This Week in the CHA: Dec. 1, 2005

Now in its seventh season, the CHA has a not-too shabby 214-297-44 record against nonconference teams, (.425 winning percentage), including this season’s 15-26-2 mark.

Not bad at all for a league that has its share of critics who continually say the CHA is a pseudo-league and the sixth-best of the six Division I leagues.

League teams have posted a 29-7-2 record against Division I independent/non-Division I opponents in the seven seasons, including a dominant 112-45-15 record against Atlantic Hockey.

And the CHA doesn’t belong?

While the CHA’s record against the remaining conferences is subpar (25-38-13 vs. the ECACHL, 10-31-2 vs. Hockey East, 25-87-7 vs. the CCHA, and 13-89-5 vs. the WCHA), the league has done well, though with only one win to show for it, in the NCAA postseason tournament.

In 2000, Niagara posted the well-documented 4-1 upset of New Hampshire and goaltender Ty Conklin in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling to North Dakota.

Wayne State was with Colorado College in 2003 before a late Tom Preissing goal deflated the Warriors and goalie David Guerrera.

Then in 2004, Niagara had a chance to gain momentum on Boston College when then-Hobey Baker candidate Joe Tallari was awarded a penalty shot only to have the puck roll off his stick, leading to a weak shot on BC goalie Matti Kaltiainen.

Not to make excuses, but if none of the above happens, the games could have taken different turns. Could have …

And last year, Bemidji State’s Brendan Cook tied the game early in the third period against Denver before a Kevin Ulanski goal 3:26 into overtime sent the Beavers home and DU on its way to a national championship repeat.

What’s in store for next March? Stay tuned.

Beavers Formally Announce ’06 Signings

The Beavers early this week made official the signings of Tyler Lehrke (Park Rapids), Chris Peluso (Wadena) and John Vadnais (Stillwater) to national letters of intent. All are Minnesota natives as well.

“We’re excited to be adding three talented players to our program,” BSU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ted Belisle said. “All three have shown leadership qualities throughout their careers and could prove to be strong members of our program in the future.

“All three of these guys are proven players who have been through the junior ranks and have the potential to have a bright future in our program.”

Peluso was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Draft and will become the second NHL draftee to join the Bemidji State program since it moved to Division I in 1999, joining last year’s captain, Andrew Murray, who was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the eighth round in 2001.

As well as being from Minnesota, all three are in their second seasons in the United States Hockey League. Lehrke captains the Green Bay Gamblers, Peluso is with the Sioux Falls Stampede and Vadnais is in his second season with the Des Moines Buccaneers, his third year in the USHL.

Props to the Academy

For the sixth consecutive year, the Air Force hockey team will help brighten the holiday season for area children.

At the Wayne State series this weekend, fans can bring a new stuffed toy, wrapped in plastic, and when the Falcons score their first goal in each game, fans can throw the stuffed toy on the ice.

Children 18 and under with a toy donation will receive admission for just $1. (The toys need to be wrapped to protect them when they are thrown on the ice.) The “Toy Trick” will be offered both nights, and the toys will be collected and distributed to children in local hospitals and clinics during the holiday season.

In the first five years of the Toy Trick, the team collected and distributed more than 2,700 toys. Last year, the hockey team collected more than 700 toys and made visits to the Children’s Hospital at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and also to Denver Children’s Hospital during the holidays.

Robert Morris Downed by Lakers

RMU lost two straight last weekend at Lake Superior State, including Saturday’s game 4-3 in overtime. In that game, Joe Tuset, a Northern Michigan transfer, made his first career start for the Colonials. Sophomore Jace Buzek put the game into overtime with his second goal of the year and just 85 ticks left on the clock.

Robert Morris was blanked, 3-0, Friday night.

“Those were two good wins,” LSSU head coach Jim Roque said. “Robert Morris really played hard and aggressive. They were both good games, hard-fought, and better than winning 8-1. These games will help us.”

