March 6, 2008
Top Three Locked In

By Warren Kozireski

Bemidji State clinched its third regular season College Hockey America title with a come-from-behind sweep over visiting Wayne State last weekend. That, combined with the Niagara sweep over Robert Morris, locks in the top three spots in the league standings. The Purple Eagles finish second, with the Colonials in third.

“It was a nice win,” Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore told the Bemidji Pioneer. “Any time you win a championship it is gratifying. This may be sweetest of the three we’ve won. We were pretty consistent over the course of the league season.

College Hockey America Notebook

Matt Pope was one of three Bemidji State players to score during the last eight minutes of regulation as the Beavers rallied to beat Wayne State last Friday.

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"Playing under the cloud of talk about the program’s future and the future of the CHA ... was tough. It wasn’t an easy situation [but] it just makes this title that much sweeter.”

Matt Francis, Riley Weselowski, and Matt Pope scored three unanswered goals in the final eight minutes of regulation to help the Beavers overcome a 5-4 deficit en route to a 7-5 win Friday. The following night, freshman Ryan Cramer scored two goals in the second period to stake BSU to a two-goal lead it would not relinquish, eventually winning by a 5-3 count.

It's the third regular-season title in Bemidji State’s Division I history — the Beavers won back-to-back crowns in 2004 and 2005. BSU also advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and 2006 after defeating Alabama-Huntsville and Niagara, respectively, in the CHA playoff title game.

The Beavers are idle this weekend.


A Matter of Seconds: Niagara secured second place in the conference with a convincing 6-3, 7-1 weekend sweep at home Robert Morris. It marked the first sweep in seven series among the top three teams in the league this season.

Saturday's game was played in front of 2,100 fans, the largest crowd in Niagara men’s hockey history.

“It's been a good run — we’ve lost one of our last eleven,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. “You need to play well in February if you have any hope of playing well in March, which we learned last year the hard way. It’s a team on a mission for sure.”

It could have gotten ugly early in game two for the Purple Eagles after senior Taylor Simpson was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hitting-from-behind penalty just 14 seconds into the game. But Niagara killed off the power play, thanks in part to a Colonials' minor during the major. Vince Rocco scored a 4-on-4 goal at 1:38 and the Purps never looked back, with seven even-strength goals.

“Taylor Simpson is a quality guy and that was out of character for him,” said Burkholder. “But we gave him the start as a senior [on Senior Night] and he’s full of energy, but he’s not that kind of player. It was unfortunate and we’re trying to get that out of the game.”

The hit took RMU senior center and top penalty-killer Tom Biondich out of the game with a head injury.

“Obviously he has a concussion and it was a vicious hit — it was bad,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “That’s what the five-minute majors are for, but we lost a top penalty killer and a good energy guy and it set us back a little bit.”

Egor Mironov and Ryan Annesley scored later in the first before Rocco and Dan Sullivan sandwiched second-period goals around an RMU power-play tally Kyle Burton. Brian Haczyk and Ted Cook added third-period goals for Niagara.

“It was a special night and a special weekend,” said Niagara senior captain Matt Caruana. “But it’s not near over. We have the tournament here and then hopefully the NCAAs. It was nice, but not the end.”

“Everything that could happen to us, happened this weekend,” said Schooley. “We got out-goaltended, we got out-defensed, we got outscored, we got outhit, and we got outworked. They were a much more gritty, physical team and it showed. They won five of six periods this weekend and hats off to them. I’m very disappointed in our hockey team right now. This weekend was unacceptable.”

The Colonials host Alabama-Huntsville this weekend and though RMU is locked into third place in the CHA standings, the team is vying to finish with a winning record for the first time in the program’s four-year history. RMU has a 2-1-1 advantage against UAH so far this season. The four previous meetings have been high-scoring games, with the two teams combining for 35 goals.

Niagara travels to Wayne State this weekend for the final two home games in Warrior history. The Purps are 4-0 against the Warriors this season, but three of the four were one-goal affairs.

The only thing left unanswered in terms of playoff seeding is who will be the home team for next week's Wayne State-Alabama Huntsville play-in game. The Warriors have a one-point lead on the Chargers and own the tiebreaker with two games remaining.

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Niagara at Wayne State
Even the Purple Eagles should wear black armbands to commemorate the final two home games in Wayne State hockey history.

While You're There: All of Saturday's college games are at night, so find a local establishment with the NHL Center Ice package and catch the Bruins and Capitals at 1p.m. Think the Caps can hang another 10-spot on the B's?

Stick Salute

Bemidji State goaltender Orlando Alamano took the place of starter Matt Climie last Friday against Wayne State and picked up the third win of his career after entering a game in relief to set the school's Division I-era record.

Bench Minor

To the officials who pulled the plug on the Wayne State program, making this weekend the last at the Fairgrounds and possibly jeopardizing the future of College Hockey America with their decision.

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.


• Monday’s Bemidji Pioneer reported that Bemidji's regional events center was included in the Minnesota House of Representatives' bonding bill released that morning. The measure seeks $20 million for the project. The proposed Bemidji events center was also included in the Senate Capital Investment Committee’s $965 million state building projects bonding bill, fully funded at $22 million.

The $50 million events center, proposed to be located on the south shore of Lake Bemidji, would serve as an events and convention center and would feature Bemidji State hockey as its anchor tenant.

• In the second game of the Niagara-Robert Morris series, Purple Eagles junior forward Vince Rocco made a sweeping motion of the ice with his glove after scoring 98 seconds into the game. It was in direct response to Colonial freshman defenseman Denny Urban, who did the same one night earlier, which spurred the Purps to five unanswered goals in the romp. As fate would have it, Niagara’s fifth goal of the second game deflected in off of Urban’s stick.

“Their guy did it last night and the adrenaline was flowing and it was the first thing that came to my head,” said Rocco. “I kind of regret it now, but it wasn’t planned at all.”

• Wayne State senior captain Mike Forgie was tabbed as one of six male skaters to participate in the Frozen Four Skills Competition, which will take place on Friday, April 11 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Bemidji State goaltender Matt Climie is listed as an alternate.

• Robert Morris has allowed 20 goals over its last three games. Late last season, the Colonials suffered the same kind of defensive slump down the stretch when they gave up 42 goals over their last eight games.

• Niagara forward Ryan Olidis left Saturday’s game against RMU in the second period with a hip injury. His status for the weekend and beyond is not known.

• Speaking of Niagara, the Purps are one of just seven Division I teams with fewer than 10 losses. The others are Michigan, Miami, Michigan State, New Hampshire, and Colorado College.

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