As College Hockey America approaches the stretch run, the schedule is better defined in weeks instead of months. Appropriately, we at the CHA Beat are counting down with you — like this:
Four Final Weeks
Yes, there are just four weeks left in the regular season. Each CHA foe has eight conference matchups left. Two pairs of teams have yet to take the ice against each other: Alabama-Huntsville and Findlay, and Wayne State at Niagara. Both matchups take place for the first time this weekend.
With four weeks left in the season, only Air Force is mathematically eliminated from the CHA regular-sesaon title race. Findlay could finish with as many as 25 points, but they’d need a lot of parity in conference to make that happen. The title is realistically within reach for current co-leaders Bemidji State and Wayne State and third-place Niagara. UAH probably needs too much help to finish at the top.
For the first time all season, all six CHA teams are in play against each other. We’ll break down the matchups.
Wayne State skates into upstate New York having won five of its last six conference tilts to rise to the top of the CHA dogpile. Niagara has slipped of late, losing three of its last five conference matchups, although the Purple Eagles did take a four-pointer from Air Force. Sophomore keeper Rob Bonk [14-8-0, 3.00, .890] has had more help on offense this year, but his stats are off a bit from last season.
This matchup promises to be a battle of keepers, as Bonk and Warrior junior David Guerrera [11-11-3, 3.51, .892] shoulder the burden in net for their teams. Bonk has the edge in all-around numbers, but when CHA games are distilled from the mix, Guerrera’s tough nonconference games are washed away, showing his real talent.
With Niagara missing coach Dave Burkholder for Friday night’s contest, we’re going to go with a road sweep for the Warriors. We may be going out on a limb here, but we think the Warriors really are that good.
The Oilers from Findlay serve as the Chargers’ homecoming dance partners this weekend. Captain Kevin Ridgeway is a member of the homecoming court, but we figure the students at UAH will wait for him if he takes a while to clean up and change into a monkey suit after playing two tough games against the Oilers.
These teams may be out of the running for the top spot, but they can hope to finish strong for a good seed for the conference tournament at Niagara. UAH is a little beat up after facing national No. 2 St. Cloud last weekend, and the Oilers should be able to take advantage.
We’ll go with a split for the series; in the meantime, we’ll enjoy watching two teams that are very young, with few seniors on their rosters.
The Serratore Struggle resumes this weekend in Bemidji, when older brother Frank brings his Falcons to face Tom’s co-leading Beavers. The season hasn’t been kind to Frank’s team, with nonconference success not spilling over into CHA wins. Despite the curious inclusion of USAFA on three USCHO.com poll ballots this week, this just isn’t Air Force’s year.
The key for the Beavs is to see whether or not they’ve really broken the Saturday Slump. Bemidji is only 4-6-3 on Saturdays this season, but they have won the last two such events. While we’d like to go with the easy pick and figure the Beavers for a sweep, we think that Air Force is good for a tie … on Saturday.
Two Teams in a Tie
After heading into last week with three teams tied for the conference lead, the CHA schedule has pared it down to two. Ties at the top have been a common theme this year, so what’s the procedure for tiebreakers? Here’s the word from the CHA in this week’s press release:
a. If two or more teams are tied, head-to-head competition during the regular season will be used to break a tie.
b. If two or more teams are still tied after (a), the highest seed will go to the team with the highest winning percentage during regular-season conference games.
c. If two or more tied teams played a series during the regular season and the teams have the same win-loss records for the series and the same number of CHA wins, the team having the least number of goals scored against it in the series shall have the higher rank.
d. If not determined by (a), (b), or (c), the seeding shall be determined by the flip of a coin by the Commissioner.
e. Game [sic] played against CHA opponents in holiday tournaments shall not be counted in the above determinations.”
Hoo, boy, this’ll be fun. The way we read it at the CHA Beat, the two four-point games against Air Force by Bemidji and Niagara will have an effect if the tiebreaker goes past (a) into (b). It’s not as convoluted as the Bowl Championship Series selection process or Boolean algebra, but it’s still a bit kookier than we’d like.
As mentioned previously, Niagara head man Dave Burkholder is out for Friday night’s game versus Wayne State. Burkholder was suspended by the league for getting into a heated discussion with on-ice officials and then berating the officiating after the game.
Burkholder was quoted on the Niagara Web site as saying, “To come all this way and play for first place, and have to kill off 13 minutes in penalties in the third period, on the road without even one power play, is a travesty to college hockey.”
Niagara athletic director Mike Hermann responded to the suspension: “Coach Burkholder’s postgame actions and comments were inappropriate, and Niagara will accept the league’s sanctions without appeal.”
Kudos to Hermann for doing the responsible thing. To Coach Burkholder: At least the referee wasn’t Dave Glassman.
For the CHA Beat, I’m Kasey … never mind.
USCHO covers Men's D-I all week long on the Men's D-I Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.