2005-06 College Hockey America Preview
doesn’t matter which College Hockey America head coach
one talks to, because they all pretty much say the same thing
– this is a balanced league, any team can win on a given
night and any team could wind up winning the conference's
regular-season title or postseason tournament.
like this every year,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore
said about the competitiveness of the league. “It is
going to be a war every game. There is a lot of parity in
our league, and there are going to be a lot of splits.”
coach Doug Ross agrees.
lot of games will be decided by a pounce of the puck, a bad
break, a late penalty,” he said.
the past, many people will ultimately judge this league by
how its clubs do against non-conference competition.
the CHA has accomplished [in] non-conference [games] sends
a strong message," Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said,
"and this year the league will be as tough as it has
healthy Jeff VanNyatten is crucial if Niagara is to contend
for the CHA championship.
won the CHA playoff championship in 2004 and the team had
high hopes of making a return trip to the NCAA Tournament
last season. That didn't happen — the Purple Eagles
stumbled to a 15-19-2 (9-9-2 CHA) record, a key player was
jettisoned from the squad, the starting goalie missed much
of the season due to injury and the team in general lacked
Dave Burkholder and his players, and one gets the feeling
the Purple Eagles are embarrassed about last year and resolve
to get back where they were. It sounds good in theory, but
whether Niagara can indeed become an elite CHA club is another
problem could be the losses of Barret Ehgoetz, Ryan Gale and
Kris Wiebe, who carried the load offensively. Burkholder is
counting on what he says is a talented group of underclassmen
led by Justin Cross (10-9--19) and Sean Bentivoglio (9-18--27)
to help make up for those losses. The key, however, is goaltender
Jeff VanNyatten who missed two months last season with a broken
finger and – according to reports – was not the
same after he returned from the injury. If VanNyatten is as
sharp as he was two years ago when he was the 2004 CHA Tournament
MVP, the Purple Eagles should be vastly improved over last
FOR A FALL
State, which celebrates its 50th anniversary of hockey
this season, is the only club in CHA history to win consecutive
regular season titles. Achieving the three-peat, however,
could be a tall order. The Beavers must replace six seniors
who combined for 643 games played and 379 career points. Offensively,
the biggest losses were Brendan Cook and Andrew Murray, who
combined for 36 goals and 78 points last season.
“We’re work in progress,” said Tom Serratore,
who enters his fifth season at Bemidji with 17 freshmen and
sophomores on the roster. “We’ve had two terrific
years in a row, but we lost some outstanding hockey players.
We have a lot of new and unproven players, but we are a team
that nobody can take for granted.”
Beavers have some good offensive players coming back –
Luke Erickson (11-27--38 last season) and Rob Sirianni (13-12--25).
Also returning is goaltender Matt Climie, who was outstanding
last season with a 12-5-1 record, a 1.80 goals against average
and a .916 save percentage.
Force, the pressure to perform is coming from within.
More specifically, it's coming from coach Frank Serratore,
who expects big things from a team that returns 21 players
from a club that was 14-19-3 (5-14-1 CHA) last season. Junior
goaltender Peter Foster (12-14-3, 2.66 GAA, .900 sv%) is back,
as are all but three players from last year's team. Also returning
to the fold is forward Theo Zacour, who missed all but 11
games last season with an injury.
only have three seniors, but our juniors have a lot of experience,”
Frank Serratore said. “I think we will be in every game.
Hopefully, we will be on the good end of those tight 3-2,
the Falcons enjoy a wealth of experience this season, the
lack of seniors could mean the team is still a year away from
reaching its championship aspirations. If that's the case,
Air Force might fulfill its vast potential in Atlantic Hockey
ACT TO FOLLOW
Schreiber and Alabama-Huntsville were picked to win the
CHA by the league's coaches in their preseason poll.
the pick of CHA coaches to win the conference championship
this season, but if Alabama-Huntsville is to advance to the
NCAA Tournament for the first time, they'll need to find a
way to replace departed scoring stars Jared Ross (159
career points) and Craig Bushey (112 points). Could
it be that the high-octane Chargers morph into a team that
wins with defense? Sure, senior Bruce Mulherin, who led the
CHA with 24 goals last year, returns, but the strength of
this team might be veteran defensemen Jeremy Schreiber and
Jeff Winchester and goalie Scott Munroe, who bounced back
from a dismal sophomore season to post a 16-10-4 record, a
2.29 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
are models of consistency, and then there's Alabama-Huntsville
defenseman Jeremy Schreiber. In three seasons below
the Mason-Dixon line, the Medicine Hat, Alberta, native has
scored 21, 21 and 23 points, respectively. A dangerous power
play presence — of his 17 career goals, 12 have come
with the man advantage — what's more amazing is his
ability to recognize scoring chances and then convert. Schreiber,
a two-time all-CHA selection, has attempted just 144 shots
during his career for a shooting percentage of 9.6%. The Chargers'
captain gets the nod over Bemidji State sophomore goalie Matt
On a team
as young as Robert Morris (there are just two juniors and
two seniors on the roster), adding a player with previous
Division I playing experience is a plus. And on a team that
struggled to score a year ago, it's an added benefit if said
player has a little bit of offensive skill. Another added
plus is if the player in question knew the league. Well, after
leaving Niagara nine games into last season, forward Aaron
Clarke will join the Colonials for the second half
of this season. Clarke, a Peterborough, Ontario, native, had
three goals and three assists for the Purple Eagles last year
and was named to the 2004 CHA all-tournament team after scoring
a goal and an assist in Niagara's title game win against Bemidji
State. If coach Derek Schooley can get more offense from Clarke
and others, it'll ease the burden on...
