This Week in the CHA: Jan. 17, 2008

If Wayne State wants to go out with a bang, then maybe last weekend was the fuse being lit.

Making the trip to Northern Michigan for a nonconference in-state series with the Wildcats, most saw the series as two notches in the win column for NMU, this writer included.

But as we all know, games are won on the ice and not on paper (or online for that matter).

The Warriors won both games, including Saturday night coming back from a two-goal deficit in an overtime thriller, on the strength of third-string goalie Mike Devoney’s first two collegiate wins in his first two starts.

Sophomore defenseman Jeff Caister, the CHA’s top defenseman scorer, was the hero Saturday night for Wayne State and called his power-play goal 59 seconds into the extra session “lucky.”

“(Defense partner Ryan) Bernardi made a great play,” Caister said to USCHO after the game. “He waited out the defense and found me. I just put my head down and fired it and was lucky enough to get a goal out of it. We battled three periods and it’s never easy coming into someone else’s arena, taking three points, and especially a non-conference game against a CCHA team, but we kept working hard and it started to pay off, the puck started to go in and we got the three points, so we’re obviously pretty happy.”

“We worked hard from start to finish,” Warriors’ head coach Bill Wilkinson added. “With power plays, it’s not how many goals you score, it’s when you score them. We couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Devoney made 35 saves Friday night and 19 on Saturday night.

“Mike played fabulous for us,” Wilkinson said to USCHO after Friday’s game. “They hit some posts, but we put them in the back of the net. When you get good goaltending, you get confident — plain and simple … He’s a small goalie (5-foot-7), but he’s into the game and keeps his composure.”

Senior Derek Bachynski, coming off an offseason injury, played in his third and fourth games of the season in Marquette and scored his first goal of the year Saturday night. He added an assist on the tying goal by Stavros Paskaris, who also had two assists on the night.

The sweep was WSU’s first this season and probably gave the team something positive to think about while they were stuck in the northern Michigan town of Gaylord after their new bus broke down at 4:30 Sunday morning.

This weekend, Wayne State plays Niagara at two separate Detroit-area venues. Friday night’s game will be at the Taylor SportsPlex, home arena for the Michigan AAA state finals every spring, and Saturday’s contest will commence from the Palace of Auburn Hills, home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, WNBA’s Detroit Shock and one-time home of the defunct Detroit Vipers of the old International Hockey League.

But it won’t be the first time a Purple Eagle will have gone to the Palace. NU head coach Dave Burkholder was the assistant general manager and assistant coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara Falls Thunder (now Erie Otters) and coached against the Detroit Whalers (now Plymouth Whalers) at the Palace before the Whalers got their new home rink (Compuware Arena) that, ironically enough, is another former home arena for Wayne State.

“It’s an awesome facility,” said Burkholder. “I’m sure it will be a thrill for the guys.”

“I think it will be a great venue for our game,” said Wilkinson. “It’s an NHL-type of building that will give the players a chance to feel that they are playing in a professional setting. It should be a positive atmosphere for a college showcase weekend.”

While the Purple Eagles hold a 17-14-4 record against the Warriors entering this weekend, WSU is 7-4-3 in Detroit and has a three-game home unbeaten streak against Niagara. However, the Warriors have lost six of the last eight meetings with the Purple Eagles, including two at Niagara last month.

WSU and Niagara play the first half of the College Hockey Faceoff at 3:30 p.m. Top-ranked Michigan and Notre Dame go at it in the nightcap with Notre Dame being the home team.

Niagara and Robert Morris Do The Splits

Niagara and Robert Morris did battle last weekend on Monteagle Ridge and both came away with identical 7-2 wins.

Trailing 2-1 at the end of the first period, the Purple Eagles battled back with six unanswered goals Friday night.

“In the locker room, (Burkholder) pretty much told us to believe,” said NU forward Ted Cook, who scored the lone first-period goal for the Purps and then the final goal of the game. “And that’s what we did.”

Senior co-captain Matt Caruana scored twice and David Ross, Chris Moran and Tyler Gotto added singles. Co-captain Vince Rocco and Gotto added two assists, while goalie Adam Avramenko earned the win making 17 saves over the final 40 minutes after relieving Juliano Pagliero after the first period.

Nathan Longpre and David Boguslawski scored for RMU and Christian Boucher and Jim Patterson combined for 26 saves in net.

With the win, Niagara snapped a three-game winless streak.

“That’s now six periods in a row where we executed and played very well,” said Burkholder. “We need to sustain it and carry the spirit and energy and just keep it going.”

But that went for naught as the Colonials mirrored Friday’s result Saturday night by falling behind, 2-1, only to score the next half-dozen.

Chris Margott scored the game’s first goal just 80 seconds into the game giving the Colonials an early 1-0 lead. Paul Zanette and Egor Mironov replied for NU.

