This Week in the CHA: Nov. 25, 2004

Savoring Opponent Success

Air Force head coach Frank Serratore guided his Robert Morris counterpart, Derek Schooley, when the latter was a defenseman with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. Later, Schooley joined Serratore’s coaching staff with the Falcons, serving four seasons as an assistant before being promoted to associate head coach in 2002. So the fact that Serratore felt a little more admiration than normal for the opposing team and coach during last weekend’s two-game tilt was understandable.

“[Derek’s] done a fabulous job. To go out and recruit a team from scratch, and to have a team compete right away with all freshmen, he’s done an extraordinary job,” Serratore said. “They’re holding their own, they’ve beaten some teams and they’re going to get nothing but better.

“You’ve got to bring in kids and you’ve got to work with them, get them bigger and stronger, get them experienced. For them to be competitive right out of the chute … keep in mind when Niagara started, they played a Division III schedule their first year. When Wayne State started they played a half Division III, half Division I schedule. Derek’s playing a full Division I schedule.

“I’m very impressed and very proud of the job he’s done. It makes me feel good having a guy that worked with me for so long be able to go out and do what he’s done. I take a lot of pride in what they’re accomplishing right now.”

Serratore had no qualms about facing his former protege, despite Schooley having a more familiarity with the Air Force bench boss’ coaching techniques than most.

“To me it’s about you executing what you want to do,” Serratore said before the series started. “They’ll do some things to counter that and we’ll make an adjustment. But basically all the time you go out, 75 to 80 percent of the game is things you want to do and things you want to accomplish, 20 percent you’re countering the opposition, and that mostly comes on special teams.”

Road Warriors

The Robert Morris trip began a stretch of 10 road games in 12 contests for the Falcons. But Serratore said the team actually prefers playing on the road than at home in Colorado Springs.

“We like being away. The Academy’s a tough place, it’s a very disciplined environment, the kids are kept very busy,” Serratore said, noting the many extra requirements that his cadets face compared to students at other schools. “Actually, our guys get more rest when we’re on the road than they do when we’re at home.

“It’s not a big deal to us. We have our own set of challenges when we’re home. There are places the kids have to be whether it’s a game weekend or not. There’s things they have to do and there’s places they have to be. When we’re on the road it’s the only time they’re really free when it’s just hockey. Now, we have study tables when we’re on the road, but for the most part they have a lot more time to rest and mentally prepare for the game when we’re on the road than we do when we’re at home.”

The Name Game

The NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes got a remarkable goaltending performance from Brian Boucher last season, as the fifth-year pro posted five consecutive shutouts from Dec. 31 through Jan. 9, and established an NHL record by holding the opposition without a goal for 332 consecutive minutes.

A little more than six months earlier, the Pittsburgh Penguins made a bit of history as well, selecting Marc-Andre Fleury with the first overall pick in the 2003 Entry Draft. The youngster has been hailed as the best netminding prospect since Patrick Roy hit the scene some 20 years ago.

If names — and early-season performances — mean anything, Schooley just might have two superstars in the making between the pipes.

Christian Boucher has seen the majority of the time in net for the Colonials this season, having appeared in nine of the team’s first 11 games. His 481 minutes played as of Nov. 25 were third among all CHA netminders, while his 270 shots faced were the most of anybody in the league.

But, on the rare occasion when the two-time CJHL All-Star has faltered, Jamie Flury has stepped in and performed admirably.

Flury (OK, it’s not letter for letter, but close enough) got rudely introduced to the NCAA when he stopped 31 shots in an 8-2 drubbing at Mercyhurst on Oct. 26. His next two appearances came when he spelled Boucher in losses to Alabama-Huntsville (Nov. 6) and Air Force (Nov. 19). He showed continued improvement along the way, stopping 30 shots in 40 minutes against the Chargers, and turning aside 11 of 12 in the final frame against the Falcons.

The former Milton Icehawk got his second start the following night against Air Force, and all he did was set the mark for saves in a CHA game this season by turning aside 46 pucks — including 12 of 13 in overtime — in a 2-1 loss.

Unfortunately for Flury, unlucky number 13 came off the stick of Brooks Turnquist, and beat the Colonials’ goalie with just 21.1 seconds to play. But similar performances could have Pittsburgh hockey fans asking “Marc-Andre who?”

Record Watch

Neither Jared Ross nor Barret Ehgoetz had exceptional outings last weekend, but they were still good enough to improve their standings among the all-time CHA scoring leaders.

Ehgoetz’s lone point came with an assist on Sean Bentivoglio’s first period tally in a 5-3 loss to Bemidji State on Nov. 19. That helper moved him out of a deadlock with former Air Force forward Scott Zwiers and into sole possession of third place with 75 career assists.

