January 12, 2006
New Year's Day in the CHA? Try "Groundhog Day"

By Thomas Baldwin

 College Hockey America Notebook

National TV Schedule

Entering the season, the prevailing consensus was the College Hockey America race would be fairly even. It pretty much was in the first half of the year, and the first weekend of play in the second half again illustrated this concept’s credence as Bemidji State and Robert Morris split a series in suburban Pittsburgh.

“That’s college hockey, there is a lot of parity,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. “We are no different than anybody else. I really feel we can beat almost anybody, but we can lose to anybody. You better be prepared every game and you better be sharp and... you better be on your “A” game.”

The Beavers won the first game, 2-0, and were the superior club, statistically speaking, outshooting the Colonials in the series opener by a 50-26 margin.

In the second game, forward Aaron Clarke, who transferred to Robert Morris from Niagara, scored both goals in the Colonials' 2-1 victory. Clarke gave the hosts a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the second period with a power play goal, then scored the eventual game-winner less than six minutes later.

“No doubt,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said when asked if it was a relief to finally beat the Beavers after five straight losses to BSU, including two that went to overtime. “For us to break through and break our streak against a team that is ranked high is a feather in our cap. We worked extremely hard and got some timely goals."

Clarke has been a magnificent in three games with the Colonials since his transfer period ended with three goals.

“He’s doing a very good job for us,” Schooley said. “We were excited to get him eligible, and one of the things that he brings to the table that we don’t have is that he’s a very dynamic player.

"He produced since he’s been back and we just want to get him more in game shape. It’s a matter of him getting his legs back under him, and hopefully he will be better than he has already been.”


Layne playing stalely?: Bemidji State netminder Layne Sedevie must feel like he's playing in two separate seasons. Sedevie got off to a sizzling start, going 6-0-0 in his first half-dozen appearances. In his last four starts, however, Sedevie’s record is 0-3-1.

Of course, it's not all the goalie's fault.

“It’s not Layne at all," Serratore said. "We have played an extremely difficult schedule.” Indeed, since the beginning of December, the Beavers have faced a killer stretch that included dates with three teams – Lake Superior State, North Dakota and Clarkson – rated among the nation's top 20 in this week's INCH Power Rankings along with meetings with Dartmouth and Robert Morris.

Another factor for Sedevie’s sinking record – along with the Beavers' overall mark in general – is a lack of goal production. In its last eight outings, Bemidji State has averaged a meager 1.75 goals per game.

“Layne’s been a great goalie,” Serratore said. “When you are only averaging that many goals, that is a lot of pressure on your goaltender. The bottom line is we have to start scoring some goals, too. We were doing that early and had some success. We are not scoring right now and that’s the way it goes.”

Gored in Gold Country: It was a tough weekend for Niagara in Minneapolis, where the CHA's first-place team traveled to face a powerhouse Gophers squad.

The Purple Eagles, brimming with confidence gained from a stunning 6-2 victory at New Hampshire Dec. 30, figured momentum from that huge win might carry over. It didn’t the Gophers downed the Purple Eagles convincingly, 5-2 and 7-1.

“They were as good and then some,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder said when asked if he thought the Gophers, second in this week's INCH Power Rankings, were as good as advertised. “I thought they were clearly the fastest team that we played and top to bottom had the most depth.”

The first game might have been a little closer, but Niagara failed to convert on a 5-on-3 situation in the closing minutes of regulation.

Niagara goaltender Jeff VanNynatten finished with 48 stops in Friday's loss. In the second game, VanNynatten set a CHA record with 59 saves despite giving up seven goals. For the weekend, he faced a total of 119 shots.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Niagara at Air Force (Fri.-Sat.)
After a long trip (in both mileage and outcome) to Minnesota and back, the Purple Eagles board a plane once again for a long trip to Colorado Springs and a league series against Air Force, where the Falcons have compiled a 3-3-1 record this season. Not bad for a team that's 4-11-1 overall. According to Burkholder, fatigue should not be a factor with his team.

“I don’t think it should be an issue,” he said. “The kids are on break, and the guys aren’t in classes.”

After Saturday's game, Niagara takes an NHL-style red eye from Denver to Buffalo.


• As if VanNynatten wasn't busy enough given the volume of rubber he faced at Minnesota, he also stopped a penalty shot Saturday, turning aside an attempt by the Gophers' Gino Guyer in the second period of the host's 7-1win.

“It was an unbelievable weekend for (Jeff),” Burkholder said. “It’s not what we had in mind going into the weekend. But he is a senior that thrives in that kind of pressure. I haven’t seen any signs of fatigue, physically or mentally. I am going to continue to ride him.”

• More from Minnesota, where Niagara captain Jason Williamson was ejected from Saturday’s game after tangling with Gopher defenseman Chris Harrington in a disagreement that, by most accounts, was fairly tame. Nonetheless, both players were tossed and received mandatory one-game suspensions.

“It’s a shame because we don’t play a lot of games,” Burkholder said of the suspensions. “To take away a game from two players that I thought showed great restraint and great discipline in not getting into a full-scale, what most people would call, a hockey fight. In that sense I felt bad for both players."

• Alabama-Huntsville got a sweep of Air Force this past weekend, downing the Falcons 3-2 Friday and 6-3 Saturday.

The key to Saturday’s victory was the second period, a peculiar 20 minutes in which the Falcons actually outshot the Chargers, 20-11, but were outscored, 6-2.

• Wayne State stayed with Michigan State in Friday night's series opener, losing by a 3-1 margin despite being outshot, 41-19. On Saturday, the Spartans again had a huge advantage in shots on goal and won easily, 5-1.

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