This Week in the CHA: Dec. 6, 2007

Each CHA team has a need as the second half will be here soon enough. What better time to wish for something than the holiday season?

Alabama-Huntsville — Some wins would be nice to keep coach Danton Cole with a full head of non-gray hair. Maybe the talent is there for the Chargers, but no luck? Maybe vice versa? Maybe he needs to listen to one of Brett McConnachie’s “P-BoX” albums? The defending champs are going to be very hard-pressed to repeat, but that’s not to say they won’t give it their best fighting effort. And with Cole, this team will eventually be on top of whatever conference they fall into in the coming years. That’s not to say they won’t come alive in March (see last year), so who really knows? But it all starts with getting more wins on the board, especially in conference play.

Bemidji State — Bemidji State should beg Santa to bring the WCHA their program for next season, even if on some sort of trial basis. What could that hurt? RIT did it last year out east and Wayne State did it their first season, so why can’t BSU play a WCHA-type schedule, home and away, and let the WCHA power-that-be make the decision after next season? Either way, Bemidji State needs to keep their program for the good of not only the university, but for college hockey. Plus, the WCHA makes perfect sense geographically as we all know. With a new rink in the works, all the intangibles seem to be there, but only time will tell. Hopefully, 2008 is that time.

Niagara — The chance to win the CHA championship on their home turf is an opportunity the Purple Eagles can’t afford to let slip away. The renovations done at Dwyer Arena last summer are superb and the fans and students have been packing the joint. Niagara is due for a title and another shot at the NCAA Tournament. To get the Ted Cooks and Les Reaneys of old back for 2008 would be a bonus, as would having Matt Caruana and Juliano Pagliero continue their stellar play for the second half of the season. If it all comes together for the Purps, watch out. They’ve been snakebitten in the CHA Tournament the past couple years, but maybe that fortune changes in March. It’s anyone’s ball game, but NU has the home field edge.

Robert Morris — Christmas came early for RMU with head coach Derek Schooley’s contract extension through 2013. Now all the Colonials need is a bounce or two here and there and some luck on top of their talent and anything is possible. What Robert Morris needs more than anything heading into 2008 is consistency. They started the season on a tear, winning the Nye Frontier Classic in Alaska and beating then-No. 9 Boston University in the process. A sweep last week at Colgate hasn’t given RMU much momentum going into this weekend’s games with Quinnipiac, but the games have yet to be played. The university has the administration’s support and is definitely going places, but as to how high they can climb, that will all be sorted once the Colonials establish some consistency.

Wayne State — Where to start? An arena on campus would have been nice about five years ago, but apparently, money is hard to come by in Detroit. Maybe Mike Ilitch has some spare change he can dish out to the Warriors dying program. That would be an ultimate dream come true, but alas, we all must wake up and go one-on-one with reality. The one thing WSU needs for 2008 is for anything with a pulse to come to any of their remaining eight home games at three different rinks and give the players and coaching staff and fond farewell. It’s a crying shame the program is being jettisoned after this season, so get out and see a soon-to-be extinct hockey team.

The CHA — After March, will there even be a CHA? Maybe not, but can the four remaining teams please find homes? That should be No. 1 on the league’s list for 2008. The league has been around for nine years, but is continually the butt of jokes from the college hockey world. However, this hasn’t been as prevalent as in past years as the CHA has shown its ability to compete with any school in any conference. Notre Dame, Michigan State, Colorado College, Denver, Sacred Heart and Boston University just perked up a bit. In a perfect world, two teams emerge from nowhere and make this a legitimate league again. But we live in a far-from-perfect world, so the league needs to go out on a high note and make some noise at the NCAA tourney.

On a serious note, take time to enjoy the holiday season, whichever holiday you may celebrate, and realize that no matter how rough things may seem at times, it doesn’t matter this time of year. Enjoy family and friends and the camaraderie they bring, as well as the general overall good feelings that go around during this time each year.

To all of our readers, Happy Holidays, and soon enough, Happy New Year!

And to my family, especially my wife and two sons, I love you guys — Merry Christmas!

Beavers End Niagara’s Streak

Niagara’s 22-game home unbeaten streak came to a crashing halt last Friday as Bemidji State dominated in a 5-1 win behind two Tyler Scofield goals.

Cody Bostock and Blaine Jarvis each had a goal and an assist for the Beavers, who got a 29-save outing from Matt Climie. Pope also scored for BSU.

Vince Rocco tallied the lone NU goal and Pagliero made 24 saves for Niagara.

NU freshman Bryan Haczyk was hit with a checking from behind game misconduct just 28 seconds into the game and Bemidji State scored twice on the ensuing five-minute major.

“It’s a tough way to start the game, especially after a week off,” NU head coach Dave Burkholder told the Niagara Gazette. “Thirty seconds into the game we’re killing off a five-minute power play. And we did a horrible job at that.”

“I told the guys after the game I was not only proud of them, but also how they played the game,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore said in the Bemidji Pioneer. “I respect (Niagara) as a team and a program so much. When these two teams play it’s a hard fought and disciplined contest. There’s no chirping out there. You can just feel the mutual respect the two teams have for each other.”

Reaney was a healthy scratch, but Burkholder said it was a coaching decision and nothing more. Reaney was back in the lineup Saturday centering Rocco and Egor Mironov on the top line.

Although the streak has ended, Niagara still can hold their collective heads high knowing they made it into the record book being tied for the fifth-longest home unbeaten streak in NCAA history.

