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The Canisius College men's lacrosse team begins the defense of its 2013 MAAC title on Saturday afternoon, opening conference play at VMI. The Griffs and the Keydets are set to meet in Lexington, Va. at 1 p.m.

CHALLENGING NON-CONFERENCE SLATE
• Canisius should be well prepared for the MAAC this season after playing the most difficult schedule in the country so far.
• According to Lax Power, the Griffs have the highest strength of schedule so far this season, just ahead of Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke.
• Of the Griffs' seven non-conference games this season, four are against teams currently in the national rankings - No. 2 Cornell, No. 5 Denver, No. 11 Syracuse and No. 19 Albany.

A MAN-UP WITH GRAVINO
• Freshman Vince Gravino has quickly proven his worth at Canisius.
• The rookie is currently tied for the team lead with eight goals this season to go along with three assists for 11 points.
• On Tuesday, Gravino netted his first collegiate hat trick with all three tallies coming on an extra-man opportunity. He is the first Griff to score three man-up goals in a single game since Tom Hensel on March 24, 2007 against Wagner

SECOND-HALF BLUES
• Even against the most challenging schedule in the country, the Griffs have done a good job holding their own this season. However, a late surge has usually meant the difference.
• In the first half of games this year, Canisius is being outscored by only three goals (23-20).
• However, opponents have taken advantage in the second 30 minutes of action, outscoring the Griffs by 22 goals in the third and fourth quarters (40-18).

RAUTENSTRAUCH BECOMES OFFENSIVE FORCE
• One player that is taking advantage of the new rules that puts an emphasis on two-way midfielders is senior Joe Rautenstrauch.
• Primarily a defensive midfielder during his first three seasons at Canisius, Rautenstrauch has scored four goals in five games as a senior.
• Rautenstrauch went scoreless during the first 26 games of his career prior to the season.
• In addition to his four goals this season, Rautenstrauch is also tied for first on the team with 19 ground balls in 2013.

CANISIUS - VMI SERIES HISTORY
• The Griffs and Keydets are meeting for the 16th time. Canisius holds an 11-4 advantage in the all-time series.
• Canisius has won nine of the last 10 games in the series, which includes the 2008 MAAC Championship ­ a 14-5 Canisius win.
• The Griffs are 6-1 all-time at VMI, winning each of their last four games in Lexington.
• Last season, the Griffs earned a 13-11 victory against the Keydets. The win ignited a four-game winning streak for Canisius, which included both games of the 2012 MAAC Tournament.

ABOUT THE KEYDETS
• VMI is still in search of its first win of the 2013 season, entering the weekend at 0-6.
• The Keydets are coming off an 18-12 loss at Wagner on Tuesday.
• Russell East leads the team with 14 points on 12 goals and two assists. Bernie Mowbray ranks second with nine points on five goals and four assists.
• Gaston Ledford leads the Keydets at the faceoff X, winning 47.5 percent (58-122) of restarts.


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