After last week’s turkey-induced vacation, the CHA Beat is back for its second week. No, CHA fans, we haven’t left you in the lurch; you’ll keep seeing interesting tidbits as the season wears on about your favorite teams and their conference opponents.
Air Force is just off of a four-game tour in Britain, playing teams from the second division of the British Findus National Ice Hockey League, where some players have college and minor league experience. The Falcons went 3-1, and their offense seemed to solidify while abroad.
The Falcons have to decide whether to go with sophomore netminder Mike Polidor or hand the controls to freshman Zachary Sikich. We at CHA Beat have seen both netminders in action, and think playing time should be split fairly evenly for the rest of the year, as Sikich seems to be an up-and-comer. We do want to see Polidor return to 2000-2001 form, though, and we think it can still happen.
Section 25 [or is that Section 27?] was happy to see a road split against Bemidji State two weekends ago, and they were treated to more fun as the turkey settled, as MAAC foe Sacred Heart was swept by the homestanding Chargers.
UAH fans have welcomed Mark Byrne back with open arms. With Byrne still getting into gear after breaking both wrists in a summer accident, the UAH goalie situation has been up in the air. Last weekend, Byrne played both games at home against Sacred Heart, with 5-3 and 6-3 wins to show for it.
Congratulations are in order to UAH’s Karlis Zirnis for his five-point night against SHU Saturday, which garnered him CHA Offensive Player of the Week honors. Not to be outdone, freshman center Jared Ross racked up his third Rookie of the Week title on the young season with solid play against the Pioneers.
Marty Goulet’s outstanding season continues for the Beavers; he’s already racked up 20 points in just 12 contests. Not to be left behind, freshman forwards Andrew Murray and Jeff McGill both have 16 points so far, as Bemidji’s 52 goals has it tied for second in the conference.
Can the Beavers beat the Saturday night blues? The Beavers are 4-3-0 on Friday, but 1-4-1 on Saturday this season. They’ve had a week to heal their wounds and get rested to trek down to Detroit for this weekend’s matchup against Wayne State. There, the question will be the goalie play of Dannie Morgan and Grady Hunt. Morgan’s stats are better overall, but Hunt has the decided edge in CHA play. Look for each to get a start in Michigan.
Findlay faces Iona this weekend. The Oilers’ 24-43 goals/goals allowed ratio doesn’t bode well for them. However, the Oilers did split with Bemidji, so all hope isn’t lost. The non-conference blowouts should make this young Findlay group stronger, if Nietzsche is to be believed.
The big problem for Findlay is between the pipes. Sophomore Kevin Fines, junior Jamie Van de Spyker, and senior Josh Baier have been unimpressive. Look for Van de Spyker to get the bulk of the playing time from here out, as he’s the best of a set of seemingly poor alternatives.
Whither Rob Bonk? Is he the same goalie we at CHA Beat saw last season, when he was a freshman force with which to be reckoned? Is he the goalie that stopped UAH 5-2 on 23 shots in their first meeting, or the goalie who was pulled after giving up four goals on 18 shots the next night?
Last week, he was the CHA Defensive Player of the Week. As Bonk continues to grow physically and technically, look for the occasional struggle, but mind you, folks, this is the one CHA goalie you really want to watch when he comes to your neck of the woods.
A tough non-conference stretch against local teams might have the Warriors a bit winded. The statistics don’t tell the whole story for the 2001 CHA Final Five champions; they’ve played some very tough foes, and have only been blown out three times this season.
We at CHA Beat regret not having registered the loss of goalie Marc Carlson for the season due to cancer treatment. David Guerrera is getting all the ice time he wants, and considering the pressure he’s faced, he’s done pretty well. Remember, without pressure, diamonds wouldn’t exist.
The Week Ahead
The Slate returns for its second week. We went 0-for-3 in picking the series results two weeks ago; predictions of Bemidji State and Niagara sweeps [of Alabama-Huntsville and Merrimack, respectively] turned out to be splits, and our pick of a Wayne State-Bowling Green split turned out to be a loss and a tie to the Warriors.
We’ll try better this week, where we have two conference series, a non-conference series, and a non-conference tournament on the board.
Alabama-Huntsville at Niagara, Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1, 7:05
The Chargers and Purple Eagles have already traded checks this season, with Niagara coming to Huntsville and leaving with a split. UAH used its two top netminders in the series, starting Mark Byrne in the win and Adam MacLean in the loss.
With Niagara, Rob Bonk has played well, but had problems in the loss to UAH and the subsequent game. Freshman backup Mike Pataran looked solid to the CHA Beat’s eyes in relief, but at that point, the game was out of hand for the Purps. How Bonk will fare this time against UAH is anyone’s guess.
We at CHA Beat originally went with a home sweep, but after studying Bonk’s troubles and seeing Byrne continue to improve on a weekly basis, we’re going to go with a SPLIT. It’s too tough to call at this point, as these teams seem evenly-matched.
Bemidji State at Wayne State, Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1, 7:05
We at CHA Beat have heard the hue and cry from Michigan, where fans of the Wayne State Warriors though they got short shrift. They may feel that way this week, but rest assured that the CHA Beat looks forward with a bit of trepidation to the Warriors’ invasion of Huntsville the last weekend of the year.
At first glance, this series looks like a Wayne State sweep. After all, BSU is coming off of a rough series of games, with last weekend being their first breather. However, Wayne State has played a tough non-conference schedule of late, going 1-4-1 against Michigan Tech, Ohio State, and Bowling Green.
The story of the weekend promises to be the Bemidji offense firing pucks at Warrior netminder David Guerrera. With Marc Carlson out for cancer treatment, Guerrera has played almost all of the Warriors’ minutes this year. Yes, his stats are a bit high, but WSU’s tough non-conference schedule has a fair amount to do with that.
All in all, we’re going to call this a SPLIT for the weekend. Bemidji has had problems on Saturday night, so look for a win Friday night for the Beavers but a Saturday night loss.
Iona Gaels at Findlay Oilers, Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1, 7:05
Iona is at the top of the MAAC standings, but CHA teams tend to fare well against the MAAC, so we have to look deeper. Both teams have a common opponent in Holy Cross. Iona split a home-and-home, each team winning in their barn. Findlay lost two on the road this past weekend. Findlay’s games were closer than the Iona-HC matches, so we’re going to bet that Findlay’s defensive play helps them pull out a split.
Air Force vs. Manhattanville and Minn.-Crookston/NEC, Friday, Nov. 30, 7:30 (MT); and Saturday, Dec. 1, 3:05/7:05 (MT)
Air Force is hosting three Division III teams in a tournament. We at CHA Beat feel confident that our Boys in Blue will pull off the sweep and win their tournament.