas for the first time since 2016, when the Golden Griffins won in overtime.

A second game for the men’s basketball program over the break will take place as an inter-conference matchup between St. Peter’s and Canisius on New Year’s Eve. The Griffs will travel to New Jersey, where MAAC preseason player of the year KC Ndefo and the Peacocks will host them on a day where 10 MAAC teams play conference regular season games. The Peacocks finished second in the preseason coaches’ poll, and coach Reggie Witherspoon’s squad will again have to fight an uphill battle after finishing dead last in preseason poll voting. Despite the low expectations, the team has impressed to start the year, and they could play spoiler against overconfident MAAC teams this season.

The women’s basketball team has a slate full of conference games over the winter break, but possibly none are more exciting than when the crosstown rival Niagara Purple Eagles make a visit to the Koessler Athletic Center on Jan. 8. With conference play yet to begin, Niagara currently sits just ahead of Canisius with an overall record of 3–5, whereas the Griffs have a 2–6 record at this point. However, both teams have struggled on the road so far this year, with all five of the Purple Eagle losses being from away games. A renewal of the Battle of the Bridge could prove to be an exciting MAAC game, with the team performing above expectations and with high energy under new head coach Sahar Nusseibeh.

The Golden Griffins ice hockey team won’t see game action for the remainder of December after the conclusion of their home and home series against Niagara on Dec. 9 and 10. Their first game back will be on Jan. 3 when the current No. 18th–ranked Clarkson Golden Knights visit the LECOM Harborcenter. It will be their 100th season in program history and Clarkson is making the most of it, currently nationally ranked while sitting fourth in the ECAC. The two teams already played once this year, playing to a 4–4 tie in the middle of October.

With both teams seeing three weeks off prior to the contest, the game promises to be a fast-paced game between two talented offensive teams with fresh legs from the time off.

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