While the College Hockey America office is offering the “no comment, wait for the press release” shtick, the outcomes of last week’s annual meetings in Naples, Fla., are starting to leak.
The league’s biggest obstacle this offseason has been how to replace Air Force, a school based in Colorado Springs, Colo., that jumped to Atlantic Hockey effective this coming season.
With only five teams in the CHA, its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament looked to be in jeopardy, but a new regulation proposed to the NCAA and already passed by the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee has the five-team CHA cluster’s playoff champion making the NCAA round of 16.
Several schools have been mentioned as replacements for Air Force, including current club teams Liberty University, Kennesaw State and even club powerhouses Penn State and Oakland University. So far, the CHA remains Bemidji State, Alabama-Huntsville, Niagara, Robert Morris and Wayne State.
Since Bemidji State was eliminated from the NCAA tournament by eventual champion Wisconsin, the lone news the CHA has made was in hiring current WSU sports information director Jeff Weiss as the league’s new assistant commissioner for public relations, replacing Craig Roberts, who resigned after the CHA tournament in Detroit. Weiss will maintain his WSU SID position.
The CHA co-hosts the Frozen Four next April 5-7 in St. Louis along with the St. Louis Sports Commission, but for now, that seems all that is certain with the seven-year-old conference. Schedules have not been completed and nonconference schools are reportedly reluctant to travel to CHA buildings.
“It’s getting real difficult now,” Alabama-Huntsville head coach Doug Ross told CSTV.com. “It’s very difficult to get a major team to come and help your program. We’d really like for all the teams in the league to have some major colleges be gracious enough to come play at our place so we can grow out. We don’t want to lose teams and we don’t want to lose bids.”
Many scenarios have been rumored, such as reconfiguring certain conferences to include CHA schools. If the CHA were to fold, a situation Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder openly said would happen a few weeks ago in a Niagara Falls, N.Y., newspaper, several options would then open up.
Based purely on speculation, Bemidji State would join the WCHA, as it is in Minnesota and in prime WCHA territory. WSU and Niagara would join the CCHA as travel partners and force the CCHA to divide into two divisions of seven teams each. Robert Morris heads to Atlantic Hockey with Alabama-Huntsville.
Or a couple teams could simply fold up shop. That’s what Findlay did a few years back only to see RMU quickly snatch up the sixth spot.
Another idea would have Mercyhurst join the CHA as the Lakers are in the footprint, if there is one, of the CHA. Ideas, though, can only go so far and with the CHA being very tight-lipped about everything, nothing is official.
Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio has been vocal about a possible expansion to 12 teams, with one school from the CHA joining, along with Navy, which will co-host the 2009 Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. with Atlantic Hockey.
“We have agreed as a league, in principle, to support this legislation (the CHA staying with five teams),” DeGregorio said to CSTV.com. “At this point in time, if that legislation goes through, I do not believe that Atlantic Hockey will take another member from the CHA.”
Nobody is saying for sure one way or the other what the future holds for the CHA. It’s either very grim or very bright. But then again, how accurate are weather forecasters anyway?
Since its inception in 1999, the CHA has been a roll of the dice and it looks like, barring somewhat of a miracle, that it’ll crap out in due time. And that in itself would be a shame because the league has its core of diehard followers that bleed Charger blue, Warrior green, Beaver green and Purple Eagle, well, purple.
But what’s the color of success and salvation? The CHA needs to figure that out … quickly.
Munroe Called Up By Flyers For Playoffs
Former Niagara forward Matt Ryan made his NHL debut this past season with the Los Angeles Kings, marking the first CHA alum to make “The Show”; UAH goalie Scott Munroe nearly made it two for the CHA.
Munroe, who signed with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate, after the CHA tournament, was called up to backup Robert Esche and Antero Nittymaki in their first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo won the series, but Munroe was officially a Flyer for the six-game set.
Munroe went 0-2-0 record with a .901 save percentage and a 3.54 goals-against average in two games played with the Phantoms. He didn’t see any action with the Flyers.
“A month ago I’m in Alabama and now I’m [in the NHL], it’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Munroe told the Bucks County Courier Times. “I’ve only played two AHL games so it’s an honor. I didn’t think I would get here from there. I’m playing with guys I grew up watching and I’m in a little bit of awe.”
Spring Signings Announced
Bemidji State and Robert Morris announced their spring signings over the past couple weeks.
The defending champion Beavers inked forwards Joey Moggach and Chris Mckelvie and defenseman Graham McManamin. Moggach was the runner-up for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s most valuable player after posting 55 goals and 118 points with the Dauphin Kings.
McKelvie and McManamin were teammates on the Bozeman Icedogs of the North American Hockey League.
“We are excited to have these three young men join the Beaver hockey family,” BSU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ted Belisle said. “Each possess the ingredients that have made Bemidji State successful in the past, and they have the potential to help us continue that success in the future.”
Robert Morris added defensemen Jake Obermeyer and Dave Cowan and forward Nathan Longpre for this fall.
Cowan is the younger brother of RMU co-captain Rob Cowan, Obermeyer is a transfer from Michigan Tech and Longpre was named the Most Improved Player in the Eastern Division of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League and was selected to represent Canada at the Junior Grand Prix in Russia earlier this month.
“We are very excited to add Jake Obermeyer to our defensive corps,” said Colonials’ head coach Derek Schooley. “Jake has played two and a half season of junior hockey in the USHL as well as a half season in the WCHA at Michigan Tech. He is an offensive defenseman who joins the rush, makes good decisions with the puck and can produce on offense, giving another element to our defense.”