January 24, 2008
Niagara's Cardiac Kids

By Warren Kozireski

A look at the Niagara schedule for the first half of the season reveals that the Purple Eagles have already played the most difficult of their conference games.

College Hockey America Notebook

Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder challenged his captains, including Matt Caruana, to turn things around when trailing at Wayne State. He responded with three assists in a 6-5 win.

National TV Schedule

Road trips to Robert Morris and Bemidji State on back-to-back weekends and a home pair with the Beavers added up to six of eight conference games against the upper echelon teams.

That would logically bring you to the conclusion that the second half schedule would be much easier.

The Purple Eagles may have been thinking the same thing last weekend when they needed a pair of comeback efforts to beat tied-for-last-place, 15 freshmen on the roster Wayne State.

Armando Scarloto, a defenseman who has played on the fourth line much of the season but was listed at defense all weekend, scored the game-winning goal with less than three minutes remaining as Niagara came back from a 2-1 second period deficit to win.

"That goal was pretty special," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. "One-on-one between the legs; the bench was as excited as I've seen them this season."

The next night the Purple Eagles, again down but this time 4-1 in the second, had the captains take over with two goals from Vince Rocco and a goal and three assists by Matt Caruana to take the lead.

"We had a coaches and captains meeting and we basically told them (Caruana and Rocco) that the locker room was theirs," said Burkholder. "The response has been amazing. The night Rocco had Saturday was maybe the best game any Niagara player has ever had."

"They were two playoff games with both teams putting defense first. There wasn't any time and space, but we persevered and came from behind.

"We may look back and see Saturday as the defining moment of our season. Thankfully our best period of hockey of the weekend was the second period Saturday."


Robert Morris Needs to Make Move: It will be the first two of four meetings over the next month, but the pressure is on Robert Morris this weekend at Bemidji State.

Yes, they have four games-in-hand on the first place Beavers. But two losses will put them 11 points behind. A split still keeps their destiny in their own hands at seven points back, but still a difficult road even for a veteran squad.

After going 0-4 over their first two seasons, Robert Morris went 4-1 against Bemidji last season including the last three including a semi-final 7-5 CHA playoff victory in Des Moines. But the two teams split in Minnesota last season with the RMU win by one goal and the Beavers picking up a (does this sound familiar) shutout. Travis Winter scored twice and Sean Berkstresser had a three-point effort in the playoff win.

"Last year was last year," said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. "We're a different team with a nice mix of veterans and younger kids and they are a different team as well."

The Colonials are 1-2 this season in first games after a week or more off (they were off last week) while Bemidji State is 5-1 this season in conference series openers and 3-1-2 in game twos.

"Just like every team, we need production from our big guns—your best players need to be your best players," said Schooley.

One of those, senior captain Joel Gasper, will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken collarbone suffered two weeks ago at Niagara.

On the Bemidji side, they have allowed just 17 goals in 12 conference games with just five goals permitted in their last six CHA tilts — four on the road.

Goaltender Matt Climie remains fifth in the nation in goals-against average (1.78), tied for eighth in save percentage (.927) and tied for first with four shutouts.

Don't expect any surprises in the Beavers crease this coming weekend. Climie has started and finished the last 11 consecutive conference games Bemidji has played with an 8-1-2 record—that's all but the first one way back on Nov. 2 in Niagara.

Bemidji State Could See More of the WCHA: According to the Bemidji Pioneer, "the WCHA has promised to compete more often in Bemidji. But, there might be a catch. A $67 million catch. Bemidji State University and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced on Friday (January 18) that they have agreed to a future scheduling agreement – but it refers to a schedule to be competed at the proposed events center."

On the table reportedly was the WCHA considering a four-year unbalanced schedule that would ensure Bemidji State had 12 games vs. WCHA teams each season with half at home.

Charging Into the Win Column: Alabama-Huntsville picked up just their third victory of the season and broke a seven game winless streak thanks to third period goals from Matt Sweazey and Joe Federoff to defeat Yale 3-2 and earn a weekend split.

It was their first win at the Von Braun Center (home) since March 2, 2007 and they did it wearing their third jersey. Alabama-Huntsville freshman Chris Fairbanks netted the first goal and first point of his collegiate career during the weekend.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Robert Morris at Bemidji State
The Colonials still have four games in hand, but a Beavers sweep would put them 11 points ahead of RMU —an insurmountable lead— and seven up on second place Niagara.

While You're There: If you're not up for ice fishing, catch the Bemidji High School Lumberjacks boys basketball team at home against Little Falls on Saturday afternoon.

Stick Salute

For the second week in a row, but this time for his off-ice efforts. Wayne State's Mike Forgie is a nominee for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

Bench Minor

To Wayne State senior Tyler Michel for his five minute head-butting major and game misconduct Saturday. Coach didn't mean to use it that way.


• Even with a combined eight power play chances, all five goals in Niagara's come from behind 3-2 win at Wayne State Friday were at even strength. They made up for it the next night collaborating on four extra man tallies.

• According to Chris Heisenberg's college hockey recruit webpage, Wayne State has three of its players committed to other programs next season. Defenseman Matt Krug and Brock Meadows are transferring to Robert Morris and Eric Roman has verbally committed to transfer to Division III Adrian College.

• Robert Morris scored 35 goals total in 20 conference games and 62 total in 33 games during their first season (2004-05). This season, they already have 31 goals in just 8 conference games and 73 goals total in 20 games.

• Niagara defenseman Jim Burchin is out for at least two weeks with a broken ankle.

• Niagara has now had an in-game goaltender change in five of its last seven games.

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