be damned! The College Hockey America season has followed
its script almost to the letter thus far. The preseason
coaches poll predicted that Bemidji State would finish first,
Wayne State would finish fourth, Air Force would finish
fifth and Robert Morris would finish sixth.
check, check and check. That means the only transpiration
people didn’t foresee in September was Alabama-Huntsville
finishing second (not third) and Niagara finishing third
that doesn’t mean it was a boring season. NU’s
Barret Ehgoetz and UAH’s Jared Ross provided some
excitement as they rose to the top two spots on the CHA’s
all-time scoring charts. Robert Morris, a first-year program,
played as well as anyone could have expected with more freshmen
than a dormitory’s Fall Mixer. UAH’s Bruce Mulherin
has scored more goals per game than anyone in the nation.
And Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore continued to kick
the tar out of his brother Frank at Air Force, improving
his record in the sibling rivalry to 14-0-1.
excitement should continue this weekend as the CHA tournament
begins and ends at the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids,
Minn. But don’t expect much more in terms of deviation
from conventional wisdom. Robert Morris is probably too
young to make much noise in the tourney, Air Force doesn’t
have the depth, and Wayne State, which is almost as youthful
as the Colonials, is too inconsistent to win three straight.
likely leaves Bemidji State and UAH – with an outside
threat from Niagara – to duke it out for the automatic
bid to the NCAA tournament on the line this weekend. At
least that’s what this script here says. Now, allow
me to exit stage left as you take a look back at the CHA
regular season that was and the postseason that will be.
6 Robert Morris vs. No. 3 Niagara
RMU: 8-20-4 (4-14-2)
NU: 14-18-2 (9-9-2)
Season series: Robert Morris won, 2-1-1
Fact: RMU’s most lopsided victory ever
(granted, it’s a first-year program) was a 6-0
smacking of Niagara on Jan. 29 in Pittsburgh. That
game also marks the only time Niagara has been shut
out this season. Purple Eagle Fact: Niagara’s
five-member senior class has scored nearly half of
the team’s goals this season (50 of 103).
Robert Morris Wins: By continuing to convince
the Purple Eagles that it has their number. Goalie
Christian Boucher will play a large role in that,
but the RMU defensive corps must play one of its best
games of the season Friday. How Niagara Wins: By finally living
up to its potential. On paper, the Purple Eagles should
steam roll the Colonials. But somebody has to make
that happen. We’re looking at you, Barret.
5 Air Force vs. No. 4 Wayne State
AFA: 13-18-3 (5-14-1) WSU: 14-16-4 (7-9-4) Season series: Wayne State won, 2-1-1
Fact: Senior power forward Josh Priewe (0-4—4)
returned to action last weekend after missing 11 games
with a fractured rib. Warrior Fact: With a pair of markers
last Saturday, forward Jason Bloomingburg, a Providence
transfer, became the first WSU skater to tally 20
goals in a season.
Air Force Wins: By being tougher than the
quarrelsome Warriors. The Falcons have to “want
it” more. And it wouldn’t hurt if goalie
Peter Foster returned to his first-half form. How Wayne State Wins: With a focused,
consistent, 60-minute effort. Sometimes, Bill Wilkinson’s
young group can go into a funk. That can’t happen
1 Bemidji State
21-12-1 (16-4-0) How
Bemidji State wins it all: By successfully
compensating for the loss of Murray. A greater onus
will fall on Brendan Cook to lead the top line, but
lines 2 through 4 will have to contribute consistently
at both ends. And, if the Beavers meet the Chargers,
they must force their defensive tempo on UAH.
How UAH wins it all: With superior talent.
Now that Murray’s out of the lineup, UAH has
the best team in the field. But they have to show
it. And there will be several thousand Beavers fans
in the stands to make it tough on them. The Mulherin-Ross-Bushey
line will get a chance to shine on a big stage, with
a CSTV audience watching if they reach the title game
(Sun., 8 p.m. ET).
State. This applies even though leading scorer Andrew Murray
is sidelined with a broken collarbone suffered Saturday
against Air Force. The main reasons? Home atmosphere and
defense. The IRA is just two hours from campus down US-2,
and it surely will be packed with BSU faithful this weekend.
