This Week in the CHA: Jan. 22, 2004

This was a real good civics period for America, and high school history teachers had lots of good fodder. The Iowa caucus followed by Howard Dean’s impression of Ozzy Osbourne followed by the State of the Union Address, and the New Hampshire primary is right around the corner.

Amidst it all was the Army-Air Force hockey game this weekend. With the nation at war, the service academies fought their own battle this weekend. In the box score, Army stormed out of the games with four goals in the first 23 minutes of the first game, and then over the final 97 minutes, Air Force outscored Army 6-0, to make a dogfight of the first game and a shutout victory of the second.

But the game was neither about wins and losses, goals and assists, nor even about sophomore defenseman Brooks Turnquist’s magnificent weekend for the Falcons earning him the CHA Defensive Player of the Week Award.

Instead, these two teams played some hard, old-fashioned bang-em-up hockey that left Tate Rink hungry for more. The hitting was so fierce five Army players split their chinstraps. Three Air Force players suffered that fate.

The combined Falcon and Black Knight senior classes line up for each school's alma mater.

The combined Falcon and Black Knight senior classes line up for each school’s alma mater.

Army sophomore defenseman Chris Migliaro lined up Falcon defenseman Bill Devoney for a hit, missed and fractured his femur.

And at the end of the two games, the seniors from both teams lined up on one blueline and the underclassmen on the other, side-by-side, and stood in respect for each school’s alma mater.

“There was amazing ferocity on the ice when we play the other service academy,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “There was also a tremendous amount of respect between the two teams and between the coaching staffs.”

Serratore waxed poetic on the game’s final scene.

“It shows the big picture when you see players from both teams standing side-by-side listening to the alma mater and then saluting the crowd together. It reminds you that ultimately we are all on the same team.”

In the near future, this website will focus intently on the Beanpot tournament, but for Serratore’s money, this is one of the most underrated rivalries in college hockey.

“You can take all of them, the Beanpot, Michigan-Michigan State, Denver and CC, but these kids play as hard against each other as you will ever see on the ice. For the rest of the year, we will root hard for each other.”

Adding to the moment on Saturday was a personal milestone for Serratore. The victory was his 100th at Air Force, but don’t tell the coach that.

“Let’s just say that I reached one hundred losses well before I reached one hundred wins.”

All that leaves is a bunch of America’s future servicemen battling it out on the ice.

They are why the State of the Union is strong.

Player of the Week Woes

To paraphrase Ricky Ricardo, I’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Like how come the hometown columnist couldn’t see fit to make Jared Ross the Offensive Player of the Week?

After all, five goals, one assist against a defensive-minded team. That’s damn impressive. I coordinate the POTW. I send out the ballots. I tabulate the votes. Couldn’t I have slipped one in for a person who has gotten absolutely no recognition nationwide because he plays in the CHA?

And just who is this Globke guy anyway? Where’s he in the Vote for Hobey standings?

Let’s start with the process. Each week, I collect a list of nominees for the award culled from the conference’s players of the week, box scores and other sources of information. An email is sent out to the staff soliciting their votes and any additional candidates to consider. Votes are obviously subjective, and especially so because in addition to raw numbers, as a staff we try and evaluate the quality of the performance.

In other words, how significant were the games and the opposition?

I really do tabulate the votes and let the voters decide. Then like the lawyer I once aspired to be, I make the best argument for the person selected and write it up. The POTW reflects the opinion of the staff, not my personal whim.

It was pretty clear that the staff valued Rob Globke’s four points more than Ross’ six because Globke led then-unranked Notre Dame to take a win and a tie from then-No. 4 Wisconsin — on the road, no less. Lighting up Wayne State does not carry the same cachet. If Ross’ five goals had come against Niagara or Bemidji than a greater case for injustice could be made.

Moreover, based on pure numbers, the people really left out were Thomas Vanek and Zach Parise. Each had more points than Ross with four goals and three assists. In fact, I expected a lot more fan mail from the WCHA crew. (Although personally, I consider five and one more impressive than four and three.)

This is one of those times when the CHA is passed over because it is considered the weakest of the six D-I conferences, and therefore intramural competition is inherently devalued. Twice a CHA player was named Defensive Player of the Week (the first times any conference player received an USCHO weekly award, I believe). Jon Horrell captured it for his work against Michigan State and then No. 1 Boston College and Grady Hunt did it for his efforts against Minnesota-Duluth.

The simple fact of life is that regardless of what the official rules are, on an average CHA weekend, it will be almost impossible for a player to get his due when the ranked teams are playing elsewhere. It’s a perspective that despite setbacks like Findlay, the conference is desperately trying to change — and with good justification. One person that every CHA fan should thank for trying to raise the visibility and respect level of the conference is my predecessor, Geof Morris.

He made the case to the staff every time a performance like Ross would come up in order to try and get his guys at least on the runners-up list.

Both teams show their respect for one another after the game.

Both teams show their respect for one another after the game.

Which brings me to another question: How come Ross did not at least receive an honorable mention?

The fact there is that we don’t do honorable mentions, but Ross certainly received enough votes to be included as a runner-up, especially because five goals against anybody at the D-I level is impressive. So his name has been added to the list.

Really, none of this conversation should diminish the job Ross has done this year. His season numbers are staggering. He’s fourth in the nation in points overall with 31, but he’s played five fewer games than Brandon Bochenski, the leading scorer and eight and nine fewer games than Barrett Ehgoetz and Junior Lessard, respectively, who are tied for second.

He’s leading the nation in points per game at a staggering 1.94 after this weekend. It’s not just the CHA either. At the beginning of the month, he picked apart the first-place team in Atlantic Hockey, Holy Cross, for a goal and four assists in two games on the road.

The real test for him will come in a week. After visiting Air Force, UAH will play Northern Michigan and then travel to No. 3 Maine for a deuce. No USCHO voter would gainsay Ross’ performance if he posted five goals then.

And maybe some Hobey voters as well.

Oiler Pride

Kudos to the Oilers for their performance on Friday against Niagara. In their first home game since the big announcement, they showed some uncommon guts and delivered just what Niagara coach Dave Burkholder feared last week, an inspired performance. The former Findlay won 4-2 on Friday and was tied 4-4 in the third period on Saturday, nearly pulling off a sweep and denying Niagara first place in the Congress.

Random Walk

To finish on a patriotic note, if you haven’t seen the artist’s conception for a rebuilt Lower Manhattan, go to the Port Authority of NY/NJ website. The beauty that will emerge from the bleakness will make you proud to be an American (or a citizen of any other freedom-loving country).