January 27, 2005
Wayne State's Surprise Starter

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Kevin Bonikowski

National TV Schedule
This week's schedule

CCHA Notebook
ECACHL Notebook
Hockey East Notebook
WCHA Notebook

If not for four rivets and 104 degrees, Wayne State goalie Kevin Bonikowski still would be a college hockey player in title only right now.

But thanks to an equipment malfunction (hey, it’s almost Super Bowl week) and a high fever, the Warriors sophomore finally got to, you know, play hockey for the first time in his college career on Sunday.

Officially, it was only two minutes and 25 seconds. And he didn’t even face a shot during that time.

“But I did play the puck,” Bonikowski quickly interjects. “Twice.”

The series of events that led to Bonikowski’s 2:25 of fame started when junior netminder Matt Kelly woke up ill Sunday morning after making 23 saves in a victory the night before. Kelly probably wouldn’t have played Sunday anyway, but he would have dressed as Will Hooper’s backup. Instead, with the fever, he couldn’t even get out of bed and to the rink.

So Bonikowski, an invited walk-on in his second season as Wayne State’s No. 3 goalie, moved up a rung. Still, he knew he probably wouldn’t see the ice unless Hooper gave up about eight goals to low-scoring Robert Morris. That’s fine, Bonikowski thinks, I’m second string. Not bad.

At home games, the Warriors are introduced with “Lose Yourself” by Eminem playing in the background. Hooper seems fine as his name blares over the speakers, but at some point between Slim Shady’s “mom’s spaghetti” line and the start of the national anthem, he busts four rivets in the back of his skate. The clap-skate routine might work in speedskating, but not so much in hockey, so he disappears into the players’ tunnel for repairs. Bonikowski, of course, is keeping a keen eye on the situation as the anthem winds down.

Skating over to the bench, he sees that someone has set out his helmet. Is this for real, he wonders? He asks associate coach Willie Mitchell what’s going on with Hoop.

“And Willie just said, ‘Get in there,’” Bonikowski recalled. “I had no thoughts going through my head. There was no time to think.”

Bonikowski fields two dump-ins before a whistle halts play with 17:35 left in the first period. Hooper, his skate whole, comes onto the ice, signaling the end of Bonikowski’s stint. The 21-year-old from Macomb, Mich., returns to his familiar spot on the bench – but with a sparkling 0.00 GAA in tow.

“I actually felt comfortable out there,” Bonikowski said. “And the guys were happy for me. I wish it could have been the whole game, but ... . You know, I have a sense of humor about it. I can joke about the two and a half minutes. It was fun. It would have been nice to get a shot, though. I was actually hoping for a breakaway.”

Unfortunately, nobody in Bonikowski’s inner circle got to see his big start. His girlfriend had to work, and it was his mom’s fiance’s birthday. His dad lives in Florida now, making it tough to attend games. But dad's phone likely rang seconds after Bonikowski finished up with INCH.

“I was going to maybe wait and let them look on the Internet and see, Bonikowski said, “but I’ll probably have to call them first.”


Baby steps: Maybe the only guys at Compuware Sports Arena happier than Bonikowski on Sunday were the Robert Morris Colonials. After all, they won the game, 4-3, in overtime, marking the first league win in the history of the program.

“We needed that,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “We’ve had some heartbreakers in overtime. We just needed it as a program to figure out how to win a tight game at the end in league play. I’m really excited for our guys. Our guys really deserved that.”

A well-played road game seemed to collapse on Robert Morris when Wayne State’s Dan Iliakis tied the score at 3-3 with less than three minutes remaining. But, to a man, the Colonials said there was no sense of “here we go again” on the bench, despite previous overtime losses to Air Force and Bemidji State lurking in the back of their minds.

“The mood wasn’t as down as it usually is when we get tied up or whatever,” forward Jace Buzek said. “The guys just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Well, we’re going to have to score another one. Let’s get it done.’”

Some said the team’s feeling was almost light-hearted.

“On the bench, me and the kid who scored the winner (Brett Hopfe), made a $10 bet on who would score this goal,” forward Joe Federoff said. “Seriously, we made the bet, he looked at me, went on the ice and scored the goal. That quickly.”

Even so, Hopfe probably won’t see his money anytime soon. “I probably won’t pay up,” Federoff admitted. “I was just saying that.”

Child's Play: The exhibition series against the U.S. National Development Team was a rough one for Canisius – both physically and on the scoreboard. Several fights erupted during Friday’s 7-1 U.S. win. The combatants all had to sit out Saturday’s rematch (a 4-2 U.S. win), and the three Canisius fighters, Matt Ruberto, Greg Brown and captain Fred Coccimiglio, also will miss the first game of this weekend’s pivotal series at Holy Cross. However, all three are expected to make the trip and play Saturday, Canisius SID Steve Rudnicki said.

Friday’s first scrum broke out after Canisius’ leading scorer, Joel Kitchen, injured his wrist on an illegal hit by a U.S. player.

“They played dirty,” Canisius defenseman Josh Zavitz told the Buffalo News.

