February 8, 2007
The Eagles Have (Crash) Landed at Robert Morris

By Warren Kozireski

One year after losing all five games it played against Niagara, Robert Morris signaled its arrival as a legitimate threat in the race for College Hockey America supremacy with a 7-1, 5-2 sweep that knocked the Purple Eagles out of first place.

CHA Notebook

Thank God it's Frieday: Robert Morris freshman forward Kyle Frieday scored two goals and added two assists in the Colonials' 7-1 rout of Niagara, and added an assist in RMU's 5-2 win in the series finale.

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The Colonials took the season series from Niagara three games to one while averaging more than five goals per game this season the erstwhile league leaders.

Keying Robert Morris's win Friday was killing off a 5-on-3 Niagara power play for 1:13 after the Purps had closed to within one goal in the first period. Robert Morris’ Ryan Cruthers then tallied a power-play goal (the Colonials had five in 10 chances on the weekend) as the first of five unanswered goals in a 7-1 romp.

“We did a good job shutting them down and even when they made it 2-1, there was no cracking,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley.

“When we go bad, we go bad,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder after the first loss. “It almost felt like (a 10-1 loss earlier this season to) Nebraska-Omaha.

"We didn’t play well, but that’s going to happen over the course of a long season. As long as it’s once every 15 or 20 games, as a coaching staff we can accept it.”

In Saturday's finale, Cruthers again started the surge with his tying goal in the second period — the first of four unanswered in a 5-2 win. Robert Morris's third line of Sean Berkstresser (this week's INCH Player of the Week), Kyle Frieday and Logan Bittle accounted for 13 points on the weekend.

“We recruited Kyle as a shooter and he gets in trouble a bit when he doesn’t compete,” said Schooley. “He hasn’t played much, but he needs to do this all the time. Over the last two to three weeks, Sean Berkstresser has been our best practice player and that has translated into a great weekend.”

After not winning a game since December 9, junior netminder Christian Boucher picked his second victory of the week Saturday. The sweep pulled the Colonials to within five points of second-place Niagara and gave them a five point cushion on fourth place Alabama-Huntsville.


Did you hear what you thought you heard?: Last week, news of Wayne State's application to join the CCHA appeared in this space. This week, it was reported in another hockey website’s chat room that WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod — who once held the same post in College Hockey America — was interviewed between periods on a WCHA member school radio broadcast and announced that Bemidji State had applied to join the league.

As ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend."

“We have not applied,” stated Beavers coach Tom Serratore. “We can’t apply if the WCHA expansion moratorium isn’t lifted and that would take a motion, a second, and a majority vote. There is no question we’d like to see the moratorium lifted, but we can’t do anything until it is.”

Beavers back on top: Bemidji State had inched into first place in the conference in early January before Niagara made up two games in hand to regain the top spot. But with a three-point weekend at Alabama-Huntsville, the Beavers now have sole possession of first with all four top teams having played the same number of conference contests.

Though the Beavers are 8-2-1 in their last 11 meetings with the Chargers, they headed into the series with a 4-17-0 against UAH on the road.

“It’s the best we’ve ever done down there," Serratore told the Bemidji Pioneer. "We’ll take it. Now we’re in a position where we control our own destiny; the title is ours to win.

“We did a bit of scoreboard watching last weekend to see how Robert Morris and Niagara were doing. Now that we have the lead, we don’t have to worry about that anymore. We can concentrate on controlling the things we can control.”

Jake Bluhm scored just his second goal of the season midway through the third period for the tying goal Friday, while Tyler Scofield netted two goals in a 3-1 win Saturday. The Chargers peppered BSU goaltender Matt Climie Saturday, firing 21 shots his way second period alone and 43 for the game, but could only score once.

Despite a change in Saturday's start time from 7 p.m to 5 p.m., attendance for the contest was announced at a robust 2,112 fans.

Warriors in OT: Defenseman Matt Krug scored both the tying and game-winning goals and Nate Higgins netted a hat trick as Wayne State edged the U.S. Under-18 National Team, 6-5 in overtime. The win was the second for the Warriors in three meetings with the U.S. Under-18 Team.


Great Weekend Getaway
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Bemidji State at Robert Morris (Fri.-Sat.)
The Beavers enter the weekend series as the first-place team in the league. Funny, Niagara held the same status when it traveled to Moon Township last weekend. The Purps didn't leave with that distinction, however.

While you’re there: Gourmet chocolate tasting at FitWell Studios; 103 North Meadows Drive; Wexford, Pa. beginning Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Celebrate Valentine's Day early — or perhaps soothe the nerves of that significant other making the hockey trip with you — by stopping in for some unique chocolate treats.

Stick Salute
Robert Morris freshman forward Kyle Frieday hadn’t scored a goal through his first 10 collegiate games, but netted two to go along with two helpers against Niagara Friday.
Bench Minor

Niagara’s penalty-killing unit allowed five goals on 10 Colonial power-play chances in two games to fall from 25th to 32nd in the nation in that category.

• Robert Morris junior defenseman Chris Kaufman, the Colonials' co-captain and leading scorer from the blueline with six goals and 14 points, will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken wrist in Saturday’s win against Niagara.

• Niagara reunited the top scoring line of Sean Bentivoglio, Les Reaney and Ted Cook for Saturday’s game at Robert Morris after a five game hiatus. The trio combined for both goals and one assist in the Purple Eagles' 5-2 loss.

• Special teams likely will get a workout this weekend when Alabama-Huntsville travels to the Motor City to face Wayne State. The teams are next to last and last in the nation in both penalty killing and scoring defense. The Chargers also have the fourth-most penalty minutes among NCAA schools.

• Robert Morris senior goaltender Joe Tuset has risen to sixth in the country in save percentage at .931 after stopping 30 of 31 shots in the Colonials' 7-1 win against Niagara Friday.

• With its win and tie at Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, Bemidji State now has an 11-game unbeaten streak against CHA opponents.

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