State's Surprise Starter
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.
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.
it was only two minutes and 25 seconds. And he didn’t even
face a shot during that time.
I did play the puck,” Bonikowski quickly interjects. “Twice.”
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.
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.
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.
Willie just said, ‘Get in there,’” Bonikowski
recalled. “I had no thoughts going through my head. There
was no time to think.”
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.
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
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.
going to maybe wait and let them look on the Internet and see,
Bonikowski said, “but I’ll probably have to call them
AND HEARD IN THE LEAGUES
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
first scrum broke out after Canisius’ leading scorer, Joel
Kitchen, injured his wrist on an illegal hit by a U.S. player.
played dirty,” Canisius defenseman Josh Zavitz told the
status for this weekend is still up in the air.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cross defenseman Tony Coskren has about a 50-50 chance
of returning against Canisius this weekend after missing four
games with a knee injury.
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