This Week in the CHA: Jan. 22, 2009

Okay, we know the WCHA lifted the moratorium on expansion and that everyone and their extended families has Bemidji State winding up there two seasons from now.

Fine. That will probably happen. It makes the most sense and it would help keep BSU’s hockey program afloat.

But what about the remaining three teams — Alabama-Huntsville, Niagara and Robert Morris?

UAH has applied to the CCHA, as confirmed last week in the Kalamazoo Gazette by CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos, who stopped short of making any kind of concrete commitment.

“We have exchanged some correspondence trying to answer some questions they have on the process,” Anastos told the paper. “We do not want to see programs go away. However, at the same time, not every program is the right fit for every league and association. This is where it gets complex, and to date, very difficult to find feasible solutions for.”

Alabama-Huntsville head coach Danton Cole also told the Gazette that regardless of what league the Chargers belong to, he believes hockey will always be part of the university.

“From our president on down, everyone is very optimistic about it and it’s our full intention to continue to have hockey here as long as possible,” Cole said. “Unless it’s ripped away from us, my opinion at least is around here it’s very important to the university. They’re continuing to put the resources into it.”

Niagara, already once rejected for acceptance into the ECAC several years back, is taking the philosophical approach.

“We can’t let it creep into this year,” NU head coach Dave Burkholder said in the Ithaca Journal. “Our (athletic director) and commissioner will work it out and maybe college hockey will sort it out this year. But we look at it as, we know we’re going to have hockey at Niagara.”

“Unless a league takes in a program, it’s really hard to grow and prosper,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer also said in the Journal. “I think that’s one of the things about [the CHA]. It’s been difficult for those teams to find a league. If they look at it right now, I think college hockey has kind of a responsibility to try to help figure it out quickly so none of those programs disappear.”

And as for Robert Morris?

The Colonials have reportedly applied to Atlantic Hockey, but if anything else has happened, it’s not been made public.

One option, if the WCHA opts to expand to an even 12 teams, would be to grab Air Force due to its geographic location smack-dab in the WCHA’s footprint. The Falcons bolted the CHA for Atlantic Hockey in 2006.

The option to join the WCHA is not an ideal one, according to AFA head coach Frank Serratore.

“Atlantic Hockey provided us with a safe haven, and if it wasn’t for Atlantic Hockey, we’d be passengers on the Titanic with Bemidji State right now,” Serratore said in the Denver Post. “We feel loyalty to Atlantic Hockey. We all saw this thing coming with the CHA and Atlantic Hockey took us in. We’re happy with the league, where we have a fair chance to compete for a championship every year.”

Northern Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha, the newest school to join the CCHA some 10 years ago, are also options to join the WCHA from the CCHA, but UNO head coach Mike Kemp has said that his school will not apply and that he is happy to stay in the CCHA.

One rumor even got out this week that Niagara would be applying for WCHA status. Seriously?

Stay tuned, folks. This rollercoaster ride is far from over.

Niagara Splits With Quinnipiac

Niagara, ironically enough, played Quinnipiac last weekend at home and came away with two of four points after a win Saturday night.

Friday night, QU eked out a 6-4 decision after Niagara had roared back with three goals in the third period to knot the game at 4.

Egor Mironov, Ted Cook, Bryan Haczyk and Travis Anderson scored in the loss and Juliano Pagliero made 21 saves.

“Tonight was a tough one,” Burkholder said after the game. “I thought five-on-five, we dominated play for many stretches, but their power-play unit outplayed our power-play unit. It seemed tonight that every bounce that could go wrong, went wrong.”

In a physical game Saturday night, the Purple Eagles cruised to a 5-1 win.

“This was our last nonconference game of the year against a team that’s playing well,” Burkholder said. “For our team to respond the way they did, it’s monumental. If we play like that every night, it will be a fun 14-game stretch.”

Jim Burichin, Paul Zanette, Tyler Gotto, Cook and Anderson tallied to back Pagliero’s 23-save outing.

Niagara travels to Bemidji State this weekend.

Beavers Swept By Minnesota Duluth

By sweeping Bemidji State last weekend, Minnesota Duluth gained possession of the coveted Babe the Blue Ox traveling trophy for the first time since Feb. 26, 2005, as it completed the first series sweep over BSU since that season.

The Bulldogs beat the Beavers 3-2 Friday night and 4-2 Saturday night.

In the Friday loss, BSU managed just 15 shots on goal, tying a season-low.

Tyler Scofield and Jamie MacQueen tallied for BSU and Matt Dalton made 35 saves and also assisted on MacQueen’s goal.

Matt Francis had a goal waved off in the third period after video review.

Dalton’s assist, his second of the season, makes him the second BSU goaltender in the school’s NCAA Division I era to record multiple assists in a season. He matches Layne Sedevie (2003-07), who posted two assists in the 2003-04 season.

The second game of the series saw UMD get the better of some strange bounces as the team held off a third-period charge by Bemidji State.

The loss for the Beavers was its fifth straight — the team’s longest streak since a five-game string Oct. 19-Nov. 2, 2007.

Brad Hunt and Ian Lowe notched markers for BSU.

Orlando Alamano finished with 25 saves and is still winless this year (0-5-0).

UAH Loses Both In Kalamazoo

Both Alabama-Huntsville and Western Michigan went into last weekend’s series in Kalamazoo with just four wins apiece.

The Broncos now have six. Despite a three-goal first period, Alabama-Huntsville could not pull out a road win against WMU, falling 4-3 on Friday night.

The Chargers opened the scoring early on a Cale Tanaka tally. Joe Federoff and Brandon Roshko (with one second left in the first period) added goals in the first period, but that would be all they could muster.

Cameron Talbot made 26 saves in defeat.

Western Michigan then added a 5-1 win Saturday evening.

Matt Sweazey scored the lone UAH goal and Blake MacNicol took the loss in net, making 13 saves and allowing four goals before Talbot came on in relief, giving up a goal of his own and stopping five Bronco shots.

The Chargers return to action next week to play NU.

RMU Plays Three In Four This Weekend

Robert Morris heads east for three games this weekend. On Friday and Saturday, the Colonials will face Quinnipiac and then Monday, the team will travel to Princeton.

Following these three matchups, RMU will have six meetings with Bemidji State, four games against Niagara and two contests with Alabama-Huntsville before the CHA Tournament begins March 13.

Robert Morris was idle last weekend after tying and losing to UAH two weeks ago.

“We played much better than we did the previous weekend,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “We played hard and competed and never gave up. I was proud of our effort on Saturday (Jan. 10). Our defense, led by Denny Urban, had a great weekend and we got good goaltending from our goalies. We need to start better. We can’t keep giving good teams the first goal. It wasn’t the overall results we wanted, but it was a step in the right direction. ”

Schooley added that this weekend should be a grind, but a good test.

“This will be a very challenging weekend,” he said. “We have a pro-like schedule with three games in four days against some very well-coached good hockey teams. Both teams have very prolific offensive players, solid defensemen and good goalies. We need to make sure we are ready to play after a week off. We are rested, refreshed, getting healthy and ready for the final 15 games of our season. Our schedule is tough, but we need to keep improving every week.”

And improvement starts Friday night.

Colonials Add ’09 Recruit

New Jersey native Anthony Principato is the latest player to commit to Robert Morris.

Principato, a 20-year-old forward with the Bay State Breakers of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, is second on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 43 points through 28 games and has registered at least one point in 23 of 28 games this year.

He has also tallied five three-point games and one four-point performance.

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