February 9, 2005
Full Nelson

By James Jahnke

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

Ben Nelson has eight goals in the last two weekends for red-hot Quinnipiac.

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When you’re on a roll like Quinnipiac freshman center Ben Nelson, you don’t really see the goalie. You see everything the goalie can’t cover. An open corner here, space between the legs there.

“It all feels the same, it’s just weird,” Nelson explains. “You play with a lot more confidence. You see a hole, you shoot for it and you hit it. Maybe other times, you see a hole and you think about it and you shoot over the top or wide. Then the puck goes down the other way.”

Nelson hasn’t missed much lately. He has scored eight goals during the past two weekends, including his first career hat trick as part of a five-point night Saturday against Mercyhurst. He is INCH’s Player of the Week and is one of the biggest reasons why Quinnipiac has won six straight games and vaulted within three points of first place in Atlantic Hockey.

Despite missing the first two months of his rookie season with a separated shoulder, Nelson managed to score on his first collegiate shot Dec. 5 against Holy Cross. He said he bumbled a toe-drag move to get inside of the Crusader defenseman that night, but the puck still got between the d-man’s legs and Nelson walked in alone on the goalie. From there, a wrister high to the glove side was all it took to get his Bobcat career off to a charmed start.

“I’ve always been put on teams to score, so this is nothing all that strange to me,” said Nelson, a native of Spokane, Wash. “I’m just working hard and shooting the puck, and it’s working out. A lot of credit goes to my linemates (Chris White and Jamie Bates), because without them, I’m nothing.”

Nelson hopes to continue his torrid streak this weekend, when Quinnipiac hosts American International on Friday and then plays Holy Cross in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at the FleetCenter. Nelson has never played in a bigger arena than a 3,500-seat barn in Salmon Arm, so this trip to Boston should be memorable. But he’s more concerned about getting two points against the second-place Crusaders, who lead Quinnipiac by that margin in the standings.

“We just want to keep our winning streak going,” Nelson said. “People say that we can’t win the league, so we want to prove that we can.”


CHA Optimism – Commissioner Bob Peters says the CHA isn’t going anywhere, despite Air Force’s apparently impending move to Atlantic Hockey coupled with unsubstantiated reports of gloomy financial situations at other CHA programs.

“There's no hint of (folding) at all,” Peters said. “We have strong commitments.”

Losing Air Force, which might be admitted into Atlantic Hockey by the end of the week and start playing in the AHA in 2006-07, would leave the CHA with five teams – one short of the NCAA minimum for an automatic bid to the national tournament. But the conference would have a two-year grace period to find a sixth team, meaning the open spot won’t have to be filled until 2008-09.

At this point, the most likely CHA expansion target is Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. Officials from the league and the school have been in contact for about a year, and a traveling party from Lindenwood attended the American Hockey Coaches Association meeting in Florida on a fact-finding mission last spring. The biggest remaining hurdle is the fact that Lindenwood is an NAIA school and must meet dual-membership guidelines to participate in NCAA hockey.

Meanwhile, Peters says he harbors no animosity toward Air Force, which was a charter member of the CHA.

“It’s not unusual for institutions in all sports to have a little bit of movement as they try to find a situation that’s most comfortable for them,” Peters said. “We’ve enjoyed having Air Force as a member of the CHA, and we hope it can continue.”

Not dead yet – Army coach Brian Riley said the future of the academy’s exhibition series against Canada’s Royal Military College still is undecided. Last week, Riley expressed concerns about the Paladins using graduate students and part-time reservists in their lineup, saying the series was meant to pit cadets versus cadets. But even with the “beefed up” roster, RMC lost 6-1 on Saturday at West Point, marking the Black Knights’ third straight win in the series.

On Wednesday, Riley said the administrations of the two schools are discussing the future of the series. Next season’s game, the 75th in the rivalry’s history, has been scheduled, but beyond that, everything is in doubt.

“The administrations are trying to figure out what the heck we can do to keep it alive,” Riley said. “It’s being talked about. But right now, as a coach, it’s out of my hands.”


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Atlantic Hockey at the FleetCenter (Sat.)
Holy Cross vs. Quinnipiac
Bentley vs. Connecticut
This event’s atmosphere might be even more compelling than the games. Will enough people show up to make the FleetCenter not feel cavernous? Will there be any noise? Will it be fun for the fans? AHA commissioner Bob DeGregorio is hoping for 5,000-8,000 patrons, which won’t look like much in the arena. But it still would be great exposure for the league. Quinnipiac is offering free admission to the first 700 students and first 300 fans/alumni/faculty who show up at the FleetCenter wearing Gold Crazy Bobcats t-shirts. For everyone else, tickets are $10.

