2004-05 CHA Mid-Season Report
Force. Maybe Frank Serratore should field an inexperienced
team every year. This is Year Two of the AFA coach’s two-year
rebuilding estimate, and the Falcons again are exceeding expectations.
Before the season, there were legitimate worries that Air Force
might finish behind first-year program Robert Morris in the CHA
standings. But that doesn’t seem possible considering the
way the Falcons (7-5-2, 3-3-0) have played thus far. They already
have wins over Wayne State, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart, not to
mention the 1-0 victory over Rensselaer in the championship game
of RPI’s tournament two weeks ago. Peter Foster has been terrific
in goal, Brandon Merkosky and Andrew Ramsey have been dangerous
up front, and Brooks Turnquist and Brian Gineo are two of the most
offensively gifted defensemen in the league. With all this praise
comes a qualifier, however. The Falcons arguably have had the easiest
schedule in the league so far. Things will only get harder.
State goaltender Matt Kelly edges Niagara forward Ryan
Gale. Kelly, a product of Hull, Mass., has bounced back from an
uneven sophomore season to be, uh, even as a junior. He’s
6-3-0 with a 2.60 goals-against average and .919 save percentage
this year after going 7-13-2 with 3.54 and .903 numbers in 2003-04.
Part of the turnaround can be attributed to Wayne State’s
commitment to tightening up defensively, but Kelly has seemed sharper
and more in command in the crease thus far. So much so that he’s
earned about 60 percent of the possible playing time, relegating
last year’s INCH All-CHA goalie Will Hooper to No. 2 status.
Schooley, Robert Morris coach. We all owe a big thank you,
thank you, thank you to Schooley, athletics director Susan Hofacre
and Robert Morris University as a whole for saving College Hockey
America after Findlay folded last season. As expected, Schooley
quickly has made his squad an upstanding member of the CHA. He has
his kids playing the right way (can you tell I’m a Pistons
fan?), going to class and believing in the program. In addition,
Schooley has been a pleasure to talk with, and he seems to have
made inroads into the vibrant Pittsburgh sports scene. Well done.
HAPPENED TO …
Van Nynatten, Niagara goalie. The Stratford, Ontario, native
came into the season widely regarded as the top goalie in the CHA,
but it’s been a soap operatic first half for the junior. Van
Nynatten missed four games in early November because of a mysterious
pseudo-suspension, during which coach Dave Burkholder wanted the
goalie to evaluate his priorities. Apparently, he did, and Van Nynatten
came back for one game against Bemidji State before breaking a finger
in practice two days later. Now, he’s out for two months.
That said, his numbers (3.01, .910) aren’t horrible, but his
3-5-0 record is well off the 18-8-3 pace he set last year.
sweep at Vermont. At the time, it wasn’t such a big
deal (at least as much as a “Little Two” sweep in a
“Big Four” barn can be not a big deal), but given what
Vermont has done since then, it carries some added weight. The Purple
Eagles stormed into Gutterson and blitzed the Catamounts, 6-1 and
3-2 on Oct. 22-23, dropping UVM to 1-4-0 on the season. But guess
what? Vermont hadn’t lost since until Tuesday night at Harvard,
compiling a national-best 11-game unbeaten streak (8-0-3) that included
wins over Minnesota Duluth, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The Purple Eagles’ easiest games thus far have been
against Quinnipiac – certainly no slouch. Aside from that,
Niagara had four straight road series against Maine, Vermont, Clarkson
and Western Michigan, opened the season against UMass Lowell, went
more than a month between home games, and has faced preseason favorite
Bemidji State and first-place Alabama-Huntsville in its first two
league series. The Purple Eagles play Bemidji again (this time in
Minnesota) this weekend.
Force gets the nod over Wayne State, Alabama-Huntsville
and Bemidji State. The Falcons still have the four toughest league
road series ahead of them (BSU, WSU, UAH, Niagara), plus visits
to Colorado by Bemidji and Niagara. Throw in the always-draining
rivalry series against Army and holiday tournament tilts against
defending national champion Denver and either Colgate or Northeastern,
and the Falcons will be tested often.
State at Alabama Huntsville, Jan. 21-22. With these two
teams poised to separate themselves from the pack, it’ll be
interesting to see what happens down in Dixie the first time they
tangle. They meet again about a month later in Bemidji, but Alabama
might be a little nicer to visit in mid-January. When they face
off, UAH’s ridiculous line of Jared Ross, Bruce Mulherin and
Craig Bushey will face the best tandem of defensemen in the CHA,
the Beavers’ John Haider and Peter Jonsson.
competitive will Robert Morris be? About as much as you
can expect from a start-up program. The Colonials have proved that
they’ll make you work for everything you get. You’ll
probably beat them, but you’ll have to earn it. This year,
they have three wins, a tie, three one-goal losses (including one
in overtime) and a couple of two-goal losses. Older, stronger teams
will give them problems (witness Miami and Mercyhurst scoring eight
goals against RMU, and Alabama-Huntsville hanging a seven spot),
but by no means can opponents just show up and sleepwalk to wins.
Wayne State a contender or a fraud? My six-pack feeling
(no gut here) is that the Warriors are still a year away from seriously
contending for CHA championships, but I’ve been wrong before.
Perhaps no team in the league has a more impressive list of wins
than Wayne State (including Bowling Green, Clarkson, Merrimack,
Providence and Bemidji State), but the squad’s top five scorers
are a combination of freshmen and sophomores, and the only senior
Warrior (John Grubb) has just one point. It’ll be interesting
to see if they can keep this up.
First Half All-CHA Team
Canton, Mich., product leads the nation with four shutouts.
Paces CHA in GAA (2.14) and is second in save percentage (.917).
on the blue line, Haider is tied for second among league defensemen
with 10 points (2-8).
best all-around defenseman has just one goal so far, but makes
up for it with 11 assists.
for CHA lead with 13 helpers, Ehgoetz is third in league scoring
with 19 points.
in the nation with 13 goals, Red Deer, Alberta, native has chipped
in nine assists, too.
for second nationally in points per game (1.62), Ross is the
anchor of one of the most dangerous lines in college hockey.
this to a friend
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