Niagara and Robert Morris each won their CHA series last weekend with the Purple Eagles getting a win and a tie at home against Alabama-Huntsville and RMU sweeping Wayne State in Detroit.
As it stands going into this weekend, NU and Robert Morris are tied for second place in the CHA, each five points back of conference-leading Bemidji State, which hosts the Colonials this weekend.
Niagara plays one nonconference game at brawling RIT.
Friday night, NU trailed by a goal for the majority of the first two periods, then gained a 2-1 lead on the Chargers early in the third period before UAH tied the game at 2-2.
Josh Murray put the Chargers on the board only 17 seconds after the opening draw.
“You can’t afford to take a period off in the CHA,” said Niagara co-captain Matt Caruana. “We needed more energy and life on the bench for the rest of the game.”
Caruana put the Purple Eagles on the board early in the third period before Kyle Rogers made it 2-1 for NU.
Joe Federoff scored the game-tying goal at 11:33 of the final period, but NU head coach Dave Burkholder saw positives in the tie.
“If we keep playing like we did the last 40 minutes of the game tonight, we will be all right down the stretch,” said Burkholder.
Only three penalties were called all game between the two teams — just one on the Chargers — and the Niagara power play was nonexistent. The last time UAH was called for only one penalty was March 16, 2002 in the CHA tournament at Dwyer Arena against Wayne State.
“We do have skill on the power play,” said Niagara co-captain Vince Rocco. “But if they [power plays] don’t come our way, we still need to find a way to get it done.”
UAH goaltender Blake MacNicol stopped 35 shots on the night while Niagara’s Juliano Pagliero made 19 saves for the Purple Eagles.
Pagliero earned his third shutout of the year the next night in a 5-0 win.
Rogers, Ryan Olidis, Ryan Annesley, Paul Zanette and Egor Mironov scored to back Pagliero’s 21-save performance.
“It was a very physical game both ways,” Burkholder said. “After last night, that was the response we needed. It was just one of those nights that when you look down the bench and you see everyone playing very well.”
Niagara is now undefeated in seven straight games (5-0-2).
MacNicol made 20 saves for UAH before Cameron Talbot played the final 14 minutes of the game and stopped a half-dozen shots.
Back west in the Motor City, Robert Morris defeated the Warriors, 3-1, Friday night and then capitalized on poor discipline by WSU Saturday to escape with a 4-3 win in overtime.
Sean Berkstresser started the scoring for RMU, only to have Stavros Paskaris tie the game for Wayne State.
Ryan Cruthers tallied the game-winning goal just 3:12 into the third period, a shorthanded goal and his first goal in five games, giving RMU a 2-1 lead. Chris Margott iced the game with 3:20 left in the final frame.
Christian Boucher made 21 saves for the win and Brett Bothwell stopped 27 shots for the Warriors.
Saturday night, Wayne State gave up a third-period lead and went on to lose, 4-3.
Margott’s power-play goal less than two minutes into overtime gave RMU a five-game season sweep of WSU.
The teams combined for 34 penalty minutes after a combined 32 minutes Friday.
“We had no discipline,” WSU head coach Bill Wilkinson told MichiganCollegeHockey.com. “It was very uncharacteristic of us to play that way. We talked about it at the meeting today that we had to have better discipline through the whole game.
“And what did we do at the end? Take a stupid penalty that cost us the game.”
Cruthers scored twice for the Colonials and Nathan Longpre added a goal 17 seconds after Cruthers’ second goal for a short-lived 3-2 lead in the third period.
Jeff Caister, Derek Bachynski and Jared Katz scored for WSU. Katz’ goal tied the game late in the third period.
At the end of regulation, a scrum in the corner of the Wayne State zone produced three penalties, two against the Warriors that put RMU on the power play for the OT.
It was the fifth time in eight games WSU has blown a third-period lead.
“There’s not much to say,” WSU captain Mike Forgie told The South End afterwards. “Just frustrated about giving up another third period lead. We took a dumb penalty, ref blew a call. There’s nothing we can do about that, they capitalized on it, and there it is — game over.”
Wayne State has just two home games left in its program’s history — March 7-8 against Niagara.
Another WSU Defenseman To Transfer
Caister is also the latest soon-to-be ex-Wayne State skater to make a commitment for next season as he’ll reportedly suit up for Wilkinson’s alma mater, St. Lawrence.
