This Week in the CHA: Jan. 13, 2005

Robert Morris Remembers Hofacre

Hockey took a back seat at Robert Morris University last week, after it was announced that the school’s athletic director, Dr. Susan Hofacre, succumbed to cancer on Saturday night at the age of 54.

“She had been sick and diagnosed with cancer, so we weren’t expecting good news. But the shock of it finally happening was very sad,” said head coach Derek Schooley. “She hired everybody at the athletic department, was an excellent boss to work for, a first-class individual. It’s a great loss for Robert Morris athletics. She lived Robert Morris athletics. She was the backbone of this athletic department. She ran the place. The whole athletic department and the university suffered a great loss.”

Dr. Hofacre joined Robert Morris in 1989 as the school’s senior women’s administrator, assisting with compliance issues, events scheduling and academic advising, as well as serving as a professor in the school’s highly-regarded sports management program.

Shortly after earning her MBA from the school in 1999, Dr. Hofacre was named the first female athletic director in Robert Morris history, and oversaw the department during an era of great expansion. The school has added seven new athletic programs since 2000, including the first Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey programs in the Pittsburgh area.

“She was very proud of the hockey team,” Schooley stated. “She ran the game day operations, she was taking the chairs down at the end of the games. She was involved with the first game. She was here from the start. She was here at 5:30 and left an hour after the game at 10:30 when everything was cleaned up. She did it all. I can’t say enough about her as an individual and her as a boss and person.”

And while Dr. Hofacre loved being around the action, she gave Schooley and his staff the freedom to run the team as they saw fit.

“She let us do our job, and you can’t ask for anything but that,” he said. “She was very hands-off, but when she wanted to know something or when she called you, it was something important. She gave you the space to do your job and was your biggest supporter.”

Less than 24 hours after Dr. Hofacre’s passing, Schooley and the Colonials found themselves back at the Island Sports Center to take on Mercyhurst.

“It was the first athletic event after her passing, so it was pretty emotional,” Schooley said. “The whole athletic department was here, and the campus came here almost to pay tribute to Susan.

“Our athletic department is a very close-knit department. And it hurts. But I know she wouldn’t want it any other way than for us to go on as strong as possible.”

A public memorial service for Dr. Hofacre will be held this Friday afternoon at the Charles L.Sewall Center Arena. Memorial contributions to the Susan K. Hofacre Memorial Fund may be sent to the Office of Institutional Advancement, Robert Morris University, 6001 University Boulevard, Moon Township, PA 15108. The hockey team will wear stickers with the initials SH on its helmets for the remainder of the season.

Shutout Showing

After paying tribute to their athletic director with a moment of silence Sunday, the Colonials put on their stingiest performance of the season, posting a scoreless tie against Mercyhurst on home ice. The 0-0 game — the first shutout Robert Morris has pitched during its brief existence — was somewhat of a vindication after an 8-2 loss to the Lakers on Oct. 26.

“I’m not one to make excuses, but that was our third game in five days with a bunch of freshmen,” Schooley said of the early-season loss. “We were on the road. I think we had relaxed a little bit, thought this Division I hockey was going to be easy. They took it to us pretty good and they were opportunistic.”

And while the effort may have been lacking during the first meeting, Robert Morris came out determined to show its intrastate rivals that it belonged on the same sheet.

“It’s all about pride and respect, and this team did not give us any respect beating us 8-2,” said goaltender Christian Boucher, who stopped 33 shots in the deadlock. “Everyone wanted to show them that in the 8-2 loss, we didn’t come out to play. Maybe it wasn’t a fluke, but we’re a better team than that. We definitely came out stronger because of that. We had it up on the board, coach put it up, just to remind us. Not to put us down, but to remind us that they did kick our butts and we deserve to play better against them. And we did.”

“Both goalies were really good. I’d rather score a goal, but Christian Boucher was excellent,” Schooley said. “He was good when he had to be. We outshot them in the first two periods, but he made some huge saves in the third period and overtime to bail us out of some defensive jams.”

The Colonials threw 31 pucks at Mercyhurst netminder Mike Ella during the first 40 minutes, including an amazing 22 during the second period alone. But the visitors threw 17 shots Boucher’s way during the final 25 minutes, with eight of those coming in the extra frame.