And then the floodgates opened.

Margott, Brett Hopfe, Sean Berkstresser, Tom Biondich, J.C. Velasquez and Boguslawski scored for RMU. Hopfe also collected two assists.

Boucher picked up his 10th victory of the season by turning aside 23 shots.

Avramenko and Scott Mollison shared time in the NU goal and Avramenko took the loss making 20 stops through 45:19. Mollison mopped up and made 13 saves in his first action this year.

BSU, Climie Dominate Chargers

And the struggles continue for Alabama-Huntsville.

The Chargers, still winless in CHA play (0-6-2), dropped both games at home last weekend to Bemidji State, including getting shut out for the third time this year by the first-place Beavers on Friday night.

BSU goaltender Matt Climie blanked UAH, 4-0, in the front half of the series with 25 saves. Defenseman Cody Bostock, who entered the game with eight goals in his 87-game career, scored twice for Bemidji State.

“There are no excuses,” Chargers head coach Danton Cole said in the Huntsville Times. “We can’t play average against a team like that. We have to play our rear ends off just to get ties.”

Tyler Lehrke and Chris McKelvie scored the other two goals. Matt Read notched two assists.

“I’m tired of it. Friday we go through this and Saturday we get back,” Cole added. “We’ve got to get past this point. The effort has to be better.”

Blake MacNicol started in goal for UAH and made 23 saves. Cam Talbot came in for part of the third period and made three stops.

Saturday night, BSU stuck it to the Chargers with a 7-1 victory.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” UAH captain Scott Kalinchuk said in the Times. “We had bigger expectations this season. It’s wearing on the guys.”

Tyler Scofield tallied two and Matt Francis, Brandon Marino, Matt Pope, Ian Lowe (first NCAA goal) and Read added one apiece. Riley Weselowski, Read and Bostock also rang up a pair of assists.

UAH got within a goal 55 seconds into the second period as Matt Sweazey scored, but it’s still the only goal UAH has scored against Climie in four games this season.

With the win, Climie earned his 40th career win and surpassed Grady Hunt for the team lead in Division I wins. He has also posted a mark of 11-3-2 in 16 appearances versus UAH, including four shutouts.

Talbot and MacNicol again saw time between the pipes, with Talbot starting and losing and making 18 saves. MacNicol stopped 11.

BSU is 11-3-1 in its last 15 games against the Chargers and is 26-25-4 all-time against Alabama-Huntsville.

Bemidji Events Center To Happen After All?

More drama in Bemidji, it appears.

The city council and Bemidji State president Jon Quistgaard agreed to a revised memorandum that makes hockey the anchor tenant of the proposed events center.

In a second action, the council voted unanimously for a funding plan to request $25 million from the state in state bonding. Keeping the city’s half-cent sales tax will help with the remaining cash needed.

The events center will no longer have a second ice pad or be able to host BSU practices, offices or a weight room, but will also be a convention center.

Quistgaard’s presentation to the WCHA last Sunday apparently went pretty well.

“President Quistgaard reported back that he felt the meeting went very well,” Bill Maki, the vice president for finance and administration at BSU, said in the Bemidji Pioneer. “The meeting concluded in a positive position that seemed to be beneficial for BSU and WCHA schools.”

The details of what was presented were not made public by the WCHA.

Still, without Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s support, the road to legislative financing of the events center is going to be rough as the events center was not included in Pawlenty’s capital projects bonding proposal released this past Monday. The events center will now become part of a bargaining process with the governor as the legislature moves forward in its efforts to pass a bonding bill, according to the Pioneer.

Grand Forks Herald sports editor Kevin Fee wrote in his blog Monday that the WCHA and BSU have an agreement in place that will help BSU’s hockey scheduling. Reportedly, Bemidji State will play 12 games against WCHA teams each season — six home and six away. Also, Bemidji State was apparently told a new arena needs to be built if the agreement is to have legs.

The 10-team WCHA has had a moratorium on expansion since Minnesota State was admitted in 1996-1997. When talk of BSU looking at the league surfaced last season, the WCHA reiterated its stance on not lifting the moratorium.

Colonials Get Pair For ’08-09

Robert Morris has reportedly received two more commitments, one a name not uncommon to the CHA. Wayne State junior defenseman Matt Krug will finish his collegiate career with the Colonials next season by transferring from Detroit to Pittsburgh.

Ironically, RMU was one of the schools that recruited Krug’s older brother and former WSU forward, Adam, coming out of junior hockey back in 2004. Adam is currently the captain of the first-year Adrian College team in the MCHA.

The other recruit for the Colonials comes from the United States Hockey League in Colorado native and Indiana Ice forward Brandon Blandina.

The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Blandina turns 19 in March and has nine points so far for the Ice. Based on stats, he seems to be a clutch player as two of his four goals have been game-winners and three of his five assists have come shorthanded.