The Colonials continue their six-game, 47-day road trip on Dec. 9-10, as they travel to Niagara for a pair of league games.

WSU Still Winless, Still Positive

Wayne State, even in its inaugural season, never went this long without a win. At 0-8-2, WSU is off to its worst start ever.

However, the team is still finding positives.

“A tie is better than a loss,” Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson told USCHO after Friday’s 2-2 tie at Union. “But we’re certainly trying to win one down the line.”

Union beat WSU, 4-0, Saturday night.

Huntsville Recruit Sounds Off on NAHL Blog

Defenseman Davide Nicoletti, a UAH recruit for next fall, recently published his thoughts on playing this year for the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues, Alabama-Huntsville next year and how his first night in Springfield went. Check it out here.

On spurning major junior hockey: “I had a chance to play major junior hockey back home with the (Ontario Hockey League’s) Guelph Storm. They drafted me (13th round in 2002). It’s not a bad deal. They pay for your college education at any Canadian university – you get a year of school paid for each year you are in a major junior organization. But I had a dream of playing Division I and this was the league (NAHL) that I thought could get me there.”

On his billets in Springfield” “My billet family is Susan Wallace and Matt Herron, and the morning I arrived at their home, they had a little surprise for me and the other player who they were housing at the time, Brian Horrigan. Susan and Matt were getting married that night. So my first day in Springfield, I went to a wedding. But that’s how dedicated Susan and Matt are to their billets and to the Jr. Blues – they didn’t allow their wedding to get in the way of their responsibilities to us. They just welcomed us with open arms and it was a great introduction to Springfield. I got to meet a lot of people right away. Susan and Matt have been very helpful in making me feel at home and that has enabled me to concentrate on hockey.”

On committing to the Chargers: “I’m thrilled right now about committing to play at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. I’m on Cloud Nine. I actually committed two weeks ago (late October), before we went to Cleveland to play the Barons, but I waited and told the coaches last week (first week in November). I didn’t want to interfere with our preparations for Cleveland. I visited Huntsville over the summer and it just felt right. They have a good tradition, a winning tradition, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Niagara Plays Cornell to Two Tough Losses

Niagara and Cornell are natural rivals even if the two schools play in different leagues. Last weekend, NU nearly pulled off consecutive upsets against the No. 11 Big Red.

Friday, Cornell took a 5-4 decision while Saturday in Rochester, N.Y., yielded a 5-3 loss for the Purple Eagles.

“I’m proud of our fight and the way we kept battling back,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder after Saturday’s loss. “But I don’t like losing on the penalty kill with three minutes to go in a very, very good college hockey game.”

Cornell was cruising, 3-1, in the third period Saturday before two Big Red penalties gave the Purple Eagles a chance. Freshman Les Reaney controlled the puck on the first power play of the period for Niagara and sent it across the goalmouth where classmate Vince Rocco was waiting. Justin Cross then completed the comeback with only 5:13 left, wristing a shot from the point through the pads of Cornell goalie David McKee.

But just as Niagara converted on its opportunities with the man advantage, Ryan O’Byrne capitalized on a late interference penalty by Purple Eagles’ frosh Armando Scarlato with a slapshot from the blueline that beat NU goalie Scott Mollison at 17:10. Matt Moulson put the game away with an empty-net tally.

Mollison finished with 29 saves in his first game and start of the season.

Friday, Rocco (power play), captain Jason Williamson, Ted Cook (power play) and Tayler Simpson scored for NU and goalie Jeff Van Nynatten made 33 saves.

“Our power play was great,” said Burkholder. “On loose pucks, we did a good job of chipping it in behind their defensemen. Overall, I think we can play a little better. We were jumpy, but once we got our legs under us, we competed very hard. That’s been one of the best defensive teams in the country two of the past three years and I was hoping four goals would be enough.”

In other NU news, forward Sean Bentivoglio is out indefinitely with a bruised sternum suffered in Friday’s loss.