By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Shorty after St. Joe's hockey coach Rick Crozier's team beat Canisius 5-2 on Thursday night he got a text message from Maraduers boys basketball coach Mark Simon. Simon said congratulations and that now it's his turn to beat Canisius.
Simon and the Marauders get their chance at 2 p.m. today when St. Joe's (10-1, 2-0 MMAA) takes on the Crusaders (7-3, 2-0 MMAA) for the first of two meetings at Canisius College's Koessler Athletic Center. The schools agreed to move the series to the bigger venue after having to turn fans away when the squads met in their own, smaller gyms.
Whenever these two teams get together, Simon said it's always a great atmosphere.
"There's no greater rivalry in Western New York than when Canisius and St. Joe's get together. That in itself makes Saturday an exciting game," he said. "Then you add in that they're the two-time defending Manahttan Cup champions, one of the best teams in Western New York and one of us will have our first league loss. There's just so many things that make Saturday an important game."
For Canisius, Tonawanda native Adam Weir — committed to play at Canisius College next season — is four points away from reaching the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
Weir leads the Crusaders on the glass and out in transition, where Simon said they're great and tough to contain. He also called Canisius "as complete a high school basketball team as you'll find."
Fot the Marauders, they'll continue to count on their depth to keep them in the game. They're led by Louis Oliveri and Justin Hollins, who both work hard on both the offensive and defensive boards and can score in bunches if they get into a groove early on.
Simon said the game is a good barometer for where both teams are at this point in the season.
"You learn a lot about yourself as a team in a game like this. If we lose it's not the end of the world, it's just one game," he said. "You learn about them and yourselves. I don't want to put too much stock in one game but it is important."
Both schools treat St.Joe's-Canisius games differently than the rest of the schedule and, while this is the first time the school's meet in the Koessler Center for a regular season contest, Simon expects it to embody the usual feel of the game.
"It will have a different flavor. It'll be different," Simon said. "We did it for the fans so more people can see the game, because every year both schools have to turn away hundreds of people. Now everybody has a chance to go watch the game."
Follow Tonawanda News sports on twitter @tonanewssports for live updates from tomorrow's game.