This Week in the CHA: Jan. 10, 2002

The CHA Beat

As College Hockey America rolls full speed back into the conference schedule, it’s time to see if two teams will step up their play, or decide to settle for CHA mediocrity. Coming off of a sweep of Air Force last weekend, the Findlay Oilers travel north to play Bemidji State. A sweep by either team would guarantee the broomholders no less than a second-place tie in the CHA standings.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys

The story of that Findlay sweep, though, was the shorthandedness of the Falcons. Andy Berg, Spanky Leonard, Brian Reaney, and Tom Starkey were all suspended for the series for an unspecified violation of team rules. Not only were the Falcons missing the four, who totaled a full third of AFA’s offense coming into the weekend, but they were also missing Brian Gornick and Ross Miller due to injury and illness, respectively.

CHA Beat spoke with Dave Toller at Air Force’s Sports Information Department earlier this week, and all four suspended Falcons will be back this week. Head coach Frank Serratore will be happy to have them back, to be sure, but above all, Air Force Cadets are expected to be disciplined. We imagine a goodly amount of extra skating accompanied the clipped wings.

Air Force wasn’t the only CHA team to suspend players last weekend. Alabama-Huntsville suspended wingers Jessi Otis and Karlis Zirnis for an unspecified team rules violation. The CHA Beat watched Otis and Zirnis skate plenty after UAH’s Thursday night practice last week; it must have paid off, as both Otis and Zirnis were back in the lineup for Saturday night’s games. While Air Force seemed to miss their suspendees, UAH ripped off a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota State Mavericks on Friday before losing with the lineup restored the next night, 5-1.

The Conference Tilts

But enough about the bad, really. What’s good about the CHA? Right now, it would have to be the Findlay-Bemidji tilt. As stated, these two teams are playing for position in the CHA standings. Findlay keepers Jamie VandeSpyker and Kevin Fines each won a 4-2 contest against Air Force last weekend, but they’ll likely face a tougher test against the Beavers. Like the Oilers, Tom Serratore’s Bemidji team relies on two ‘keepers in Grady Hunt and Dannie Morgan. Look for each team to start each goaltender over the weekend, and we’re going to go with a split for this series.

The other CHA tilt has winless Air Force traveling to conference leader Wayne State. Yes, the Falcons have yet to win in six CHA contests; yes, the Falcons have to feel just a bit of turmoil. But we at CHA Beat can’t ignore the nonconference play of Air Force. It’s really hard to pick anything but a home sweep for the Warriors, who have looked solid this year, but expect Air Force to give its all in both games. The Falcons are better than a winless team, and they’ll try to show it this weekend.

Backup for Guerrera

We at CHA Beat were pleasantly surprised with the play of Warriors G Brett Leone against Lake Superior State last weekend. Shoot, we were surprised to see anyone other than Dave Guerrera in net.

CHA Beat spoke with Jeff Weiss up at Wayne State, and Weiss related that coach Bill Wilkinson wanted to get Leone some ice time. We’d say it went well; a 4-2 win in a weekend where Wayne State got its first ever victories against CHA foes.

Nonconference Notes

The CHA did well last weekend against nonconference opponents, with the UAH split against WCHA foe Minnesota State-Mankato and WSU’s sweep of CCHA representative LSSU. All in all, it brings the CHA’s nonconference record to 34-33-2 on the season. Here’s the breakdown:

v. CCHA: 2-7-1
v. ECAC: 2-4-1
v. HEA: 2-4-0
v. MAAC: 22-6-0
v. WCHA: 4-12-0

All in all, CHA teams win about a third of their nonconference games … except for the MAAC. As always, the CHA owns the MAAC.

This weekend, CHA teams have three nonconference tilts on the schedule. Niagara hosts MAAC foe Canisius for one game Friday night. Need I say more? We’ll go with a Niagara win, Rob Bonk or no Rob Bonk.

The other two games are played by UAH, as the Chargers travel to play the Nebraska-Omaha. True, UNO was highly ranked at the beginning of the season, but they’re no doubt looking for a team to rebound against. With the way UAH has looked this season — consistently inconsistent — it’s hard to imagine that the Chargers will pull off a split at UNO. Stranger things have happened, though, but we’ll pick the UNO sweep and stay with the statistical record.

After all, statistics lie, and liars use statistics, right?