Kitchen’s status for this weekend is still up in the air.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Canisius at Holy Cross (Fri.-Sat.)
Boy, is Canisius ever going to be happy that it only has to go on the road to play Atlantic Hockey’s first-place team this weekend. That’s a lot less intimidating than facing a bunch of zippy 17-year-olds, right? If the second-place Golden Griffins can rattle themselves back into coherence after last weekend’s bomb, this could be a pretty good series. After all, in the wake of a loss to Quinnipiac in their only game last week, the Crusaders aren’t coming into the game on fire, either. One point separates these teams in the standings, and Sacred Heart is just one more point behind Canisius – with a game in hand, too.

While You're There: Last week, you undoubtedly stayed in Huntsville an extra day to catch Alison Krauss + Union Station. This week, you absolutely must arrive in Worcester a day early to catch Yanni on Thursday at the DCU Center. Tickets are just $45-$75, which will make your game ducats seem almost free this weekend.

Stick Salute

Congratulations to the CHA players who made the preliminary cut in the Vote for Hobey fan polling. UAH’s stellar line of Jared Ross, Craig Bushey and Bruce Mulherin, Bemidji State star forwards Andrew Murray and Brendan Cook, and Niagara’s 1-2 punch of Barret Ehgoetz and Ryan Gale are seven of the final 142 candidates for the fans’ Hobey vote. Nice to see the league get some recognition.

Bench Minor

On the other hand, my friends in Atlantic Hockey seem to have dropped the ball regarding the Vote for Hobey. Only one AHA player garnered enough nominations to be included in the preliminary voting phase. And while I’m sure Mercyhurst’s Scott Reynolds is a fine person, his totals of three goals and 13 assists tell me that there were more-deserving AHAers out there. Everyone in the AHA has to remember what the Diddy said, “Vote or die.”

• Despite the win over Wayne State, there undoubtedly were some long faces on the Robert Morris bus as it chugged from Detroit to Moon Township on Sunday evening. The team, comprised of born-and-raised or born-again Steelers fans, planned to listen to the AFC championship game on the bus’ loudspeakers before, ideally, getting back to Pittsburgh for the fourth quarter. But by then, we know now, it was too late.

The Patriots’ rout not only served as an RMU buzzkill, but it also made some of their pregame prognostications look pretty foolish: “We’re going to win the Super Bowl,” said Federoff, who has had Steelers season tickets since he was born. “I can pretty much guarantee it.”

“I’m hoping for Steelers-Falcons,” said Jace Buzek, a native of Greensburg, Pa. “I hate the Eagles. I’m worried about (playing them in the Super Bowl). I hate their fans so much. Losing to them would be the worst thing in the world. I don’t want to take that risk.” Well, fortunately for you, Jace, you won’t have to.

• Saturday’s snowed-out games pitting Sacred Heart against Army and American International against Bentley will be made up Feb. 8 in West Point and Waltham, respectively.

• Suddenly, two-thirds of Bemidji State’s vaunted top line is aching. Leading scorer Andrew Murray (12-20—32) missed the third period of last Saturday’s loss to Alabama-Huntsville with a deep thigh bruise. The injury originally was supposed to keep him out of this weekend’s series at North Dakota, but the late word out of Minnesota is that he’s going to play. Meanwhile, second leading scorer Luke Erickson (8-20—28) has stress fractures in his lower leg. He didn’t play against UAH, and originally was considered out for four weeks, but now, he, too, is expected to suit up against the Sioux. They must really want to play at the Ralph. Elsewhere, Air Force senior defenseman Josh Priewe is out four to six weeks with a fractured rib suffered during the Army series.

• There is good news on the injury front, however. Niagara goalie Jeff Van Nynatten returned to the ice against Air Force last weekend after missing eight games with a broken finger. Van Nynatten started both games against the Falcons, notching a pair of wins and his first shutout of the year. For his efforts, he’s the CHA Defensive Player of the Week for the first time this season.

• Often overshadowed by star linemate Jared Ross, Alabama-Huntsville wing Bruce Mulherin etched his own name into the CHA record books Saturday. His hat trick in a critical 5-1 win over Bemidji State marked the first time in league history a player has scored three power-play goals in one game.

• There are several interesting nonconference matchups this weekend, headed by Wayne State’s trip to Nebraska-Omaha. The series (nicknamed “Back to the Bullpen”) will be held in the old Omaha Civic Auditorium because the Qwest Center is booked by the “World’s Toughest Bulls and Broncs” show. Seriously. Also this week, Bemidji State has the series at North Dakota, and Sacred Heart plays a set at St. Cloud State.

Holy Cross defenseman Tony Coskren has about a 50-50 chance of returning against Canisius this weekend after missing four games with a knee injury.

Niagara forward Ryan Gale is still orchestrating an improbable, incredible senior season. The St. Catharines, Ontario, product is tied for sixth nationally with 18 goals after netting two short-handed tallies (the first a game winner) against Air Force last weekend. His 29 points are two more than his first three seasons combined (16-11—27).

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

Send this to a friend

About Us | Advertiser Info | Site Map | Privacy Policy
© 2002-2005 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved