This weekend, CHA Commissioner R.H. “Bob” Peters is en route to the Twin Cities to watch Bemidji State play the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
As it turns out, the Golden Gophers were playing when Peters first officially broached the subject of Robert Morris joining the CHA. He was in Buffalo, and Minnesota was en route to its second straight national championship.
“I met [Robert Morris Athletic Director] Dr. Hofacre in Buffalo during the Frozen Four, that’s when we started to talk about the future for Robert Morris,” Peters said. “We had contact throughout the year from Buffalo down to January of this year.”
Peters dipped into his vast reservoir of college hockey experience — he went to his first collegiate game in 1953 — in order to provide the necessary guidance for the Colonials to see the wisdom in signing up for his conference.
— Commissioner R.H. ‘Bob’ Peters on further CHA expansion.
“I offered advice to Dr. Hofacre regarding the hiring of a coach and any other information she deemed prudent,” he said. “There was a reason for an official visit.”
Hofacre, in the school’s press release, cited the ability to form rivalries and spark interest in the competition as a primary impetus for picking the CHA. Although Robert Morris’ location — Pittsburgh — has no natural geographic rivalry with any team in the conference, it is roughly four hours from both Niagara and Wayne State.
Suffice to say, with only six teams in the league, rivalries can develop quickly.
Peters expanded on the reasons that Robert Morris enlisted.
“It was an important fact that they would qualify for national championship play and qualify for a conference championship that gives the athletes a great deal to look forward to,” he said. “I think that the CHA in a short five years has made gigantic strides in quality of play.”
On the flip side, the city of Pittsburgh was part of the lure for extending the invitation. There’s more hockey history in the Steel City than just the Penguins. Ancient Steel City puckheads can reminisce about the Pittsburgh Pirates, an NHL team from 1925-1929.
The city had an AHL team, the Pittsburgh Hornets, from 1936-37 to 1966-67, which won three Calder Cups. The Hornets won their third title in their final year and moved out to make way for the Penguins.
Even if Mario Lemieux’s boys are not much to look at on the ice now, there’s confidence that fans are ripe for exposure to the college game.
“From the first time I head of Robert Morris’ interest in hockey, I though it was an excellent area,” Peters said. “Pittsbugh is a good hockey city. There’s a long history of hockey in the area. I wanted to put forth a gallant effort to bring the CHA and all of our accomplishments to Robert Morris.”
While the commissioner does not need to make any more gallant efforts right now to avoid losing his autobid, the conference may not be done expanding.
“We are still entertaining expansion,” Peters said. “I can’t disclose what schools have expressed interest in starting varsity hockey. However, we do not have a moratorium on expansion like other conferences do. I like to look at the CHA as an opportunity or a home for emerging programs.”
Peters did shoot down a lot of the scheming about merging with Atlantic Hockey, or a larger NCAA-wide redistribution of teams based on geography.
“[Merging with Atlantic Hockey] is just idle speculation,” he said. “There’s always been a speculation about arranging teams into more of a geographic comfort zone, but we’ve had no meetings. Anything along those lines is for the future, but one never knows.”
For the time being, Peters is content to get back down to hockey. It’s a good weekend for the commissioner. His league was saved, and he was on his way to one of the best hockey cities in America, the site of the NHL All-Star game and an opportunity for his Beavers to pull off an upset.
“The Beavers are in first place in the conference and are playing extremely good hockey,” Peters said. “The Gophers have really turned their season around, have everyone back, and are playing extremely well. It is tough to predict just what will happen.”
Something Cooking in Bemidji
Bemidji junior Brendan Cook continues to drive the Bemidji offense. A week after posting six points against Wayne State, he torched the Oilers last weekend for a hat trick on Friday in a 4-0 win and then tacked on another goal on Saturday.
Cook has found a home on the Beavers top line and leads the team with 29 points. The Beavers are in first place by eight points over Niagara, but are tied with the Purple Eagles in the loss column, meaning Niagara would have to win all of its four games in hand to even things up.
The Beavers can announce themselves as a legitimate first-place team with a win at No. 5 Minnesota, or at least a good showing. The school can also further its effort to entrench itself in the “State of Hockey.”
Already this year, Bemidji established a traveling trophy — in the image of Babe the Blue Ox — to go to the winner of its now-annual meeting with Minnesota-Duluth. It played a home game against Air Force in Coleraine, Minn., the hometown of Tom and Frank Serratore, coaches of the Beavers and Falcons, respectively.
Though the Golden Gophers are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games, success is not out of the question, though it will be a longshot. Bemidji will have difficulty skating with the champs, especially on the big sheet.
And Cook will have to get hotter.
From Michigan to Maine
The other high profile matchup this weekend is Alabama Huntsville’s trip to No. 3 Maine, coming after two spirited games against Northern Michigan. The Chargers could not come up with a victory last weekend, failing to hold a 2-1 lead entering the third period on Saturday and settling for a 3-3 tie.
More troubling for the Chargers is that Jared Ross was held to just two assists. He will have to elevate his game for his team to skate with the Black Bears, especially on the road.
A strong weekend would also help CHA fans make Ross’ case on the Vote for Hobey standings. Ross has fallen out of first place in the fan balloting to Michigan Tech’s Chris Conner.
Meanwhile, the Purple Eagles are playing two of their games in hand this weekend against Wayne State. These are must-wins for the team’s championship aspirations.
The Warriors had last weekend off, and might have wanted to use that time to find some defense. In its previous two weeks, WSU gave up 159 shots and 24 goals. Niagara simply cannot let Wayne State steal one, especially on home ice.
And Lastly …
I’ll be in the movie theater Friday night to watch Miracle with a pack of high school hockey players. I don’t know if it’s going to be a good movie, but it’s a good reminder of a time that feels increasingly distant, especially for kids whose only image of the Soviet Union is Ivan Drago from Rocky IV.