The buzz will be a boost to the No. 1 seed Beavers. On the
ice, Bemidji is the best team in the conference at keeping
opposing offenses to the outside and shot totals down. When
pucks do get through, freshman goalie Matt Climie is usually
solid in net. However, that said, No. 2 seed Alabama-Huntsville
can be considered the co-favorite, especially now that Murray
is out. BSU is as deep as any team, but when you lose your
top player, you’re going to suffer a bit.
is too close to a favorite to be considered for this category,
so we’ll go with defending champion Niagara. The Purple
Eagles are an experienced team that, for one reason or another,
hasn’t put it together this season. They’re
dangerous up front with Barret Ehgoetz, Ryan Gale, Kris
Wiebe and Justin Cross, adequate on the blue line with Andrew
Lackner and Ryan Carrigan, and capable of great things in
net with Jeff Van Nynatten. But their chemistry hasn’t
clicked yet, and we haven’t seen any evidence that
it will in Grand Rapids. But maybe traveling to the postseason
tournament is just what they need to jog their memories
about last year’s title run.
– Scott Munroe, Alabama-Huntsville Junior
posted best save percentage (.929), most wins (15) and second-best
goals against average (2.31) in the league. Also played
more than 100 more minutes than any other CHA netminder.
– Steve Kovalchik, Wayne State Nothing flashy about this junior, but he’s
as sound as they get defensively and he tied for second
among league blueliners in points (6-14—20).
– Jeremy Schreiber, Alabama-Huntsville The Medicine Hat, Alberta, native had a down junior
year with just two goals, but he still led league defensemen
in scoring with 22 points. Adds a dynamic element to UAH’s
– Barret Ehgoetz, Niagara League scoring champ might graduate as the CHA’s
all-time leading scorer. He leads second-place Jared Ross,
165-159, heading into the postseason. Ehgoetz’s 30
assists were tops in conference.
– Bruce Mulherin, Alabama-Huntsville His 24 goals were most in the league and good for
a tie for fourth nationally. With one more point, the junior
will join linemate Ross at the 40-point mark.
– Jared Ross, Alabama-Huntsville Senior captain paced league with 1.43 points per
game, showing equal knack for scoring (22 goals) and setting
up (18 assists). Is three goals ahead of Ehgoetz on league’s
all-time goal-scoring list.
OF THE YEAR
Serratore, Bemidji State. Sure, BSU was supposed to win
it all this year, meaning all the Beavers did was live up
to expectations. But any time a team wins a league championship
– especially when its top competitors are strong,
veteran squads – the coach deserves credit. Serratore’s
group was swept just twice this season (both by WCHA schools),
and it played with remarkable consistency from beginning
to end. His best call of the year might have been settling
on Climie as the team’s No. 1 goaltender after New
OF THE YEAR
Ross, Alabama-Huntsville forward. The son of UAH coach Doug
Ross, Jared gave his father another outstanding season of
leadership and offensive production. He is the linchpin
of the most effective line in the league and was such a
good linemate that he made his left wing, Bruce Mulherin,
a candidate for this distinction. Sure, Mulherin is a good
player in his own right, but Ross made him great. And Ross
made the team great. That’s what gave him the leg
up on Niagara’s Barret Ehgoetz. Both had good years
statistically, but Ross was able to captain his team within
reach of the league title. Ehgoetz’s Purple Eagles
never flirted with meeting expectations.
OF THE YEAR
Boucher, Robert Morris goaltender. It’s fitting that
the league’s top rookie can be found on RMU’s
almost all-freshman roster. Nobody on the Colonials had
a faster acclimation to college hockey than this 5-foot-10
21-year-old who finished third in the league in save percentage
(.918) and had a respectable 2.81 GAA for a startup program.
Boucher is smooth in the crease and didn’t seem flustered
by much this year. He played the second most minutes of
anyone in the league and appears to be a cornerstone upon
which coach Derek Schooley can build the program.
bad this is Niagara forward Ryan Gale’s senior season
– he’s just turning into an offensive force.
Gale has posted 23 goals and 14 assists this year after
amassing just 16 goals and 11 assists combined in his first
three seasons in Buffalo. His previous highs were nine goals
as a junior and six assists as a sophomore. He blew away
those marks this year, largely thanks to playing on a line
with Ehgoetz for several months. But Gale isn’t just
Ehgoetz’s sidekick. In fact, coach Dave Burkholder
decided to split up the pair several weeks ago, and Gale
further proved his personal worth by making his Ehgoetz-less
line one opponents must worry about heading into the tournament.