2006-07 College Hockey America Preview
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Bemidji State, Niagara and Alabama-Huntsville finish 1-2-3
in the final CHA standings and either the Beavers or the Purple
Eagles advance to the NCAA playoffs. It’s happened the
last three consecutive seasons and could be repeated again
That’s unless Robert Morris breaks through
to the upper level of the conference. Or unless Niagara and/or
Alabama-Huntsville can’t find qualified replacements
for longtime starting goaltenders.
No matter how the rest of the conference settles
out, Bemidji State begins as the team with the fewest question
marks and the most depth after losing just four seniors. The
Beavers, however, will have to chew their way through to the
finish though with only two of their last eight league games
Robert Morris, about to begin its third season
at the Division I level, jumped from eight wins in its first
year to 12 last season and has the mix of senior leadership,
experience on the blueline and veteran goaltending to break
up the Bemidji State-Niagara-Huntsville triumvirate.
Robert Morris goalie Christian Boucher faced an average
of 33 shots per game last season.
The Colonials lost just two seniors and return
two solid scoring lines led by CHA All-Rookie Team selection
Chris Margott and Brett Hopfe. Goaltender Christian Boucher
should face less than the average of 33 shots per game of
last season playing behind a defensive unit that lost just
PRIMED FOR A FALL
With the departure of workhorse goaltenders
Jeff Van Nynatten from Niagara and Scott Munroe from Alabama-Huntsville,
it gives some thought to both teams being vulnerable should
the next round of puckstoppers not work out as planned. Scott
Mollison and Juliano Pagliaro will begin by splitting the
duties for the Purps while Marc Narduzzi and Jordan Erickson
do the same in Huntsville. Either tandem failing to perform
would give Bemidji State even more of an edge and make for
quite a jumble for spots two through five in the league standings.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
Alabama-Huntsville's Brett McConnachie was
one of just two Chargers to reach double digits in goals.
With the other – first team All-CHA pick Bruce Mulherin
– having moved on, he will be expected to pick up his
offense. Of his 10 goals last season, five came on the power
play, so McConnachie's five-on-five production will need to
improve if the Chargers are to avoid a fall.
TOUGHEST ACT TO FOLLOW
Can Niagara's dynamic duo of Ted Cook and Les
Reaney repeat their record-setting freshman campaigns? The
two combined for 33 goals, 47 assists, 19 power play goals,
seven game-winners and one shortie to lead the high-powered
Niagara offense. Aside from the two, the Purple Eagles graduated
four of their next seven top scorers, so the pair will be
under the spotlight to repeat … and they won’t
catch anyone by surprise this year.
O'Brien led Sacred Heart in scoring last season with 19
goals, 31 assists and 50 points.
Sorry to waffle here, but it’s virtually
impossible to choose between first team All-CHA selections
Luke Erickson from Bemidji State and Niagara’s Sean
Erickson is lethal on the power play, with half
of his goals coming with the man advantage. Bentivoglio had
four game winners among his conference-leading 11 goals in
CHA games. Bentivoglio finished with 28 points in 18 conference
games while Erickson tallied 25 in 20 outings. Each had five
goals and five assists in non-conference games.
Injuries and other problems beset Niagara on
the blueline last season, so the Purple Eagles will roll out
the red carpet for defenseman Ryan Annesley via Pickering
in the OPJHL. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound defenseman scored 52
points in 47 games, including 10 goals. We may not see five
forwards on Niagara's first power play unit this season.
Bemidji State’s Matt Pope finished eighth
on his team in scoring last season, but the junior scored
five of his seven goals on the power play and threw in two
game-winners in addition to 14 helpers. One of the players
who gave the Beavers the scoring depth that helped them take
the CHA playoff championship for a second straight season,
he's also durable – one of eight Beavers to play in
all 37 games in 2005-06. He'll have to step up to fill the
losses of graduated forwards Ryan Huddy and Jean-Guy Gervais,
the 2006 CHA Tournament MVP.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
1. What can go wrong
next for Wayne State? The Warriors lost a bundle
of man-games to injury last season, four seniors (including
goaltender Matt Kelly and second-leading scorer Steve Kovachik)
to graduation and leading scorer Adam Krug to Division III
2. Can Niagara's Ted Cook and Les Reaney
follow up on their freshman success? Their combined
explosivenenss as freshmen was one of the league's biggest
stories a year ago.
3. Is this the year Robert Morris becomes
a legitimate contender in the CHA? Outside of Bemidji
State, the Colonials appear to have the fewest question marks
heading into the season. Coach Derek Schooley's squad went
8-9-2 after Jan. 1 and beat Air Force in the first round of
the league playoffs. Things are looking good in Iron City.
MARK IT DOWN
Five things you can take to the bank in College Hockey America
1. Alabama-Huntsville defensemen Shaun
Arvai and Mike Salekin will wear down by February because
of too much ice time. The seniors are the only blueliners
on the Charger roster with any appreciable experience now
that Jeremy Schreiber and Jeff Winchester have graduated.
2. The conference will be pressed to
win a total of two games in their first games of the season.
Why? Well, let's run through the non-conference slate.
Niagara opens at Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Bemidji State
starts off with two in Orono against Maine. Wayne State kicks
things off with a series at Minnesota. Alabama-Huntsville
starts its season at Colorado College and Air Force, while
Robert Morris opens with a single game against Canisius.
3. Speaking of the Colonials, Robert
Morris will close strong to finish third in the conference.
The difference? Six of their final eight conference games
on home ice.
4. Alabama-Huntsville will not go 10-1-1
over a six-week period as they did last year in January
5. Bemidji State’s Blaine Jarvis
will be a breakthrough player offensively for the Beavers.
Jarvis, who had four goals over the last 15 games
one year ago, will light the lamp 10+ times for the first
time in his career this season.
||League opponents can’t match
the goaltending pair of Matt Climie and Layne Sedevie.
||The Purple Eagles lost a lot of offense,
but with Bentoviglio, Cook, Reaney, Matt Carauna and Vince
Rocco, there's still plenty left.
||Can we expect anything other than
a top-three league finish from the Colonials in year three.
How about a second CHA playoff win.
||Losing defensemen Jeremy Schreiber
and Jeff Winchester – not to mention goaltender
Scott Munroe – will be too much for the Chargers
||There are just too many questions
surrounding the Warriors. Like who'll score goals, and
who'll keep them from going in.