The next night, Caruana scored with 1:24 to go in the third period to salvage a 2-2 tie for the Purple Eagles.

“What a great hockey game,” said Serratore in the Pioneer. “Nobody deserved to lose that one. It was championship game-caliber hockey.”

Chris Moran also scored for NU, who was down 2-0 after goals by Matt Read and Riley Weselowski. The goal by Weselowski ended a personal 17-game scoreless drought.

Niagara looked to have the game won in the overtime, but a Purple Eagles’ shot was ruled to have never fully crossed the goal line after Climie gloved it.

“We have a lot of skilled guys out there, but our offense is just not where it should be at this point in the year,” said Burkholder. “This weekend was a bump in the road for us, which should make us a better team in the long run.”

Niagara ended the game 0-for-9 on the power play and 1-for-13 in the series.

Pagliero stopped 28 shots and Climie made 23 saves.

Wayne State Swept by Bowling Green

A Jeff Caister goal that would have tied the game late in the second period was waved off when Derek Punches was called for questionable goaltender interference. Bowling Green scored on the power play to go up 3-1 and beat WSU by that same score Friday night in Detroit in the first half of a home-and-home set between the two teams.

Jon Grabarek scored for Wayne State, but the Warriors allowed three power-play goals to the Falcons while going cold (0-for-6) on the man-advantage, matching the chilling temperatures inside the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum.

Comcast Local play-by-play broadcaster Ben Holden said on-air that he was “numb” after having been at the arena since 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. Game time was three hours later.

Just 431 fans saw the game and probably half of those came from northern Ohio.

Kyle Funkenhauser recorded 25 saves for WSU, with his first one coming just 10 seconds into the game.

Saturday night at the BGSU Ice Arena, the Falcons won, 6-1, and again scored three power-play goals while WSU was again invisible on the man-advantage.

Stavros Paskaris potted the one and only goal for the Warriors and Brett Bothwell turned aside 27 shots in net.

Wayne State isn’t home again until Jan. 18 when they play Niagara at the Taylor SportsPlex. The next night, the two teams play in the first half of the College Hockey Faceoff at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Notre Dame (the home team for some reason) plays Michigan (the visiting team for some reason) in the night game of the Faceoff.

The weekend after that, WSU has two more at the SportsPlex with Alabama-Huntsville. Their next home game at the frozen confines of the Coliseum isn’t until Feb. 8 against Robert Morris.

RMU Loses Both at Colgate

Robert Morris went into Colgate this weekend and came away with two notches in the loss column.

Saturday night, Ryan Cruthers (two goals), Chris Margott (goal, two assists) and Nathan Longpre (two assists) all had multi-point games, but RMU fell, 4-3, to the Red Raiders.

Colgate lead 3-0 midway through the game until RMU got rolling and scored three of the next four goals. With the loss, RMU’s three-game unbeaten streak came to an end.

Freshman Jim Patterson made 25 saves for the Colonials in his first NCAA start and was on the bench for an extra attacker when Cruthers scored his second goal of the game with less than a minute to play.

Sunday afternoon, the Colonials were blanked, 5-0. Christian Boucher made 32 saves in the loss.

“This was a weird weekend for us,” Schooley said. “We played well, but didn’t get anything accomplished on the winning side. The shots and play were even, but Colgate capitalized on their opportunities. They got better goaltending than us which in turn led to them winning both games.”

Although RMU was swept, they held Colgate scoreless on the power play, killing all seven power play chances over the weekend.

Chargers Get Commitment from AJHL D-Man

Canmore Eagles defenseman Tom Durnie has committed to Alabama-Huntsville for the 2009-2010 season.

The Calgary native is currently in his second season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and will be the third defenseman to graduate from the Eagles program and join the Chargers — current UAH captain Scott Kalinchuk and former captain Jeremy Schreiber are the others.

”The Chargers are getting not only a very good defenseman, but a tremendous person in Tom Durnie,” Canmore coach and general manager Bob Miller said. “He has been part of our Eagles program for four years now and has shown continuous commitment to his on- and off-ice work ethic, always learning and pushing himself to be better. Tom is very focused and driven.”

Colonials Get Syracuse Recruit For ’08-09

This Trevor Lewis is definitely going to college.

Just one year after Michigan recruit Trevor Lewis signed with the Los Angeles Kings and played in the Ontario Hockey League, a Syracuse Stars player by the same name (and age) has given the nod to Robert Morris.

Lewis, from the tiny town of Lititz, Penn., is a 20-year-old forward leading the Eastern Junior Hockey League in scoring with 13 goals and 40 points through 24 games. He had 40 points all of last season in almost double the amount of games. Lewis also captains the Stars.

“All the hard work over the last few years has really paid off,” Lewis said. “I felt Robert Morris was a great fit for me and the fact that my brother will be attending Robert Morris next fall to play lacrosse makes it a little sweeter.”

“Trevor has worked so hard on and off the ice these last two years to make this dream of playing Division I hockey come true,” said Syracuse head coach Chris Firriolo. “He’s such a fierce competitor and battles shift after shift. Obviously he’s a very skilled player, but what separates Trevor from the rest is the incredible work ethic and leadership he brings to the rink each day. His speed, tenacity and ability to anticipate and slow the game down in his head are going to allow Trevor to be very successful right away at the college level.

“Whenever you have a tremendous character kid like Trevor find the success he has, it makes the whole process at this level very rewarding.”

The Stars are currently second overall in the EJHL.