Ah, the New Year. A time for resolutions and reflections. And if you watched any of the numerous morning television magazines, picked up a newspaper or clicked onto VH1 at any time during the holidays, you probably saw some “Best of 2004” or “Top Moments of the Past Year” list. Well, I’ve never been one to pass up stealing a good idea. And with that in mind, I present to you the 20 MOST MEMORABLE CHA MOMENTS OF 2004 (in the order in which they occurred).
January 6 — The year got off on the wrong foot for the CHA, when it was announced that Findlay would be dropping its men’s and women’s hockey programs at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season. Coach Pat Ford’s squad received the news just two weeks after taking mighty North Dakota to the wire and posting a 1-1 tie against Brown at the Subway Holiday Classic in Grand Forks, then dropping a hard-fought 1-0 contest to Notre Dame on the road. “I cried the same tears with the guys that day and just told them it was a responsibility to each other, as a team, that we see the season through with class,” said Ford.
January 17 — Freshman Peter Foster makes 31 saves for his first career shutout, as Air Force posts a 3-0 win against service academy rival Army. The victory was head coach Frank Serratore’s 100th at the Falcon’s helm.
January 17 — Jared Ross scores three goals and ads an assist as the UAH Chargers down Wayne State, 5-2. It’s Ross’ second career hat trick following a three goal performance against Bemidji State during his freshman season.
January 29 — Robert Morris to the rescue. With the departure of Findlay, the Colonials agree to join the CHA, thus retaining the conference’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
February 7 & 12 — Niagara netminder Jeff Van Nynatten posts back-to-back shutouts, making 24 saves in a 3-0 win against Wayne State and 25 stops in an 8-0 blanking of Alabama-Huntsville.
February 27-March 5 — Findlay, which had only won consecutive games once all year and at one point sported an 11-game winless streak, sweeps a two-game set with Niagara (6-2 & 8-3), then downed Alabama-Huntsville (3-1) to post a three-game winning streak.
Feb. 28 — Bemidji State records a 9-1 victory against Air Force and secures its first CHA regular season championship. The Beavers conclude the season with a 16-3-1 mark in division play for 33 points, five better than second place Niagara.
March 6 — Wayne State’s Jason Baclig nets his first career hat trick, but the Warriors fall to Air Force, 6-4, at the Compuware Sports Arena. The Freshman finishes the season first on the team with 13 goals and just one point off the Wayne State scoring lead.
March 12 — The lame-duck Findlay Oilers dismantle Air Force, 9-1, in the quarterfinals of the CHA Tournament. Kris Wiebe leads the attack with five points (2-3), while Will Hooper stops 16 shots to record the final victory in team history.
March 12 — Alabama-Huntsville falls to Wayne State, 5-3, in the CHA Tournament, but Jared Ross ups his point total on the year to 50 (19-31) with two goals and an assist in defeat. Ross’ points per game average of 1.61 is the tops in all of Division I.
March 14 — Senior captain Joe Tallari beat Bemidji State netminder Grady Hunt at 13:27 of overtime, giving Niagara a 4-3 victory in the CHA Championship game, the longest contest in league history. The second-seeded Purple Eagles downed the regular season champs and earned their second trip to the NCAA tournament.
October 22 — Robert Morris makes a little hockey history as Jeff Gilbert tallies two goals to lead the club to a 3-1 victory over Canisius in its first ever Division I contest.
October 23 — Freshman Brett Hopfe records the first hat trick in Robert Morris history in the team’s first home game, but the Colonials drop a 5-4 decision to Canisius in front of a sellout crowd.
November 12 — Freshman Adam Krug’s third-period tally gave Wayne State a 3-2 victory against Robert Morris, and handed head coach Bill Wilkinson his 400th career win. Wilkinson picked up the milestone win while facing off against one of his former players, Derek Schooley, who is the Colonials’ head coach.
November 20 — Krug, who had two goals in his first 11 games, explodes for three as Wayne State defeats Bowling Green, 9-3, on the Falcons’ home ice.
November 27 – Brian Gineo scores the lone goal, as Air Force hands host RPI a 1-0 defeat in the championship game of the Rensselaer Holiday Hockey Tournament. Peter Foster stops 32 shots — including 14 in the final frame — to secure the win.
December 11 — Peter Foster records his NCAA-best fifth shutout of the season in a 2-0 win against American International. It’s Foster’s second blanking of AIC on the season.
December 11 — Niagara forward Barrett Ehgoetz picks up four points (1-3) in a 6-2 win against Bemidji State and passes former Air Force Falcon Andy Berg for the all-time CHA points lead. Ehgoetz, who passed Berg on the all-time assist list the previous night, set up Ryan Gale’s second period goal to jump to the top of the points pile.
December 18 — Andrew Murray closes out the 2004 portion of the Bemidji schedule by adding one assist in a 4-2 win against Western Michigan, leaving the senior captain with 99 career points, one shy of the team’s Division I record of 100 set by Marty Goulet from 1999 through 2003.
December 30 — Barret Ehgoetz said goodbye to 2004 and hello to the record books once again, notching two assists in a 5-2 loss to Lowell. With the helpers he moved past Mike Isherwood and Mikko Sivonnen for the top spot on the team’s all-time scoring list. Both of those players suited up during the team’s first four years of competition, during which time Niagara competed as an independent before joining the CHA in 1998.
It just so happens that the publication date for this column (January 6) is the one year anniversary of the Findlay announcement. So it seems fitting to catch up on how some of the former Oilers are plying their trades these days.
Head coach Pat Ford is keeping plenty busy back in Wisconsin, helping to coach his three sons’ youth teams and adjusting to life outside of competitive hockey.
“I’ve either been playing or coaching my whole life. So I call myself a civilian,” said Ford, who is now working in the ‘civilian’ sector as a regional sales manager for a water treatment company.
• Sophomore winger Mike Batovanja, who finished second on Findlay in scoring with 20 points last season, has four assists in 18 games with Michigan Tech this year.
• Will Hooper has been splitting time between the Wayne State pipes posting a 4-3-1 record and 3.11 goals against average.
• Sophomore Kenny McCaulay has been a prominent member of the Vermont blueline, notching nine points (2+7) while appearing in all 20 Catamounts games.
• Paul Prefontaine is third on Manhattanville (D III) with 10 points (5-5) in 10 games.
• Kurtis Petersen has eight points (3-5) in 18 games with D III St. Norbert’s.
• Brandon Straub has seen limited playing time with Colorado College, suiting up for just three games thus far.
• Senior Kris Wiebe has ranks fifth on Niagara with 11 points (5-6) in 18 games. His five goals are tied for third on the team.
• Junior Kurt Wright leads Robert Morris with six goals and is tied for fourth on the team with eight points. The only upperclassman on the squad, he has been one of the Colonials most reliable skaters and a guiding force for the team’s 21 freshmen.