January 31, 2008
CHA Race? Bemidji State is Secretariat

By Warren Kozireski

NFL coaches say defense wins championships. If last weekend's College Hockey America action was an indicator, that tenet was proven true in college hockey as well. Bemidji State took three points from Robert Morris, skating to a 2-2 draw Friday and shutting out the Colonials, 4-0, in the finale. The result puts the Beavers firmly in control of the race for the College Hockey America regular-season championship.

College Hockey America Notebook

Eyes on the prize: Forward Matt Pope, who scored three goals against Robert Morris last weekend, and Bemidji State are poised to win their first CHA regular-season title since 2005.

National TV Schedule

Even though BSU had accumulated a five-point lead in the CHA standings before last weekend's set with RMU, the Colonials, with four games left against the Beavers and four league games in hand, were in a great position to make a run at first place in the league standings. But in the last two weekends, the Colonials earned just three of a possible eight points, dropping them to third place behind Bemidji State and Niagara.

"We're allowing only 24 shots a game, so our defense and our team have been successful at blocking shots and denying the passing lanes and goaltending has been good," Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said.

Indeed, goaltender Matt Climie registered his fifth shutout of the season last weekend — he leads the nation in that category — and has a 9-1-3 mark in league play. The Beavers are tied for third in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 2.0 goals per game.

Climie's lone league loss was a 5-2 defeat at Wayne State in November. It's also the last time the Beavers lost a conference game. BSU has six CHA games remaining, four of them at home against Wayne State. The Warriors haven't won in Bemidji since Feb. 23, 2002.

"Wayne State took it to us in November and is a good team, so we are not looking ahead," Serratore said. "We need to realize the task at hand and not look ahead. It's all about Friday night right now because there is a very fine line between all hockey teams and we know first hand how good they are."

With apologies to the Warriors, it appears that the Beavers are a virtual lock to win their third CHA regular-season title and first since 2004-05, with Niagara and Robert Morris fighting over the last line change for their likely first-round playoff game.

That said, the news is not all good from Bemidji. Senior captain Jake Bluhm is likely out for the weekend as is Swedish freshman Eric Billberg, who was scheduled for an MRI to examine a potential season-ending knee injury.


Warrior Mentality: Wayne State swept a pair from Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, including the first career shutout by sophomore Brett Bothwell, who was in net for both games.

Freshman Chris Kushneriuk picked a great time to pick up the first goal and point of his collegiate career — overtime in the second game of the series, securing the sweep for the Warriors after the Chargers came back from a 3-0 deficit with three third-period goals to force the extra session. Jared Katz awoke from a bit of an offensive slumber with a three-point weekend, doubling his assist total for the season in the process. Tylor Michel also had a three points and Derek Punches scored twice to lead the offense.

"We didn't play as well as we wanted too at times and we maybe got a little complacent, but we battled back," said Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkinson. "Brett has practiced hard and played well. It was tough, but playing at home helped us."

As for the upcoming weekend at Bemidji, the first of two February trips to Minnesota's north country, Wilkinson said, "We're banged up and our captain Mike Forgie will miss the weekend. We' ll try to withstand the early onslaught and not let them get too far ahead. [Bemidji] is like the Marines; they just keep coming."

Niagara Says Thanks, Q: Not to be overlooked was Niagara's sweep on the road over previously ranked Quinnipiac. Goaltender Juliano Pagliero seems to have found his game again, making 64 saves and allowing four goals in the two wins. He is now back among the top ten in the nation in save percentage.

Les Reaney and Chris Moran both had three-point weekends, but the Purple Eagles got scoring from all four lines in both games. Niagara will begin a three-game homestand starting with St. Lawrence at Dwyer Arena Saturday. The game was originally scheduled for Friday, but later moved.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Alabama-Huntsville at Robert Morris (Fri.-Sat.)
Robert Morris seeks offense as they host Alabama-Huntsville. The Colonials need a sweep to retake second place outright in the conference.

While You're There: First, check the local news Saturday for that groundhog event and see if there will be six more weeks of winter. Then, go ice-swimming with the Pitts-burrrrrgh Drowned Hogs at the Riverfront Park boat ramp at noon. The event, which benefits Circle C Youth and Family Services, will make the rink seem warmer.

Stick Salute

Wayne State sophomore goalie Brett Bothwell notched his first career shutout by making 15 saves in a 2-0 win against Alabama-Huntsville Friday.

Bench Minor

The Robert Morris power play has scored just four goals in 31 opportunities since New Year's Day. That includes last weekend's 0-for-8 showing at Bemidji State.


• In his 2-0 shutout over Alabama-Huntsville, Wayne State's Brett Bothwell became just the second (and possibly last) Warrior goaltender to earn an assist. The other was David Guerrera, who did it twice in 2002.

• The 2-0 shutout UAH suffered Friday was their fifth blanking of the season, tying the team record set in 2005-06.

• The line listed as Niagara's fourth unit (Ryan Olidis, Les Reaney and Brian Haczyk) on the line chart combined for six points in the team's Friday victory at Quinnipiac.

• Robert Morris goaltender Wes Russell, who transferred to the school from Quinnipiac, came on in relief of starter Jim Patterson in the third period of the Colonials' loss to Princeton Tuesday for his sixth appearance of the season . Russell did not allow a goal on nine shots.

• Bemidji State will play just three different teams — Robert Morris, Wayne State, and North Dakota — over their last 10 games of the regular season.

• With their sweep last weekend, Niagara improved to 9-1-0 all-time against Quinnipiac.

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