“I’ve always felt good the last years after I’ve had a break,” said Boucher, who was between the pipes for RMU’s first game in 29 days. “You come back, you’re anxious to play. I think it showed. We played well, our whole team came out strong. We gave it to them. We took it to them, their goalie responded so I knew I had to come back and do the same. I just felt good out there.”

And Schooley felt good about his team’s effort, which gave the Colonials a 1-0-2 mark in their past three games.

“We played hard, we competed extremely hard, and we did everything we needed to do except score a goal,” he said. “I liked to see our improvement from the first game to here.”

Battling Back In Bemidji

The battle for bragging rights in the Serratore family took place again last weekend, with little brother Tom and Bemidji State upping their record against Air Force and sibling Frank to 12-0-1. And while there was no change in the results, the way the Beavers got things done was considerably different.

The Falcons’ Brian Gineo and Seth Pelletier set a CHA record by scoring twice in the first 38 seconds of the game to give Air Force what appeared to be a comfortable lead.

Tom Serratore wasted no time, lifting netminder Layne Sedevie and replacing him with Matt Climie, who stopped all 17 shots he faced during the final 59:22.

On the offensive side, Brendan cook led the Bemidji attack with two goals and an assist, including a shorthanded tally 26 ticks into the second period that cut the Air Force lead and lifted the Beavers’ spirits.

“I didn’t have to do anything,” said BSU’s Serratore. “The guys know how tough it is coming back from a three-goal deficit. It went to 2-1 and it was a shorthanded goal, which really picked up the bench. Our special teams really shined that night.”

Bemidji scored three times in the second (once shorthanded, twice on the power play) and Lou Garritan added a shorthanded, empty-net goal during the final minute of play to cap the 4-2 victory. The win was the first time since Jan. 26, 2002 — and just the fifth since they joined Division I — that the Beavers overcame a two-goal deficit to record a win. The last saw BSU rally from being down to Ferris State, 3-1, to record a 7-5 victory.

“Before this year we actually struggled when we’ve been behind. We kind of remedied that this year when we’ve come back from being down after two periods, so that’s nice to see,” said Serratore.

Saturday saw a similar result, as Air Force took three different one-goal leads, only to have Andrew Murray force overtime with an extra-attacker goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Jean-Guy Gervais followed Murray’s lead four minutes later, netting the game-winner at 3:26 of overtime for Bemidji.

“Points are critical, and you want to make sure you get your points at home,” said Serratore, whose team raised its record to 7-2-0 at the John S. Glas Fieldhouse this season. “Those were big wins for us. The one on Saturday, we stole that one. We had a little luck go our way. Sometimes you need a little luck and we got it on Saturday.”

The two-game sweep allowed the Beavers to pick up a point in the CHA standings on first place Alabama-Huntsville, which posted a win and tie against Wayne State last weekend. The Chargers lead the CHA with a 6-1-1 mark for 13 points after eight conference games, with Bemidji just one point back at 6-2-0 in conference play. Serratore admitted that he and his players are keeping an eye on the standings already.

“To say we’re not would be a lie,” he stated. “We’re definitely looking at that and, when you have a 20-game regular-season schedule, every game and every series is big. The closer you get to the second half, it even gets that much more magnified. We’re very aware of what the other teams are doing, and we have the mentality that we have to try to control things ourselves.”

The Beavers could take over the conference lead, at least temporarily, this weekend. Bemidji plays host to Robert Morris on Friday and Saturday, while UAH takes on non-conference foe Lake Superior on the road. The two clubs will face off the following weekend in Huntsville.

Record Book

Idle for more than a month, Jared Ross had to sit back and watch Barret Ehgoetz beat him in the race to the top of the CHA’s all-time points and assists lists in early December. But now that the Chargers have returned to action, Ross’ assault on the record books is back in full swing as well.

The Alabama-Huntsville forward picked up for points (2-2) last weekend, moving him past Andy Berg and into second place with 144 career points — just three behind Ehgoetz. His two goals moved him ahead of the Purple Eagles’ star and left him just one behind Berg for first place.

Ross now has 25 points on the season (12-13) and moved into a tie for first on the UAH scoring list for points by a center with 144 (62-81) over the weekend. That total also puts him in a tie for fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list with Shane Bowler, just one point behind Mike Hamlin for third.