Ross doubled Ehgoetz’s point production, netting a goal in a 4-2 loss at Minnesota State on Nov. 19, and picking up an assist on the Chargers’ third goal in a 3-3 tie the following night. His goal tied him with both Ehgoetz and former Purple Eagle Joe Tallari for second place all-time, and his assist moved him into a tie for the top spot with Air Force’s Andy Berg.

Ehgoetz and Ross are the only two active players among the top 10 in any of the three scoring categories. Here’s a look at the race for first place, in points, goals and assists.

Career points:

1. Andy Berg, AFA 142
2. Jared Ross, UAH 138
3. Barret Ehgoetz, Niagara 135

Career goals:

1. Andy Berg, AFA 64
2. Jared Ross, UAH 60
2. Barret Ehgoetz, Niagara 60
2. Joe Tallari, Niagara 60

Career assists:

1. Jared Ross, UAH 78
1. Andy Berg, AFA 78
3. Barret Ehgoetz, Niagara 75

Off To A Good Start

Bemidji State saw its five-game winning streak snapped in a 6-4 loss to Wayne State on Tuesday. But that streak saw three straight conference wins — with all of those coming on the road. The hot start against CHA competition is important according to head coach Tom Serratore.

“We only have a 20-game conference season,” he said. “Your first game of the season is as important as your last game of the season. I think you have to approach every game like that. It’s important.”

Where Are The New Boys?

The early signing season is upon us, and several CHA clubs have received verbal commitments for the 2005-06 season. Here’s a quick look:

Wayne State: The Warriors inked Matthew Krug, younger brother of current Wayne State forward Adam Krug, to a national letter of intent on Nov. 23. The younger Krug is currently a member of the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League, and had eight points (3-5) through the team’s first 22 games. The 6-0, 215 pounder was fifth in the league with 66 penalty minutes at the time of his signing.

Bemidji State: The Beavers signed center Matt Allen and forward Mark Soares on Nov. 19. Both players started the season with Coquilam of the British Columbia Hockey League, with Allen eventually being traded to Victoria of the BCHL.

Allen upped his point production in each of his first three seasons with the Express, recording 29, 59 and 61 points respectively between 2001 and 2003. He had 25 points (10-15) in the first 23 games with Coquilam this season before being traded.

“Matt is a six-foot playmaking center,” BSU recruiting coordinator Ted Belisle said. “He’s going to bring us speed and size up the middle. Matt is an excellent two-way player. He’s a junior ‘A’ veteran and has always provided leadership on the ice. He’s a guy we’re going to be able to depend upon any time, any where at both ends of the rink.”

Soares is a three-time recipient of Coquilam’s Most Popular Player award, and has consistently been among the team’s top scorers with 40, 52 and 42 points during the past three seasons. He had 31 points (16-15) through the team’s first 25 games this season.

“Mark is a proven goal-scorer and a veteran of British Columbia Junior ‘A,’ one of the better Junior ‘A’ loops in western Canada,” Belisle said. “He’s a sparkplug and will provide a lot of energy. He’s a great competitor on the ice and will bring a spark to our lineup.”

Niagara: The Purple Eagles added forwards Vincent Russo and defenseman Danny Sullivan, it was announced on Nov. 22.

Rocco led the Vaughan Vipers of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League (OPJHL) with 29 points (12-17) through the team’s first 24 games. He finished last season third on the Vipers with 36 points (15-21), and led the team with four game-winning goals.

Sullivan confirmed his previous verbal commitment to the team by inking a letter of intent. A member of the Pickering Panthers of the OPJHL, Sullivan recorded five goals and nine assists through 28 games, ranking fourth among team blueliners in scoring. He finished last season with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 48 games.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

A few table scraps for you to nibble on this week:

• Wayne State sophomore Mark Nebus recorded two goals in the Bowling Green series, giving him 10 points (4-6) in 13 games. That was already two better than his 2003-04 total of eight points (4-4) in 26 contests.

• Niagara’s Ryan Gale has nine goals in 13 games this season. He had nine in 34 games last year, and entered the season with 16 career tallies in three seasons.

• Alabama-Huntsville leads the nation with a 4.20 goals per game average, and Jared Ross leads all NCAA scorers with a 1.9 points per game mark

• Bemidji State is 23-4-2 in its last 29 regular season games against CHA opponents.

• Robert Morris got its first official sellout of the season for Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to Air Force, drawing 981 fans to the Island Sports Center. The two-game series saw 1,799 fans attend.

• Blake Turnquist joined his brother, Brooks, in the Air Force lineup Saturday, making the duo the third brother combo to suit up for the Falcons. Blake was filling in for junior forward Mike Knaeble, who is expected to miss six to eight weeks after suffering a fractured fibula Friday against Robert Morris.

• Robert Morris and Air Force could meet for the third time in seven days this weekend, as both teams are taking part in the RPI Holiday Tournament.

Have a safe and happy holiday, hockey fans.