February 28, 2008
Chargers Stay in the Hunt

By Warren Kozireski

Alabama-Huntsville is on pace to finish with the fewest wins in a season since entering the Division I ranks, but the Chargers may have taken away any hope Niagara had of earning its third consecutive CHA regular-season title with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory in game two of last weekend's series.

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Alabama-Huntsville defenseman Brennan Barker scored two goals, including the game winner, in the Chargers' 4-3 win over visiting Niagara Saturday.

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The Chargers have taken three points from Niagara in their four games this season — tying for the most points they have earned against any one CHA team all season. Robert Morris is the other three-point victim.

Last Saturday's win came one game after the Purple Eagles blanked Alabama-Huntsville behind the 30-save effort of Juliano Pagliero, who earned his fourth shutout of the season. Vince Rocco, Paul Zanette and Chris Moran tallied in each period for the Purps.

On Saturday, Chargers sophomore defenseman Brennan Barker got the home team on the board after his team trailed 2-0 and sophomore forward Tom Train, just four games back from injury, tied it in the second. Niagara regained the lead in the third period lead, but UAH's Joey Koudys and Barker tallied a little more than three minutes apart to give the Chargers the lead for good.

“It was a good win,” said Chargers head coach Danton Cole. “Niagara is not an easy team to come back on and our guys did a nice job fighting back from being down 2-0 and then 3-2.

If you throw enough pucks on net, you’re bound to get lucky. [The game-winning goal] seemed like it was a knuckleball and it may have been screened a bit.”

Cole started Blake MacNicol in goal both nights — he made 33 saves in the win.

“We’ve been splitting our weekends a lot (in goal), but we felt Blake was outstanding Friday and gave us the best chance to win, so we decided to give him another kick at the can Saturday,” said Cole.

“We played well, but didn’t get it done five-on-five," said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. Hopefully this will be a lesson learned for the playoffs.”


Down the Stretch They Come: To say things are pretty even in the conference might be an understatement.

In the seven series played this season between the top three teams (Bemidji State, Robert Morris, and Niagara), none resulted in a sweep. Niagara hosts Robert Morris this weekend for the last regular season meeting featuring the top three.

“Everyone is so evenly scouted and we have played so many games against each other, I think this time of year it just comes down to spirit and energy,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. “We’re not going to change anything or save anything for the playoffs and I don’t think [Robert Morris] will either. We’re still thinking first place, as I’m sure they are, so we’ll go with what has gotten us to this point.”

What is set for the CHA postseason is that Wayne State will play Alabama-Huntsville in the first round play-in on Friday, March 14 at Dwyer Arena in Niagara. Bemidji State can clinch their third regular-season crown with a sweep at home against the Warriors this weekend.

Trying to predict the other outcomes is akin to juggling chainsaws.

Should the Beavers slip against Wayne State, the door re-opens for either Robert Morris or Niagara to slide into first place by sweeping its last four games. The Warriors have earned four points in the four games against BSU, including their first win in 11 games in Minnesota four weeks ago.

A three-point weekend for BSU ensures no worse than a tie for first and the top seed for the conference tournament as the Beavers hold the tiebreaker over the Colonials and the Purps. Bemidji also need at least three points to ensure a .500 season overall.

Should the Purple Eagles and Colonials again split their upcoming series, they would head into the final weekend with the same number of conference victories (10), necessitating the next tiebreaker which is total goals against. Niagara comes into this weekend with a 15-13 goal lead in head-to-head play.

Wayne State holds a one-point lead over Alabama-Huntsville and a 3-1 head-to-head edge for the last line change in their first-round playoff match.

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Robert Morris at Niagara
This relatively new rivalry heats up again as Robert Morris travels to Niagara for the second time in 2008. The two enter the series tied for second place and will likely meet for a fifth time in Niagara and the seventh time this season in next month's CHA playoff semifinals.

While You're There: Only seven weeks until the official start of spring (boo!), so catch the first day of the Buffalo Home & Garden show at the Buffalo Convention Center with 500 exhibitors on hand.

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Alabama-Huntsville sophomore defenseman Brennan Barker registered two goals against Niagara Saturday, the first two-goal game of his career and the first by a Chargers defenseman this season.

Bench Minor

Bemidji State defenseman Graham McManamin took an elbowing penalty with his team trailing 1-0 to third-ranked North Dakota on the road and the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker. The infraction occurred just four seconds after the Beavers called timeout to set up a play for the final minute.

Weekend Wrap: Bemidji State dropped 5-1 and 1-0 decisions at North Dakota, with defenseman Riley Weselowski netting the only goal of the weekend for the Beavers. Orlando Alamano stopped 31 shots in goal in the 1-0 loss, allowing just one early third-period tally.

Meanwhile, David Boguslawski, scored twio second-period goals, but Robert Morris lost an exhibition contest to the U.S. Under-18 Team, 5-2.


• Funding for a proposed arena in Bemidji was approved by a Minnesota Senate committee this week, but the $22 million earmarked for the Bemidji Regional Events Center may end up on the chopping block.

The state is projecting a $1 billion budget shortfall, however, putting many public works projects on shaky ground. Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the Grand Forks Herald that arena projects in Bemidji and Crookston "can wait."

• Tom Train now has picked up three points in four games for Alabama-Huntsville since returning from a high ankle sprain.

“He brings energy and drives the net well, plus we’re glad to have him back in the room,” said Cole.

• Niagara welcomes defenseman Jim Burchin back this weekend after missing time with a broken ankle. Forward Nate Bostic, who did not play last weekend, will also return.

• Robert Morris forward Ryan Cruthers enters the weekend tied for second in the nation in scoring with 44 points and tied for sixth in assists with 25. Teammate Chris Margott is tied for 12th nationally with 38 points, and ranks 10th in assists with 24.

• Bemidji State goaltender Matt Climie and Niagara’s Juliano Pagliero are in quite a race for the first-team all-CHA honors. Climie is eighth in the nation in goals against average (2.04), 19th in save percentage (.919), and second in shutouts (five). Pagliero stands 22nd in GAA (2.29), tied for sixth in save percentage (.927), and tied for third with four shutouts.

• The 1-0 defeat suffered by Bemidji State at North Dakota was the 11th one-goal game the Beavers have played this season. They are 2-9 in those games.

• Niagara now has the sixth best power play in the nation, converting at 22.2 percent success rate.

• Robert Morris forward Chris Margott needs one assist for the 48th helper of his career, which would tie him with Doug Conley for school's career record in that category.

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