It was a series
indicative of the three-team cluster atop the College
Hockey America standings.
Alabama-Huntsville and Niagara tread
water last weekend as the two teams split a hotly
contested series in western New York. The Chargers
won the first round, taking a 4-3 decision at Dwyer
Arena Friday. The Purple Eagles regrouped to squeeze
out a win by the same score the following afternoon.
The split, combined with Bemidji State's sweep at
Air Force, puts the Beavers two points up on Niagara
and three ahead of Alabama-Huntsville, setting up
what will likely be an exciting sprint to the wire.
The Chargers have two games in hand on both BSU and
On Friday, Alabama-Huntsville goaltender
Scott Munroe outdueled Niagara's Jeff VanNynatten
and Brett McConnachie scored the game-winner with
six seconds left in regulation as the Chargers rallied
from a 3-1 deficit for the win. While Munroe was sensational
– the Purple Eagles outshot UAH by a 43-25 margin
– Niagara's 2-for-12 performance on the power
play allowed the Chargers to linger within striking
distance. The visitors eventually capitalized on the
Purple Eagles' largesse in the third period, outshooting
Niagara, 15-3, and getting two power play goals of
"I was really happy just to be
in the game," Alabama-Huntsville coach Doug Ross
said following Friday's win. "We got a lot of
penalties and had to face a lot of adversity out there.
I was glad to least be in the position. We decided
to go hard in the third period, send three guys in
to forecheck early and not wait."
"It was a classic case of, if you
keep a team around long enough," Niagara coach
Dave Burkholder said. "They obviously wanted
it a lot more than we did. To play like that in the
third – we did not play like champions or a
desperate team at home. We have a lot of guys who
should be very disappointed in their third period."
Saturday's game mirrored Friday's in
that the Purple Eagles grabbed a 3-1 lead after two
periods, but unlike the previous night they hung on
for a 4-3 victory. Matt Caruana scored a pair of goals,
and Randy Harris got the game-winner on a third-period
power play tally – Niagara converted on three
of its six man-advantage opportunities – to
earn the split.
"We didn't want to get swept by
Alabama, especially with the couple of games in hand
on us," Caruana said. "We wanted to come
out here after that tough loss and put together 60
AND HEARD IN THE CHA
Great weekend getaway (it was
getting back that was tough):A
rarity in Air Force’s game at Bemidji State
last Friday – the Falcons employed all three
goalkeepers in the 5-2 loss.
Peter Foster started
the game but was pulled in the middle of the second
period in favor of Ian Harper. With 10 seconds left
in regulation, Harper was involved in a skirmish,
so Air Force coach Frank Serratore yanked him and
inserted Ben Worker to mop up.
“Our goalies won games for us
last year,” Frank Serratore said. “They
haven’t won a game for us this year.
"It’s a shame. We skate and
compete very, very well. If our goaltending can get
back to where it was last year, we are going to be
a scary team to play coming down the stretch.”
In 12 games, Foster is 3-9-0 with a
3.71 goals against average and a .859 save percentage.
Harper has also struggled, going 2-5-1 with a 3.77
GAA and a .857 save percentage.
Coach's corner: If
Alabama-Huntsville coach Doug Ross decides he wants
to retire from the day-to-day grind of Division I
hockey, he may have a second calling as a color commentator
as evidenced by the way he regaled the media attending
last weekend's series at Niagara.
“I call him ‘Pretty Boy’ because
he has a big head. He has the long, curly locks. He’s
‘Pretty Boy’…he knows why, too.”
On the officiating this season:
“I’ve been benching players for penalties,
but crap…I can’t even tell what's good
or bad anymore. We have to learn how to play and not
get penalties. We have to learn to adjust to the referee.”
On referees for Chargers’ home games:
“When we are at home, I think the visiting teams
bring the refs with them they are so bad.”
On Saturday’s loss at Niagara, tongue
planted firmly in cheek: “I am
protesting the game because they switched around the
national anthem and the introductions. That threw
us off. They had the anthem and then the introductions.
Usually, they do it the other way.”
Great Weekend Getaway
at Wayne State
(Fri.-Sat.) It’s a quiet weekend in the CHA
as this is the only league series on the slate.
The Warriors trail the Chargers by seven points,
but have an opportunity to gain some valuable
ground this weekend.
“Doug Ross always seems to have a pretty
solid offensive side of it,” WSU coach
Bill Wilkinson said, “and with (Scott)
Munroe in goal…he’s been playing
While you're there: Can't go a weekend
without football? The Super Bowl hits Detroit
Feb. 5, but you can head to the Pontiac Silverdome
this Sunday for the NFL
Global Junior Championship, a flag football
event featuring the U.S. team comprised of high
schoolers from northwest Ohio against Canada.
The Canadians have yet to allow a point in the
competition, including a 21-0 win over the U.S.
in the round-robin preliminaries. Says here
that the red, white and blue will get at least
one rouge Sunday.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Niagara’s Jeff VanNynatten
finished with 42 stops in Saturday’s win. He
now has 2,649 saves, eclipsing Greg Gardner’s
school record for career saves of 2,639.
“I really don’t know what
to think of it,” VanNynatten said. “I
knew going into the season I had a shot at it, but
I didn’t think I would do it with 10 or 12 games
left in the season. I have seen a lot of rubber this
VanNynatten has faced a lot of shots
and played a ton of minutes. Burkholder, a former
college goalie, sensed during the Purple Eagles’
series at Air Force that his no. 1 netminder was wearing
down. For that reason, VanNynatten will sit out at
least one game of this weekend’s non-conference
series at Quinnipiac.
“For a goaltender,
fatigue can be more of a mental thing,” said
VanNynatten, who insisted he didn’t need a break.
“I felt better [against Alabama-Huntsville]…two
long flights kind of caught up with me a little bit
at Air Force. But there are only 10 games left and
physically, I am fine. I don’t have the bumps
and bruises these other guys are playing through.”
• Wayne State
ended a six-game winless streak with a 6-3 victory
over Robert Morris Saturday, the culmination of a
weekend during which the Warriors got contributions
from unlikely sources.
On Friday, defenseman Taylor Donohoe
scored halfway through the third period to give the
Warriors a 2-2 tie. It was his fourth career goal
in his three years at Wayne State. The Warriors also
got solid performances from goalie Will Hooper, who
finished with 21 saves Friday and made 16 stops Saturday.
“[Hooper] played very well
for us Friday night,“ Wayne State coach Bill
Wilkinson said. “He kept us in the running,
and gave us a chance to tie it up. Saturday, he played
well early until we got our feet under us.”
• Former NHL goalkeeper Brian
Hextall, now a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers,
was at Dwyer Arena last weekend evaluating Niagara’s
Jeff VanNynatten and Scott Munroe of Alabama-Huntsville.
• Following Saturday’s tough
loss, senior forward Bruce Mulherin and his Alabama-Huntsville
teammates boarded a bus for the 15-hour ride back
“Tonight, we will play some cards,
watch some movies, hang out and talk about the weekend,”
he said. “We…try to make the best of it.
It is a good time for us to bond as a team.”
Mulherin says the seniors select the
movies. Featured on the Niagara trip were “The
40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Wedding Crashers.”
A variety of sources were utilized
in the compilation of this report.