February 16, 2007
How Good, How Soon?

By Warren Kozireski

The question in pre-season was whether Robert Morris would come of age in its third season as a Division I program. It is no longer a question of if, but how much.

CHA Notebook

Robert Morris' Sean Berkstresser plays on a productive line with Logan Bittle and Kyle Frieday. The trio helped key a weekend sweep of Bemidji State.

National TV Schedule

Robert Morris was the last conference loss Bemidji State suffered way back on Nov. 10. After a team record 11-game conference unbeaten streak, the Colonials again were the culprit in handing the Beavers 4-2 and 4-1 losses. That, with last weekend's sweep of Niagara, gives Bobby Mo a team record four consecutive CHA victories and a team record five straight in the win column. And the Colonials are now just one point behind second-place Niagara (albeit with the Purps holding two games in hand) and are two points from clinching third place and the best finish in the program's history.

"We're working hard and getting timely goaltending and timely offense," said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. "We knew this was a make or break time for us going against Niagara and Bemidji and then Niagara again next week.

"We knew it was a tough stretch, but I'm pleased with how we've started things. We're not relying on just Aaron Clarke and Ryan Cruthers. They're scoring, but we have others getting it done as well."

The Beavers came into the series having allowed just three goals in the previous four contests all-time on the Island, but the Colonials found the net four times each night. The Colonial defense blocked 17 shots the first night.

Robert Morris has already set team records for conference wins in a season (9) and total wins in a season (13).

"You always want to strive for the highest you can, but when we were 5-7 after getting swept by Wayne State, at that point we were hoping to keep our head above water and get the (first round) bye," said Schooley. "Now we've put ourselves in a good position, but we're not done yet with four league games and Niagara having two games-in-hand. Everybody's scoreboard watching."

"They're a veteran team with most of their team having played 80 or 90 games," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "They're an old, wily team and they were the better hockey team."

After netting 13 goals over his first two campaigns, junior forward Logan Bittle had scored just twice in his first 23 games this season. He decided to get hot at the right time with three in four games, including putting the Colonials ahead for good in the first game win over the Beavers with a goal in the second period after assisting on the games first tally and another in the nightcap.

"My line (with Kyle Frieday and Sean Berkstresser) got together two weeks ago and we seem to work pretty well together," said Bittle. "To be honest with you we expected this all year. No one really respects us in our league except for us and those guys in the locker room know that on any given night we can beat any team. I think we're starting to put it together now, so we're happy about that."


As CHA turns ... : Since the publication of last week's CHA Notebook, I had the opportunity to listen to the complete interview with WCHA commissioner Bruce MacLeod that aired on Mix 103.7, KKBJ in Bemidji. Despite Beaver head coach Tom Serratore's denial last week, the interview bears out the Beavers bid is in process.

In the interview, MacLeod states "the question is how does Bemidji make us (the WCHA) better and is twelve better than eleven. We heard from Bemidji at our January meetings in Orlando. Now it goes to our structure committee and they'll come back to our annual meeting in April with all the pros and cons. If I was Bemidji, I would make sure somebody is willing to bring a petition (to lift moratorium on expansion) forward ... and should work on getting some friends."

Bemidji's Erickson back in lineup: One day after losing senior forward Shane Holman to a separated left shoulder, Bemidji State welcomed back pre-season CHA Co-Player of the Year Luke Erickson after a 15-game layoff due to a broken leg. Even with only 13 games played, Erickson still leads the team with 10 goals. Holman hopes to be ready for the conference playoffs.

"It felt a lot better than I thought it would," said Erickson after the game. "I was a little nervous that first shift until I took that first hit, but the adrenaline got going and I really didn't think about it. Skating was no problem, it was more getting back into game shape and we'll see what happens next week."

The senior played on the second line with Travis Winter and Tyler Scofield and needs one assist to tie Andrew Murray's Division I era team record with 60.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Three-Peat Weekend (Fri.-Sat.)
It's three-peat weekend…with the league down to five teams, the schedule has some teams playing three series per season against fellow CHA members. This weekend features two of those "third meetings" with Niagara at Wayne State and Alabama-Huntsville at Bemidji State.

While you’re there: Check out any one of five events all part of the 26th Annual 2007 Finlandia Ski Marathon.

Stick Salute
Robert Morris forward Ryan Cruthers scored three goals, including a game-winner in the weekend sweep over Bemidji State. His 11 goals this season matches his career output for his first two seasons at Army.
Bench Minor

Bemidji State junior defenseman Dave Deterding was on the ice for all four Robert Morris goals in the second game of the RMU sweep — all at even strength.


• Bemidji State broke a streak Saturday where they allowed at least one power play goal in 12 consecutive games.

• Beavers defenseman Nathan Schwartzbauer broke Jesse Balsimo's school record for career games played without scoring a goal (113 games from 2000-2004) eight games ago. He is now at 121 and counting.

• Niagara is 15-3-2 in the last 20 meetings with Wayne State including four straight this season.

• Wayne State is 1-13 this season when held off the scoreboard with the man advantage.

• Alabama-Huntsville will be looking to end a five game non-winning streak against Bemidji State this weekend. They are 2-8-1 in their last 11 Beaver meetings.

• Robert Morris is now 10-4-2 in their last 16 home games.

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