While you’re there: Don’t feel you have to limit yourself to one day of hockey viewing, OK? If you get to Beantown early, UMass Lowell hosts Northeastern on Thursday night and both Holy Cross and Bentley are at home Friday night. If you want to make it a long weekend, there’s that Beanpot thing Monday at the FleetCenter.

Stick Salute

The leading goal scorer in Atlantic Hockey? It’s not a name that immediately springs to mind. But Holy Cross’ Tyler McGregor deserves a lot of the credit for the Crusaders’ ascension to the upper reaches of the league standings during the last two months. The junior’s 15 goals are a career high, and his offensive spark was exactly what Paul Pearl’s goal-starved bunch needed to get untracked. He has 10 markers and five assists since Christmas, during which time Holy Cross is 6-4-1 (and 6-1-1 in the league).

Bench Minor

Canisius’ players have now run off 24-year head coach Brian Cavanaugh (on purpose) and five-year athletics director Tim Dillon (inadvertently) in a span of two months. Good job, guys. Canisius should be lauded for its new zero-tolerance attitude toward alcohol-induced incidents involving players, but the Golden Griffins should be ashamed it got to this point. Time to grow up, guys.

• Instead of four wimpy individual fries, we super sized this order to bring you a hodgepodge of CHA lineup notes all at once: Niagara freshman forward Tayler Simpson’s season is done after he tore his ACL. ... Robert Morris’ leading scorer, Jace Buzek, missed last weekend’s series against Air Force because of a shoulder injury. His status for this weekend is uncertain. ... Junior defenseman A.J. Bozoian made his Wayne State debut last weekend, playing in both games at Bemidji State. He recently became eligible after tranferring from Niagara. ... Bemidji State’s leading scorer, Andrew Murray, was back in the lineup last weekend after missing two-plus games with a bruised thigh. He tallied goals both nights against the Warriors.

Connecticut drew a school-record crowd of 1,752 to Saturday’s game against Sacred Heart, during which the arena was officially named the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum. The Huskies did their part to send the throng home happy, cruising to a 5-1 win.

• What could possibly happen next to Air Force sophomore forward Theo Zacour? The native of Norway missed the Falcons’ first 24 games this season because of a suspension for violating academy rules. When he finally was cleared to play by coach Frank Serratore, Zacour had to sit out Friday’s game against Robert Morris because of a groin strain. On Saturday, he decided to play through the injury, and everything was fine until he received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for checking from behind midway through the third period. Here’s hoping he plays at least one full game against UAH this weekend.

• Two notes from West Point: Former Army coach Rob Riley (Brian’s older brother) was honored on the ice prior to the Black Knights’ game against RMC. Both teams presented gifts to Riley, who had a 13-3-2 record against the Paladins in his 18 years behind the bench. It was Rob’s first time in Tate Rink since stepping down as coach this summer. ... Army junior goalie Brad Roberts is now 3-0 against RMC. Only Dan Scioletti, who played for the academy through 1971, can boast of a similar mark.

Alabama-Huntsville junior Bruce Mulherin amassed six points, including a hat trick, in a sweep at Niagara last weekend. With 22 goals in 22 games, he’s the only player in the country averaging a tally per contest. UMass Lowell’s Ben Walter is the next best at 0.88 goals per game (23 in 26).

• Mulherin will be short one linemate for Friday’s series opener against Air Force. UAH star center Jared Ross must serve a one-game suspension after receiving a game disqualification for spearing late in Saturday’s win over NU. Ross will return Saturday. Similarly, American International’s second leading goal scorer, Jereme Tendler, had to sit out Tuesday’s tie with Bentley because of a game DQ for spearing on Saturday. He’s expected back in the lineup Friday at Quinnipiac.

Holy Cross and Union played a stats-less first period – no goals, no penalties – on Friday. In fact, Union had just one penalty the entire game. The crackdown on obstruction is a success!

• Speaking of the new officiating philosophy, Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio provided this little nugget: “We want to get the game back to a game of skating, passing, stickhandling and shooting. Not the World Wrestling Federation of Hockey.”

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

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