January 11, 2007
Lots To Talk About in College Hockey America

By Warren Kozireski

Choices and more choices. Is it Bemidji State's sweep of Wayne State to move ahead of Niagara into first place in CHA? Is it Niagara's non-conference road sweep of Colgate and RIT? Or Robert Morris' upset on the road against previously No. 2-ranked Notre Dame? Two coaches reaching the 100-win milestone on the same night? UAH head coach Doug Ross officially announcing his end-of-the-season retirement after 25 years? For the smallest conference in Division I, there is certainly plenty to write about.

CHA Notebook

Sophomore Travis Winter, right, is the leading scorer for Bemidji State, which moved into first place in College Hockey America with a sweep at Wayne State.

National TV Schedule

And since the last umpteen notebooks have featured Bemidji State or Niagara at the top, we'll focus on the Robert Morris upset — arguably the biggest win in the program's history.

The Colonials rebounded after losing the first game of the series 6-2 and trailing 2-0 in the second period in game two to score four unanswered goals and surprise the Fighting Irish 4-2.

In just his 11th career game, senior goaltender Joe Tuset stopped 34 of 36 shots and allowed just a pair of power-play goals in registering the fourth victory of his collegiate career and his second in three games. The Northern Michigan-transfer earned his first shutout against Merrimack Dec. 30.

"Joe has played well for us, but that doesn't mean I've lost confidence in Christian (Boucher)," said head coach Derek Schooley. "He's been our MVP the last two seasons, but you never know when you'll need another goaltender and Joe has earned the right to get a look."

Jason Towsley netted his fifth goal of the season halfway through the third period for the game-winner.

The Colonials have garnered two wins, a loss, and a tie in their last four non-conference games and head back into conference play with a key series at Alabama-Huntsville. They earned their first ever win at UAH on Dec. 9 on a last-minute power-play goal by Logan Bittle.

"You don't want to be in that 4-5 game, so every game in conference from here on out is important, but I don't want to put all the focus on this weekend," said Schooley.

Sophomore forward Chris Margott missed the Notre Dame series and is not scheduled to play this weekend either with an injury.


Double-Century: What are the odds of two coaches in the same conference earning their 100th career victories in the same season? The same month? How about the same night?

Bemidji State's Tom Serratore and Niagara's Dave Burkholder turned the trick last Friday. The Beavers defeated Wayne State while Niagara beat Colgate on the road. Both are in their sixth seasons behind the bench.

"It's not a big deal," said Serratore. "The big deal is that we're winning hockey games and are on a bit of a roll. I don't even check the internet so I didn't know until our radio guy asked me about it. This is so silly…nobody cares…it's yesterday's news."

Burkholder was a bit more reflective. "I didn't think about it before the game, but afterward I sat back and reflected. It's good to get it out of the way and I'm lucky and privileged to coach some dedicated young men and have great coaches."

Both Bemidji State and Niagara are 13-1-2 over their last 16 games. For those who pay attention to these things, Serratore took 200 games to reach the 100 win mark while Burkholder took 204.

Beavers in first: Bemidji State took over sole possession of first place in CHA with a weekend sweep at the Glas over Wayne State. The four points catapulted the Beavers two points ahead of the Purple Eagles, though Niagara has two conference games-in-hand.

After winning the first game on Rob Sirianni's game-winner, the Beavers had to comeback from 4-2 and 5-3 deficits with three unanswered goals to complete the sweep. Travis Winter was in on all three scoring the first and assisting on the last two and finished the game with a career high five points.

"We're a better team right now than we were early in the season," said Serratore. "Our freshmen are playing well and we're getting good goaltending which is key to any team. Wins come from confidence and having good practices. We had a big learning curve with the injuries we've had to key players. The rest of the team has developed a different mentality and are excited about the roles created from those injuries."

The Beavers try to improve on their 5-1 record this season against the WCHA with a pair this weekend at Michigan Tech.

Non-league success for Niagara: Niagara continued to impress with the non-conference schedule beating of Colgate for the second consecutive time and RIT both on the road. The Purple Eagles are 7-5 in non-CHA action this season with just two of those victories at Dwyer Arena.

"Our penalty kill was outstanding and good teams find a way to win," said Burkholder. "And the goaltending we've been getting—it's been a great story."

It took three power play goals — two by Ted Cook — to beat Colgate and a pair of shorthanded goals to stymie the Tigers. One of those was from Sean Bentivoglio, who didn't have a shorty for the first three years of his career, but is now second in the country with three this season.


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Robert Morris at Ala.-Huntsville
More choices…Niagara at Denver in a series featuring ranked teams will be watched by many in and out of the conference, but we have to go with the Battle for the Bye with Robert Morris at Alabama-Huntsville. A Colonials sweep will give them a six-point cushion with two games in hand on the Chargers for third place in CHA and a first-round playoff bye.

While You’re There: Since the Saturday game is at 4 p.m., there is plenty of time to catch comedian D.L. Hughley at the Stardome Comedy Club at 9:45 p.m.

Stick Salute
Bemidji State freshman forward Tyler Lehrke scored his third and fourth goals of the season in the Beavers 3-2 victory over Wayne State.
Bench Minor

Niagara forward Les Reaney for missing the team bus leaving Colgate after their 3-2 victory Friday. Nothing like leaving the third leading scorer in the nation behind.

• At a press conference Tuesday, Alabama-Huntsville Athletic Director Jim Harris tried to quell the rumors that UAH would drop Division I hockey after the announced end-of-the-season retirement of 25-year head coach Doug Ross. "I know those rumors are out there," Harris said as printed in the Huntsville Times. "But ... we are committed to Division I, and we are going to maintain a high profile in Division I. If that's taken away from us for whatever reason in the near future, meaning that if College Hockey America ceases to exist and we are not welcomed into an existing league ... then we'll have to make another decision later. But I don't anticipate that decision having to come, especially in the next couple of three years." Harris said he already has lined up Yale for a series in Huntsville on Jan. 18-19, 2008.

• Wayne State senior defenseman Taylor Donahoe broke a 31-game goalless streak with a marker December 16th against Western Michigan. Matt Boldt broke an even longer streak last weekend with a goal—his first since November 2004.

• Including the Dec. 30 win versus Canisius, Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero is 3-1-1 in his career when facing 40 or more shots.
Niagara's other goaltender, Allen Barton equaled his career win total with the RIT victory—his fourth of the season.

• Alabama-Huntsville is 1-3 over their last four games, but Robert Morris transfer Joe Federoff has two goals and two assists in his first four games since becoming eligible for the Chargers.

• Pre-season CHA co-Player of the year Luke Erickson of Bemidji State has missed the last eight games, but the Beavers depth has stepped up as they are 7-1 during the stretch.

• Wayne State is missing senior defenseman Dan Iliakis and sophomore forward Jon Grabarek with shoulder injuries.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Warren Kozireski can be reached at warrenkozireski@yahoo.com.