...Robert Morris goaltender
Christian Boucher. Don't
let the 8-17-4 record fool you — he enjoyed a terrific season in the Colonials'
inaugural CHA campaign. Among Division I schools, only Notre
Dame ranked below RMU in scoring offense. But Boucher was
a fantastic find for Schooley. The Orleans, Ontario,
product manufactured a sparkling .916 save percentage and
a 2.87 goals against average as a freshman, and during an
impressive three-game stretch midway through the season he
stopped 81 of 85 shots in a win and a tie against Quinnipiac
and a draw with Mercyhurst.
have a solid defense and a good goaltender,” Schooley
said. “Now we just have to figure out how to score some
What's the best thing about playing in a six-team league?
It's gotta be the great non-conference slates these
schools put together thanks to a 20-game league schedule.
For example, Alabama-Huntsville plays Maine and Ohio State,
Air Force sees the Black Bears along with Front Range rivals
Colorado College and Denver, Bemidji State — which will
play anyone, anywhere — gets half the WCHA this year,
including a date at North Dakota on ESPNU. Niagara takes on
Vermont (at home!) and travels to Minnesota, while Wayne State
meets Michigan State and Miami at this weekend's Lefty McFadden
Tournament in Dayton, Ohio, and plays Northern Michigan later
in the year.
Will Kennesaw State be good for this league? Well,
seeing as how adding the Owls — a move that has been
all but officially announced — keeps the league afloat,
yeah, it's a good thing. Seriously, it'll be great for the
college game to get into a fresh market, especially if Kennesaw's
fans are as avid as those at Alabama-Huntsville. Our wish
is for one of the Owls unveils the hockey version of the old
Atlanta Falcons "Dirty Bird" dance after scoring
The CHA Tournament moves to Detroit this year. Is that a good
thing? For starters, it'll mean more CHA fans can
actually see the tournament. In case you didn't notice, Kearney,
Neb., and Grand Rapids, Minn., aren't exactly airline hubs
— they're more like destinations for contestants on
"The Amazing Race." The CHA Tourney may get lost
among everything else that goes on in Detroit, but at least
the city is an easy drive for fans from Niagara and Robert
Morris, and flying from Bemidji, Colorado Springs or Huntsville
is less of a challenge than getting to central Nebraska.
things you can take to the bank in College Hockey America this season
1. Despite the losses of top scorers Brendan
Cook and Andrew Murray, not to mention solid veterans Peter
Jonsson, Myles Kuharski and John Haider (who played in a whopping
143 career games), Bemidji State will outlast its
CHA rivals and win the league tournament for a third
Even though we tabbed UAH's Jeremy Schreiber as the
league's best player, BSU goaltender Matt Climie will
build upon his freshman campaign, win conference
player of the year honors and play well enough to generate
some All-American buzz in what appears to be a down year for
In its CHA swan song, Air Force makes a valiant
run at an NCAA Tournament berth by advancing to the
league playoff championship, but Tom Serratore's Beavers will
be too much for brother Frank's Falcons to handle.
If you're looking for a glimpse into the CHA future, check
out Wayne State. The Warriors return their five top
scorers from a year ago — Stavros Paskaris, Jason Bloomingburg,
Jason Baclig, Mark Nebus and Tylor Michel. Each member of
the high-octane quintet has no less than two years of eligibility
As you'll see below, projecting an order of finish
for the CHA this season is an exercise in futility.
It wouldn't come as a surprise if everyone outside of the
fledgling Robert Morris program is within striking distance
of one of the league's two first-round playoff byes.
came out and really took it to us for a while," Denver
defenseman Andrew Thomas said after the Pioneers escaped
a scare in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.
healthy Jeff VanNyatten will help alleviate the loss of
Barret Eghoetz and Co. Count on coach Dave Burkholder
having the Purple Eagles on the same page this season.
Ross was a dominating offensive presence. The Chargers
have a solid foundation to build on in Schreiber, Winchester,
Mulherin and Munroe.
Warriors might be a year away from seriously challenging
for the CHA title. That said, it'll be a lot of fun watching
this team grow.
Falcons will be missed when they move to Atlantic Hockey
next season. CHA media members will especially miss the
candid Frank Serratore, who can fill a reporter's notebook
with the best of 'em.
wins in their inaugural campaign was a good start for
the surprisingly competitive Colonials. They'll reach
double digits in victories if they get a little more scoring
punch in year two.
Eidelbes contributed to this preview.
note: The first version of the CHA preview listed transfer
Ryan Cruthers of Robert Morris as the league's top newcomer.
Cruthers is not eligible to play for the Colonials until next
season. Inside College Hockey regrets the error.