This Week in the CHA: Jan. 15, 2009

To some, this time of year may be the dog days of winter, but for College Hockey America, the opposite couldn’t be truer.

With just seven weeks until the CHA tournament in Bemidji, teams have already started jockeying for position to finish the season on a high note. Last weekend’s series between Robert Morris and Alabama-Huntsville down south was a preview of what the tournament may be like.

And don’t count out the youthful Chargers.

“Our goaltending has been outstanding,” UAH forward Tom Train told the Huntsville Times. “I just wish we had a sweep (last) weekend.”

“I saw some good things,” Chargers head coach Danton Cole said in the same article. “We were wanting to win.”

After this weekend, it’s nothing but conference games for all four CHA squads. Bemidji State faces Minnesota-Duluth this weekend, while Niagara hosts Quinnipiac and Alabama-Huntsville visits Western Michigan.

The Beavers and Purple Eagles go at it four more times, and BSU and Robert Morris have a half-dozen left on the docket against one another. NU and Alabama-Huntsville will battle six times and Niagara has RMU for four more games.

The only nonconference series left after this weekend are RMU at Quinnipiac next weekend and the Colonials at Princeton for a single game Jan. 26.

Fun times, indeed — game on!

Chargers Take Three Points From RMU

It had been two months since Alabama-Huntsville had played a home contest, but the Chargers made last weekend count with a win and a tie over a game Robert Morris contingent.

In the first game, UAH took a 5-2 win behind Cody Campbell (goal, two assists) and Matt Sweazey (two goals, assist) each recording three-point games.

RMU had battled back from a 3-2 deficit to make it 3-2 over a 19-second span in the second goal on goals by Kyle Burton and Stefan Lachapelle. Denny Urban, the CHA’s defenseman scoring leader, assisted on each tally.

“After their second goal, we just got together on the bench and Coach reminded us that we had the rest of the game, and two quick ones didn’t change that,” Sweazey told USCHO. “We settled down and just went back to work.”

Andrew Coburn and Josh Murray also scored for UAH and Blake MacNicol’s 25 saves. Brandon Roshko and captain Scott Kalinchuk each chipped in a pair of assists as well.

Wes Russell stopped 28 shots for the Colonials.

Saturday night, Matt Krug’s power-play goal at 5:06 of the third period knotted the game at 2-all and nothing was decided in overtime of a game marred by a constant stream of players to the penalty box.

Chris Kushneriuk scored late in the second period for RMU to make it 2-1 after Tom Train and Kevin Morrison scored earlier in the period to stake the Chargers to a 2-0 lead.

Urban again assisted on both RMU goals.

“It’s unfortunate (about the number of penalties),” Cole said to the Times. “I thought we had some decent zip, but that’s the nature of today’s game.”

Jim Patterson stopped 25 shots for Robert Morris, while Cam Talbot kicked out 38 at the other end.

Niagara Swept By Cornell

Scoring just one goal in two games against a nationally-ranked team on the road meant two losses for Niagara last weekend as then-No. 8 Cornell took both games on its home ice.

Friday night, Cornell scored twice in the final 90 seconds to seal the game and walk away with a 3-0 shutout.

Juliano Pagliero made 37 saves for the Purple Eagles.

“The guys did everything we asked of them tonight,” NU head coach Burkholder said. “We had 31 shots and I thought we played well defensively.”

The next night, Niagara again kept pace with Cornell only to fall, 2-1.

Egor Mironov scored NU’s lone goal, also his 50th career point, and Pagliero finished with 25 saves.

“We played determined, gritty hockey this weekend,” Burkholder said. “These games are the experiences that will make us a better team. We had our whacks at the end, but couldn’t get it done.”

The Purple Eagles are back in action at Dwyer Arena this weekend as part of Purple Pride Weekend. The Purps take on Quinnipiac on Friday and Saturday in their only January home series.

League’s Status Still Anybody’s Guess

Geof Morris, USCHO.com’s Alabama-Huntsville arena reporter and former CHA correspondent, approached both Cole and Schooley last weekend about the future of the CHA. All each would pretty much say is that the league is looking at every possible option for the 2009-2010 season.

In essence, nothing we didn’t already know.

That said, the WCHA voted Thursday in Washington, D.C., to end its moratorium on expansion, and that’s right where Bemidji State wants to be. Any team can now make a presentation at the league meetings in Florida in April and could potentially join the conference for the 2010-2011 season.

“There’s been speculation that other schools might be interested in joining our league, but so far the only direct contact has been from Bemidji State,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told the Bemidji Pioneer. “The major point with any possible addition will be ‘How will this potential member make our league better?'”

“There’s no hiding the fact that we’re looking for a home and our ultimate goal is to be in the WCHA,” BSU head coach Tom Serratore noted in the same article. “Now, I hope the process takes care of itself and we get a chance to make a (membership) presentation.”

He Said It

“We had a couple whacks at it at the end. (Pagliero) didn’t make a mistake all weekend, nor did (Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens). I thought we were going to get a greasy one by them. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.” — Burkholder to the Ithaca Journal after Saturday’s 2-1 loss.

Another Commitment For Colonials

RMU reportedly got a verbal commitment from Pembroke Lumber Kings (Central Junior Hockey League) goaltender Eric Levine this week.

The 20-year-old Illinois native is 10-9-0-1 this year with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage splitting the year between Pembroke and the Hawkesbury Hawks.

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