February 22, 2007
Lack-of-Separation Anxiety

By Warren Kozireski

Well, there used to be a distinct separation within College Hockey America between the halves and the have-nots. And then …

In less than a month, we have quite the race shaping up over the final two weekends before the league playoff tournament in Des Moines.

CHA Notebook

Wayne State captain Jason Bloomingburg had three goals and four points in a win and tie against Niagara.

National TV Schedule

Last weekend, Wayne State took three of four points from Niagara while Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville split their two-game set in Minnesota.

“We’ve been playing well the last month and have played well since Bemidji,” said Wayne State coach Bill Wilkinson. “Our goaltending and special teams have come along, and getting Jon Grabarek, Tylor Michel and Mike Forgie back in the lineup has helped.”

Against the Purple Eagles Friday, Jason Bloomingburg, Forgie and Jarred Katz staked Wayne State to a 3-0 first-period lead and they never looked back. Ted Cook’s power-play marker was the only blemish on senior goaltender Will Hooper's night as he earned his third victory of the season.

The Warriors showed some moxie in the series finale Saturday with third-period goals from Bloomingburg and Grabarek to overcome a 4-2 Niagara lead.

“We hadn’t beaten them in four tries and we’re looking at a fourth-place finish, not fifth,” said Wilkinson. “I’ve been trying to tell people we’re not as bad as our record. Our kids want to compete and playing the 17th-ranked team provided some extra motivation.”

Regardless of what they do over the next two weeks, the Warriors are locked into the 4-5 playoff game with Alabama-Huntsville in Des Moines March 9. Since losing a pair of closely fought games at Bemidji State in early January, the Warriors are on a 6-4-1 run, including 4-3-1 mark in conference play.


Niagara falls: After a 14-3-2 stretch, Niagara has hit the skids in February with just one point in their last four contests. But the coaching staff liked what they saw Saturday as the Purple Eagles built 3-1 and 4-2 leads in its tie against Wayne State.

“We haven’t played like we did earlier, but Saturday was a gritty, gutsy effort and I thought we deserved more than a tie,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. “I think it’s more a case of running into two teams who are playing well and we’re not.

“We can’t pinpoint one area — collectively we’re not playing as a team. If a forward breaks down, then it puts pressure on our defense and goaltender. Every team has times of mental fatigue in every season, but there has been a different energy in practice this week. The last two weekends have definitely gotten our attention.”

Leading the Chargers: Alabama-Huntsville was also strutting Saturday after overcoming a 3-1 Bemidji State lead by scoring once in the second and two more in the third for a 4-3 road win and a split of their series against the Beavers at Glas Fieldhouse.

Senior forward Steve Canter put up a four-point weekend with a goal and an assist in each game and January addition Blake MacNicol made 38 saves and registered his second victory in three starts in net.

Eye on Iowa: Among the CHA's top three teams, the playoff possibilities are virtually endless. Bemidji State plays its final two conference games this weekend at home. A BSU sweep would force Niagara to win three of its final four leage matches to tie (and win the title via head-to-head tiebreaker). It would also force Robert Morris to sweep its last four contests (and have Niagara lose two of four) to tie for first.

Wayne State. meanwhile, is just two points behind Alabama-Huntsville with two games in hand for fourth place in the conference and the last line change for the teams' first-round playoff match.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Robert Morris at Niagara
The Purple Eagles will likely have revenge on their minds as they harken to the series earlier this month in which the Colonials started Niagara on its current 0-3-1 skid. RMU, meanwhile, tries to rebound from a pair of non-league losses against Miami.

While you’re there: There’s not a lot to do in February (besides jump-starting cars and shoveling). Try your luck at the Fallsview Casino if for nothing else than the great all-you-can-eat brunch.

Stick Salute
Wayne State goalie Will Hooper allowed one power-play goal and made 20 saves, picking up his third victory of the season (and first since Dec. 16) in Friday's 6-1 rout of Niagara.
Bench Minor

Niagara goalie Juliano Pagliero allowed six goals on 15 shots — including three on three shots in the second — before being pulled in the blowout loss to Wayne State.


• Wayne State senior defenseman Taylor Donahoe is due back in the lineup for the Bemidji series this weekend. He has missed seven games with a deep skate cut on his foot.

• Niagara confirmed it will start Juliano Pagliero in goal Friday and Allen Barton Saturday for Senior Night against Robert Morris.

• Alabama-Huntsville leads the CHA in goals in conference games this season (58), but the Chargers have also allowed a league-high 66 tallies.

• Wayne State freshman Jared Katz has at least one point in 11 of his last 13 contests.

• Bemidji State’s Luke Erickson became the first player in the school's Division I era to record 50 career goals and 50 career assists.

• The first Alabama-Huntsville-Bemidji Statei tilt last weekend featured a penalty-free first period.

• Wayne State has won just twice and tied twice in 16 all-time visits to Bemidji.

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