January 9, 2008
Colonials Scoring In Bunches

By Warren Kozireski

Robert Morris is on one of those offensive streaks over the last four games where the forwards make sure they put their equipment on the same way every time and tap the goalie pads in the same order every game.

The Colonials have scored 27 goals over their last four games—about one goal for every nine minutes of action.

College Hockey America Notebook

Ryan Cruthers has 10 points in his last four games, leading a suddenly potent Robert Morris offense.

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After tying a team record by putting up seven goals at Alabama-Huntsville before the holiday break, the Colonials then shattered the mark with a ten-spot at American International last weekend.

Senior Ryan Cruthers is now tied for seventh in the nation in scoring and goals with five goals and five assists over the four-game span while junior Chris Margott tallied one goal and seven assists to take over third in the country in helpers.

Sean Berkstresser, Nathan Longpre, and defenseman Denny Urban combined for 13 assists as well.

"If you look back not too far, we couldn't buy a goal and now…" said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. "This is not characteristic of Colonial hockey, but our top guys are performing right down the list."

In spite of their recent run, the coming weekend at Niagara could go a long way in clearing the clouds of the CHA regular season race.

It's early, but a sweep by either team will determine which will have a shot at catching first place Bemidji State, who is five points ahead of both at the start of the weekend.

The scenario, of course, depends on the results of the Bemidji State at Alabama-Huntsville series also taking place this weekend, but a Niagara sweep keeps them within shouting distance of the Beavers with two games-in-hand. A Colonials sweep puts them in the same spot, but with four games-in-hand and a chance at their first regular season title in just their fourth season of existence.

"We have a 3-2 split in the conference and the schedule favors Bemidji with six games against each of the lower two teams," said Schooley. "You always hope for a split on the road and win your home games. This weekend will be determined by whose defense and goaltending is better."

A split for Niagara likely means an end to its two-year hold on the regular season title no matter what Bemidji State does. For RMU, a split still puts them in control of their destiny with the extra four games.

It sounds like a series the Beavers' brain trust will be checking online between periods at the Von Braun Center. At least on Friday; Saturday they face the Chargers at 5 p.m. ET and should be finished somewhere during the first period in Niagara Falls.


Defense Boosts Bemidji State: It seems Bemidji State is in first place five points in front of the pack in relative obscurity. Maybe that's because most people don't talk much about or notice defense.

They are just now on the radar among teams receiving votes in the national polls.

The Beavers feature the nation's 11th best goaltender in goals-against average in senior Matt Climie and got a shutout from freshman goaltender Matt Dalton to earn a split with Minnestoa-Duluth over the weekend. It marked the fifth shutout of the season for the team, equaling the total from the 2004-05 season when they pitched two shutouts in the playoffs on their way to their last NCAA appearance. For Dalton it marked his first shutout and first collegiate victory.

The primary blueline group of Cody Bostock, Riley Weselowski, Graham MacManamin, John Vadnais, Chris Peluso, and Dave Deterding, with Kyle Hardwick stepping in for Vadnais the last two games, have allowed more than three goals in a game just once all season on home ice. They also helped the team block 48 shots over two games last weekend in the home-and-home series.

In fact, over a 10-game span of conference games,with only four on home ice, the Beavers have allowed just 16 goals total.

Niagara Seeks Right Kind of Shutouts: Niagara suffered its worst shutout defeat since a 6-0 loss at Robert Morris in January 2005 when they dropped the opener at Cornell 6-0 last Friday. The shutout also marked the first time since 2001-02 the Purps have been blanked twice in one season (also at Bemidji in November).

After being one of just eight teams in the nation with ten wins at the break, all of a sudden Niagara is on a three-game losing streak with the key series against Robert Morris on the immediate horizon.

"That was not our best game and not a Niagara hockey game," said head coach Dave Burkholder of the Friday shutout. "We had a lot of guys play OK and that's not good enough, especially against a team with all the history and Cornell has and add that we're playing in their home rink."

Niagara and Robert Morris split their meetings in Pennsylvania in November with, ironically, Niagara winning their game via shutout. Senior captain Matt Caruana, who scored 8 goals over the first 13 games this season, has been held goalless for the last five games. He scored twice in the earlier Purple Eagles win over the Colonials.

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Robert Morris at Niagara
Can the Purple Eagles stop the offensive firepower of Robert Morris, which has averaged better than six goals per game over the last four?

While You're There: Blues/Rock artist Warren Skye & Friends is at the Seneca-Niagara Casino from 1:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Stick Salute

Bemidji State freshman goaltender Matt Dalton is now riding a 97:47 shutout streak dating back to an Oct. 27 appearance versus St. Cloud State.

Bench Minor

Niagara's penalty-killing unit has allowed four power-play goals over the last 12 man-advantage opportunities—all during a three-game losing streak.


• Wayne State captain Mike Forgie returned to the line-up last weekend after recovering from a broken foot. He returns still tied for third on the team in scoring despite missing six games.

• Wayne State is 0-6 all-time versus Northern Michigan heading into this weekend's series in Marquette.

• Alabama-Huntsville hosts Bemidji State for a pair with 23 days off behind them. Junior Matt Sweazey scored half of his season total four goals the last time the two teams met in early November.

• Bemidji State freshman Emil Billberg recorded his first collegiate assist and goal in consecutive games last weekend.

• Niagara defenseman Tyler Gotto, who was second in the conference in defensive scoring, sat out the second game last weekend with a back injury.

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