Further north, Bemidji’s Andrew Murray took over first place on the school’s all-time Division I scoring list with a three point (2-1) weekend, giving him 101 points for his career. His last-minute goal in Saturday’s win against Air Force moved him out of a tie with Marty Goulet for the top spot.

Tight Arms Race

One of the most storied rivalries in all of college sports takes to the ice again this weekend, as the annual battle of the service academies takes place in Colorado Springs.

“When you see how much intensity a service academy team plays with, the effort and the passion that they play with, and then you times that by two, they’re the kind of games that keep you on the edge of your seat,” said Frank Serratore, who has posted a 10-4-1 mark against Army while at the Air Force helm. “These kids play so hard for the entire series. It’s a very special experience if you’ve never seen an Army-Air Force game.

“They’ll pound the tar out of each other for two nights straight, then they’ll go to center ice together and salute the crowd, then they’ll go to the bluelines and play the alma maters. It’s just as pure as you can get. It’s one of the greatest rivalries in college hockey, and that’s all due respect to BU and BC, Colorado College and Denver, Michigan and Michigan State. This one is very pure.”

But while the games bring out the best in both teams, the results are often unexpected. Home-ice advantage has meant very little when Army and Air Force meet up, with the Black Knights posting a 3-2-1 record in Colorado during Serratore’s tenure, and Air Force going 7-1-0 on the road. The Falcons also took a neutral-site contest at the Silverado Shootout in Duluth in 1999.

“You don’t want to get beat by your fellow service academy on your own ice. And that maybe backfires, I don’t know,” Serratore said. “The games are always exciting. I’ve been involved in 15 of them, and there has never been a blowout.”

Seven of the last 13 games between the teams have been decided by one goal, and the largest margin of victory came when Army downed the Falcons, 5-2, in 2000-01.

And don’t let Army’s 3-10-2 record this season fool you, because Serratore isn’t taking the opponent lightly.

“Over the last four years we’ve had the stronger squad on paper, and they’ve beaten us three of the last four,” he said. “The old cliche that you can throw the records out when these two teams play, I know it’s a cliche, but when Army and Air Force play it’s a reality, and the scores have proven it over the last 15 games.”

Fans who pick up College Sports Television will have their own opportunity to catch the action, as Friday night’s contest will be this week’s featured game. Tune in at 8 p.m. Eastern Time to check out the action.

Quick Hits

• Robert Morris added two new names to its roster last week. Freshman forward Nick Pernula made his Colonials’ debut in the team’s 0-0 tie against Mercyhurst, and former Niagara forward Aaron Clarke has transferred to Robert Morris after being dismissed from the Purple Eagles for unspecified team violations on Dec. 2. Clarke had six points (3-3) in nine games with Niagara this season, and 13 in his freshman campaign in 2003-04. He will not be eligible to play with the Colonials until January 2006.

• Bemidji’s Murray has a nine-game scoring streak with 19 points (9-10) in that time.

• BSU and Wayne State lead the NCAA with seven shorthanded goals each.

• Alabama-Huntsville’s Bruce Mulherin has three shorthanded goals this season, tied for the most in Division I.

• Netminder Will Hooper stopped a career-best 50 shots Wayne State’s 3-3 tie with UAH on Saturday.

• Niagara welcomed a sellout crowd of 1,800 to the Dwyer Arena for the Purple Eagles’ 5-2 loss to Canisius. It was the team’s first home contest since Nov. 20 against Bemidji, and the first time a game was sold out in advance in the school’s nine-year Division I history.

• The Bemidji State roster combined to post a 3.18 grade point average during the Fall 2004 semester, with both Peter Jonsson and Andrew Murray posting perfect 4.0s. Not to be outdone, Niagara posted a cumulative 3.25 GPA during the same period, the highest team history. Freshmen Cliff Ketchen and Scott Mollison both finished with 4.0 marks.

My Bad

I tripped over the blueline twice in last week’s column, writing that Wayne State fell to Alabama-Huntsville in the CHA quarterfinals last season. The results should have been reversed. Thanks to WSU SID Jeff Weiss for setting me straight.

I also omitted Jon Horrell from the list of former Findlay players suiting up for new teams this season. The junior netminder has appeared in four games with Bowling Green this season, going 0-3-0 with a 5.04 goals against average.