This season, Caister has had a breakout season in leading all CHA defensemen in scoring with three goals and 22 points, along with being among the nation’s top point producers from the back end.
He’s also an assistant captain for the Warriors as a sophomore.
Caister is the fourth WSU player — all defensemen — to transfer for next year. Junior Matt Krug and freshman Brock Meadows will head to Robert Morris and freshman Eric Roman will go to Division III to skate for Adrian.
Every Goalie Helmet Has A Story
Pagliero has the utmost respect for his coaches, the Niagara tradition and the players who came before him on Monteagle Ridge. He shows this as many goalies do: with a special design on his helmet.
He pays homage to former Niagara goaltender Allen Barton on his helmet and the story is as quirky as they come.
On the back of his helmet, the word “Wolfy” is scrawled. Barton’s nickname? Nope. An inside joke with Barton? Absolutely.
“Last year I did my best to draw penalties,” admitted Pagliero on PurpleEagles.com. “When I got hit, I went down hoping for a call. I remember one time when I actually did get hurt — I dislocated my shoulder at Colgate. Barton was on the bench and he was wondering what I was doing, expecting me to get up again. Finally, I turned to him and told him, ‘No, it’s really out,’ so he ended up going into the game.
“After the game, he told me that he just thought I was crying wolf again, so I guess the name kind of stuck.”
More CHA Future Talk
From Chris Lerch’s Atlantic Hockey column last week:
While the Lakers are looking to move up in the league, they’re not looking to move out of Atlantic Hockey, despite rumors to the contrary.
“We have no interest in leaving Atlantic Hockey,” said Mercyhurst athletic director Craig Barnett, who coached at Findlay in the CHA before the school dropped its hockey program in 2004. “Rick Gotkin built this program over 20 years to this level. We don’t want to change any of the relationships we have. It wouldn’t be a smart move for Mercyhurst College.”
Barnett has some theories on why Mercyhurst and Canisius keep coming up as possible teams to bail out the CHA.
“We’ve said all along that we want to help and do what we can,” he said. “Our location comes up as well. The same for Canisius, plus its strong relationship with Niagara.”
In an ideal world, Barnett said he would like to see Atlantic Hockey absorb the CHA teams, and form two divisions, each with an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “But I’d support a 14-team league with one auto-bid if it helped to save these programs.”
Lerch suggested to Barnett that what could happen is four independent teams next season begging for games, asking if some teams could change their non-conference schedules to accommodate them.
“On our media day, the same day when Wayne State announced (that it was dropping hockey); that was the time to start looking at those kind of options,” said Barnett. “There are a lot of scenarios and rumors out there. We hear them, too. We’ll do what we can, but we’re going to act in the best interests of our program, which means we have no interest in leaving Atlantic Hockey. We want to be associated with the AHA.”
Purps Get Another Ontario Commitment
Forward Wes Consorti has reportedly picked Niagara as his college destination.
Consorti, who turned 18 last Halloween, has 29 goals and 73 points for the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League this season, good for a spot in the league’s top 20 and third overall on the Red Wings.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder from Brantford, Ontario, posted a 31-goal season a year ago with Hamilton and added 11 points in 19 playoff games for the Red Wings, a team that had league MVP and current UAH goalie Cameron Talbot among its members.
Wayne State Memories Aplenty
As Wayne State enters the home stretch to the demise of its program, let us not forget the good times of the WSU years.
Three straight CHA tournament titles. One NCAA tournament appearance. Several players signing pro contracts. The Dave Peca incident. Six home rinks. Classy Bill Wilkinson.
And an unbelievable, if not epic, rally back on Dec. 4, 1999, against Findlay at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Who remembers this game?
First, in the second period, WSU defenseman Ryan Michela and Findlay forward Ben Patey dropped the gloves, but Michela was only able to punch Patey’s helmet.
“I think it was bolted down to his head,” Michela said afterwards.
Then, down 5-1 eight minutes into the third period, the Warriors staged an incredible comeback with five goals in a 10-minute span to win, 6-5.
Brian Fish and Jason Clark scored 45 seconds apart and then Tyler Kindle, Clark and Steve Nichols, the latter at 18:49 of the period, gave WSU the win.
Have more memories like this? Send them to Matt Mackinder at [email protected]. WSU memories will be a weekly feature in this space for the remainder of the season.