This Week in the CHA: Nov. 6, 2008

If last weekend was any indication as to how this year’s College Hockey America season will go, let’s bust out the clichés and buckle up because it should be a wild ride from here on out.

The spotlight series last Friday and Saturday was Robert Morris hosting Alabama-Huntsville in a very even matchup that, if this continues, may turn RMU coach Derek Schooley grey earlier than he planned (see below).

This weekend, the CHA matchups continue with Bemidji State invading UAH. These two teams always go at each other tooth-and-nail and anything less than that will be a letdown.

As always, the question of the CHA’s future seems to come up on a daily basis. Here’s what this writer thinks: The situation will sort itself out when the time comes — if not sooner.

Rumors were flying a few weeks back that Atlantic Hockey had a vote for expansion and to allow Robert Morris and Niagara in, but neither school would comment and neither would the AHA.

Onward and upward. What other choice is there? Well, the opposite (better out than in, like Shrek says), but is that even an option any more?

Like every other year, stay tuned, folks.

Colonials Take Three Points From UAH

Robert Morris hosted the Chargers to open CHA play and didn’t disappoint the hometown crowd with a tie and a win last weekend.

After the two squads battled to a scoreless first period Friday night, the Chargers drew first blood when Matt Baxter scored early in the second frame.

RMU's Nathan Longpre (left) maintains possession of the puck during last weekend's action against UAH (photo: Robert Morris).

RMU’s Nathan Longpre (left) maintains possession of the puck during last weekend’s action against UAH (photo: Robert Morris).

The Chargers pushed things to a 2-0 lead just minutes later when freshman Cody Campbell notched his first collegiate goal.

Chris Margott cut the lead to 2-1 with a goal late in the last minute for the Colonials.

Jason Towsley pulled the Colonials even only to have Cale Tanaka put UAH back out in front shortly thereafter.

Margott knotted the game with 90 seconds left and nothing was settled in overtime.

Cameron Talbot made 32 saves in net for Alabama-Huntsville, while Wes Russell stopped 25.

“Huntsville’s a very good team and we gave up a lot of odd-man rushes and good scoring chances and those are things that we can’t do,” Schooley told USCHO. “We need to get some more out of some people, we can’t keep having the same people contribute. We need to get more balanced scoring out here. It’s not good enough to skate around and produce a lot of energy. We need to have some finishers here, too.”

“We didn’t want to ease our way into it,” said UAH head coach Danton Cole in the same USCHO story. “I don’t think Robert Morris is the type of team that you want to ease your way into the game with. They come out strong and finish their checks and you have to be ready from the drop of the puck.”

Saturday night, despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the contest, Alabama-Huntsville gave up three unanswered tallies to fall 3-2 to the Colonials.

Joey Koudys and Matt Sweazey scored early for UAH, but Margott, Matt Krug and Stafan Lachapelle (first NCAA goal) rallied for the victory.

Russell, seemingly now RMU’s No. 1 goalie, stopped 19 shots for the win. Talbot recorded a 34-save performance in a losing effort, but earned praise afterward.

“You know, I’m gonna be grey by the time I’m 39 with the way we started, but minus the first five minutes, that was a pretty complete hockey game on our part,” said Schooley, again to USCHO. “We threw everything but the kitchen sink at Talbot tonight and he was very good.”

RMU defenseman Denny Urban had a solid four-point weekend as he notched a helper on four of the six Robert Morris goals. He also was plus-2 on the weekend, played his typical physical defense and broke up numerous scoring opportunities. Urban is tied with Krug as the top scoring defenseman in the CHA with a half-dozen points.

Niagara Swept By Maine

Niagara only allowed 45 shots to Maine in their two games in Orono last weekend, but was stifled by the Black Bears’ defense and goaltending.

NU head coach Dave Burkholder was bewildered.

“If you would have told me flying in here Thursday that we’d hold Maine hockey to 45 shots over two games and not come out with a win, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Burkholder told the Niagara Gazette. “We outshot them, and we had some momentum that they couldn’t handle at times, but in the end, their power play wore us down.”

The Purple Eagles fell by a 4-2 score Friday night and 4-1 the following night.

Brian Dowd and Ryan Olidis scored for NU in the first game and goaltender Adam Avramenko kicked out 18 shots.

“Maine was very opportunistic,” Burkholder said. “Bottom line was we didn’t put them away on the power play when we had all of the momentum.”

Niagara went 1-for-6 with the man-advantage.

Saturday night, just co-captain Vince Rocco scored for the Purps and Juliano Pagliero made 19 saves.

NU went 0-for-6 on the power play and Maine was .500 (3-for-6).

“Goaltending and special teams were the difference on the weekend,” Burkholder said. “They made the most out of the chances we had and we need to keep improving on things, including blocking shots.”

Bemidji State Takes Pair Of Exhibition Wins

Though they were simply exhibition wins, the pair Bemidji State earned at home last week against Canadian neighbor Manitoba was anything but simple.

Matt Read and Brent Tamane each contributed three points and freshman goaltender Dan Bakala stopped all 14 shots as the Beavers won big Friday night, 7-0.

Shea Walters scored twice and Read, Brandon Marino, Tyler Scofield, Brad Hunt and Jamie MacQueen scored and BSU held the Bison to just 14 shots on net and 0-for-6 on the power play.

Once in a while a lucky bounce is all it takes to win in college hockey and Saturday night Bemidji State was the beneficiary of a break as it completed the exhibition series sweep with a 4-2 victory.

The Beavers got their bounce at the 6:40 mark of the third period with the score knotted at 2-2. BSU was a man short due to forward Chris McKelvie being in the box for goaltender interference. Read picked off a Bison’s pass at the top of the Manitoba attacking zone and dumped the puck off the boards before heading off the ice on a line change. The puck caromed off the boards, was misplayed by Bison’s goaltender Steve Christie, rattled between his legs and trickled into the back of the net.

The eventual game-winner was one of four special-teams tallies on the night for BSU. In addition to Read’s shorty, BSU was 3-for-9 on the power play.

Read also scored BSU’s first goal to go along with singles from Scofield and Ben Kinne.

Bakala made 18 saves for his second straight win and Read finished with a five-point weekend.

The victory extended the Beavers’ exhibition win streak to five games and marked the third consecutive time the Beavers have defeated the Bison.

It’s BSU head coach Tom Serratore’s hope that the two wins will give his team momentum heading down to Huntsville this weekend.

“People are talking about how greatly improved Huntsville is,” Serratore said to the Bemidji Pioneer. “This is the second year with their new coach Danton Cole and the players are a year older. We’re going into a hornet’s nest.

“Hopefully, these first eight games have prepared us for the start of the conference season. We’ll be jumping into the fire big-time these next two series.”

The Beavers play Niagara next week on the road.