This Week in the CHA: Feb. 14, 2002

The CHA Beat motors on, despite computers that die whenever we touch them.

Alas, you’re getting this a bit late, as Niagara has already reclaimed the third-place position by defeating Bemidji State 4-3 on Thursday night. To be honest, we at the CHA Beat weren’t sure the Purps had it in them after the bad run they’ve had of late, but hey, we’ve been wrong before.

With just three weeks to go, Wayne State has pulled in front by a point over Bemidji thanks to a sweep of Niagara on the road last weekend and Air Force being able to come away with a Saturday night tie — as predicted by the CHA Beat. (Us? Gloat? Never.)

We think Wayne State will end up winning the Bob Peters Cup as regular-season champion: the Warriors can pick up both games this weekend against Findlay, and they finish with games against BSU and Niagara. With its next two opponents scuffling for the second seed and a first round by in the CHA Tournament, Wayne State just has to play smart hockey and win four of six. Bill Wilkinson’s Warriors have shown all season that they can do it, and we see no reason to doubt them.

The big question left is whether Bemidji can hold on to the No. 2 seed. The bye is important for the CHA Tournament: seeds three through six would have to win games on three straight nights to take home the Bruce McLeod Cup.

The Beavers realistically need to win four of their last five to hold on to their seed without getting help from others, and their final opponents aren’t a cakewalk. They play Niagara again Friday night, host Wayne State for a pair, and then travel south to Alabama-Huntsville. The Beavers have the inside track, but they might be fading, especially with their problems on the second night of a series.

The other challengers for the two spot are the Purple Eagles and the Chargers. Stunning many UAH fans, the Chargers might actually be in better position, as they have the much easier schedule down the stretch: at Air Force this weekend, at Findlay next weekend, and home against Bemidji after a weekend off from the ice. The two road series are winnable for the Chargers; they swept both teams at home, and they split earlier this season with the Beavers in Bemidji.

To make it to No. 2, the Chargers have to make up six points on the Beavers. Sweeping at Air Force this weekend would make for at least two of them, and if the Chargers could sweep the Beavers at home, it just might happen. Just when most UAH fans had given up hope…

The Purple Eagles have a slightly tougher road. To begin, they came into the weekend a point behind UAH in fourth position, and they also face league-leading Wayne State. Taking a game from Bemidji helped their chances, but they pretty much have to win out and expect help from Findlay and Air Force.

Speaking of them, Findlay and Air Force seem to still be bringing up the rear, although both are still dangerous. Both teams have goaltenders that can play solid, as the Falcons ride Mike Polidor and the Oilers seem to be favoring Jamie VandeSpyker down the stretch. Findlay is the better all-around team, although both can play spoiler.

Our picks for the CHA Tournament, now just four weekends away?

No. 1: Wayne State
No. 2: Alabama-Huntsville
No. 3: Bemidji State
No. 4: Niagara
No. 5: Findlay
No. 6: Air Force

Remember, though: last year, Wayne State was No. 3 and won the tournament, and no top seed has won the postseason title.

If nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch.