Fenruary 3, 2005
Fighting Words in a Storied Rivalry

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Brian Riley

National TV Schedule

CCHA Notebook
ECACHL Notebook
Hockey East Notebook
WCHA Notebook

A rivalry started by Gen. Douglas MacArthur more than 80 years ago could meet its demise this weekend if two national military academies can’t agree about who may play and who may not.

Canada’s Royal Military College will play Army this Saturday in West Point in what is billed as “the oldest continuous international rivalry in sports.” The teams initially met in 1923, at the behest of MacArthur, and have played every year since 1949. But Army coach Brian Riley threatened that 2005 might be the end of it all if RMC insists on putting non-cadets, such as part-time reservists and graduate students who played Canadian college hockey at other schools, in its lineup.

Among the Paladins whom Riley doesn’t think should be allowed to play is leading scorer Tyler Middlebrook, a former star at the University of Toronto who is in his first year as an MBA student at RMC.

“If it’s not going to be cadets versus cadets, then it becomes just another game, and we don’t need it,” Riley said. “If it’s like that, we’d be better off playing a team from the ECAC or Hockey East down here on the RMC weekend. When this was set up, it was for cadets against cadets, but it’s started to move away from being a cultural exchange.

“I think the game is in real jeopardy. Unless there is some compromise that can be reached, this could be the last year.”

Riley said he and other Army officials plan to voice their concerns to RMC’s traveling party this weekend. The Black Knights have won eight straight home games in the series, and hold a 38-29-6 advantage overall. Riley said RMC began using non-cadets last season to be more competitive in its league, Ontario University Athletics.

He said he doesn’t begrudge the Paladins for that decision, but he hopes they will voluntarily refrain from using non-cadets in the exhibition against his squad.

“This game has been around forever, and I would like nothing more than to see it continue,” Riley said. “I grew up around this game. It was one weekend that was always circled when the schedule came out each year. It’s the Canadians against the Americans, two countries going at it. It’s an intense rivalry that’s like nothing any other school has.

“But if RMC is going to be using privates and corporals and part-time reservists, then the ice starts getting a little tilted.”

This year’s game will be broadcast live from Tate Rink on College Sports Television in the States and on the NHL Network in Canada. The Black Knights will be without freshman defenseman Brad Howard, who is done for the season following knee surgery, and junior forward Chris Migliaro, who is out at least this weekend with a shoulder injury. Both were hurt last Saturday against Quinnipiac.


Flying the coop? – While Army concerns itself with RMC, the other hockey-playing service academy might be invited into the Black Knights’ league before Presidents’ Day. INCH has learned that there will be a conference call among Atlantic Hockey athletic directors on Feb. 11, during which a vote could be taken on whether to admit Air Force into the league starting with the 2006-07 season.

AHA commissioner Bob DeGregorio and Canisius AD Tim Dillon visited the Academy, a member of College Hockey America, during Army weekend in mid-January and were impressed by the Air Force program. A presentation about the trip was made to Atlantic Hockey ADs, seemingly clearing the way for a vote during the Feb. 11 call.

DeGregorio said he “hopes” Air Force will join the league, which currently has nine teams. Quinnipiac is leaving the AHA after this season, dropping the enrollment to eight for 2005-06, but Division III’s Rochester Institute of Technology will be phased in to replace the Bobcats by 2006-07. Air Force would then be the 10th program.

“I just want to get it done,” DeGregorio said. “Hopefully, before our playoffs. That would be a good announcement before the tournament.”

The only apparent concern about Air Force is its lack of proximity. At present, Atlantic Hockey’s western outposts are in New York and Pennsylvania. Colorado would be quite a jump. But it doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker. During the last three years, AHA members Quinnipiac, Army, Holy Cross, Bentley and American International have made the trip to Colorado Springs for nonconference games, and several other schools have made similarly long treks to other nonconference schools.

The question of why Air Force would want to switch from the CHA to the AHA has several answers. For one, it would put them in the same league as rival Army. Also, considering the Academy’s strict entrance requirements, the Falcons likely would have more success in the athletically weaker, academically stronger Atlantic Hockey. Finally, Atlantic Hockey’s long-term future seems more stable than the six-team CHA’s.

Air Force is committed to playing in the CHA next season, but if it were to leave the following year, College Hockey America would have to scramble to find a sixth team to remain at the NCAA-minimum enrollment for an automatic bid to the national tournament. An INCH source said the CHA would have a two-year grace period to find a sixth team, meaning the spot wouldn’t have to be filled until 2008-09. By that time, some Division II, Division III or club program might be ready to make the jump to Division I. But no school is known to be making the move yet.

Some pessimistic outlooks would view Air Force’s departure as the death knell for the CHA.


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Mercyhurst at Quinnipiac (Fri.-Sat.)
Considering Atlantic Hockey’s new tournament format, which rewards the top four teams in the regular season with first-round games at home, this series has major implications. Fifth-place Quinnipiac has won four straight and moved within a point of the third-place tie between Mercyhurst and Sacred Heart. The Lakers have played one more league game than both the Bobcats and the Pioneers. Neither Mercyhurst nor Quinnipiac has lived up to expectations this year, and having to play on the road in the first round of the league tournament would be a major disappointment. Expect spirited games between two rivals who were the class of the league at the turn of the millennium.

While you’re there: There’s plenty of room to roam in the Sleeping Giant State Park right across from the Q’s campus. And after the exercise, you won’t feel so bad heading down to Whitney Avenue for a beverage and some dinner at Eli’s..

Stick Salute

College Hockey America finished tied for fourth for the inaugural Commissioners’ Cup, which pits the six Division I conferences against each other. Doesn’t sound impressive? Well, the other fourth-place league was the WCHA – widely regarded as the best conference in the nation. And the CHA’s three wins equaled the CCHA’s total.

Bench Minor

Canisius is looking worse and worse with each Buffalo News article that comes out. First, a players revolt led to the firing of longtime head coach Brian Cavanaugh in December. Days later, forward Dan Bognar was arrested for allegedly punching a police officer during an incident outside a restaurant. He has since been removed from the team. Then came word of a wild trip to North Dakota shortly before Christmas, complete with players doing drunken somersaults that caused damage to hotel property and bleeding feet and arms. Four players involved in the shenanigans were suspended for the team’s series against the Under-18 U.S. National Development Team late last month. As a fan of Ohio State football, I know you can’t judge an entire program by the actions of a few. But the Griffs would be wise to keep their noses clean for a while – and focus on winning the league.

• It’s not showing up in statistics or records, but American International coach Gary Wright believes things are improving in Springfield. “We’re disappointed in our record, certainly, but by the same token, we’re more competitive than we’ve been in a while,” he said. The Yellow Jackets’ schedule has made it hard for them to get in a flow. They played an Ivy-like 11 games before Christmas, with just four back-to-backs. In the New Year, they have 19 regular-season games scheduled, but still only five back-to-backs.

AIC’s C.J. McConnell, whose 12 goals last year were third most on the team, finally scored his first goal of the season last Friday, but he still has just eight points heading into this weekend’s home series versus Canisius. After being scratched for two games earlier this season in an attempt to get him to work harder, he has returned to taking a regular shift of late.

• For the first time this season, Wayne State was swept last weekend. Nebraska-Omaha got the better of the Warriors, who had been the split kings of college hockey thus far – taking one win and one loss in nine of their 12 previous series.

• The most pleasant surprise for Wayne State this year has been freshman forward Stavros Paskaris, who has a team-leading 25 points (8-17) despite a funky skating style. “Because he’s so upright with his body, he doesn’t get a great push,” Warriors coach Bill Wilkinson said. “You’ll see his initial thrust isn’t as powerful as (freshman) Tylor Michel’s, because he doesn’t use his legs as much. It something we’ve worked on, but you can’t change it drastically at this point.”

Connecticut will officially dedicate the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum during the first intermission of Saturday’s game against Sacred Heart. Freitas, who played hockey for the Huskies and graduated in 1981, now is the president and CEO of Frank Crystal and Company, an insurance brokerage firm in New York. The rink opened in 1998. UConn students will be admitted free to Saturday’s game, and the first 1,000 fans will receive
complimentary t-shirts. Other contests and freebies also are planned.

• Even after giving up nine goals to St. Cloud State on Friday, Sacred Heart goalie Jason Smith played again in a 3-1 loss Saturday. The fact that Smith played all 120 minutes of the series seemed curious, considering how much St. Cloud was scoring and the fact that No. 1 goalie Kevin Lapointe was available. But Pioneers coach Shaun Hannah apparently wanted to build Smith’s confidence after allowing the nine-spot Friday. Either way, the SCSU sweep capped off a wretched nonconference season for Sacred Heart, which went 0-10-0 and was outscored 51-11.

Bemidji State had some tough luck at the Ralph last weekend, squandering a 3-0 lead Friday and a 1-0 lead Saturday in an eventual tie and loss, respectively, against North Dakota. Leading scorer Andrew Murray (thigh bruise) didn’t play in the series, and is questionable for this weekend against Wayne State.

Niagara goalie Jeff Van Nynatten might have showed his rust a week late. After coming back from eight weeks of recuperating from a broken finger with two wins against Air Force, Van Nynatten surrendered eight goals on 42 shots during a one-point trip to Robert Morris last weekend. The 4-4 tie and 6-0 Robert Morris victory might represent the worst weekend of the season for the perplexing Purple Eagles, and the best for the upstart Colonials, who now are unbeaten in three straight.

Mercyhurst is 1-8 in one-goal games this year.

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

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