Bemidji State went 6-2-2 in the conference
during the first half of the season to secure first place,
and never looked back on the way to a third College Hockey
America regular-season conference title.
Senior netminder Matt Climie tied for second-most
shutouts in the nation with five and led CHA with a 2.17
goals against average. Freshman forward Matt Read paced
the Beavers in scoring with 25 points — the first
freshman to ever lead the team in points.
Hockey America REGULAR-SEASON
Morris senior forward Ryan Cruthers enters the CHA
tournament ranked third nationally in scoring with
22 goals and 26 assists for 48 points in 33 games.
Niagara was held out of first place for the
first time in three seasons, but enter this weekend's conference
tournament as one of just eight teams in the nation with
10 or fewer losses. Forwards Vince Rocco, Matt Caruana,
and Ted Cook led the offense, while goaltender Juliano Pagliero
finished the regular season ranked seventh in the country
with a .929 save percentage.
By earning three points against Alabama-Huntsville
on the final weekend of the regular season, Robert Morris
finished with a plus-.500 record for the first time in the
program’s short history. Ryan Cruthers and Chris Margott
finished tied for third and ninth in the nation, respectively,
in scoring to lead the Colonials' offense.
In its farewell tour, Wayne State was led
by an offensive resurgence from senior Stavros Paskaris,
who scored 38 points. The Warriors picked up six of their
10 wins in conference play to finish two points ahead of
Alabama-Huntsville in the league standings. The Chargers,
meanwhile, didn't win consecutive games all season. Of course,
the defending playoff champions finished fifth one year
ago, then won three straight — two of them in overtime
— to win their first league postseason title. Despite
the familiar position, UAH has a much younger squad this
Since the top three teams are so evenly matched
— in head-to-head action against one another during
the regular season, Bemidji State, Niagara, and Robert Morris
split all but one series — it’s a virtual toss-up
as to who will emerge with the playoff title. Single-elimination
allowed a last-place team with a hot goaltender and timely
scoring to emerge last year, so who knows?
It has to be Bemidji State, which tied for
the top scoring offense in league play and boasts by far
the CHA's best defense, allowing less than two goals per
game against conference competition. Only five teams in
the nation gave up fewer goals than the 78 goals BSU allowed
in 34 games.
The Beavers also proved the long trip to Niagara
isn’t necessarily detrimental by taking three points
from the Purps at Dwyer Arena right after Thanksgiving.
Forwards Read and Tyler Scofield will be the players to
watch for BSU — they combined to register 39 of their
48 points against CHA opponents.
4 Wayne State vs. No. 5 Alabama-Huntsville
WSU: 10-24-2 (6-14-0 CHA)
UAH: 6-20-4 (3-13-4 CHA)
Season series: Wayne State won, 3-1 Warrior fact: All but one of Stavros
Paskaris’ 13 goals this season came at even
strength. Charger fact: Sophomore defenseman
Brandon Roshko became the first UAH blueliner to lead
the team in scoring, and he did it without netting
a goal (17 assists). How WSU wins: Draw penalties. The
Warriors clicked on a touch more than 20 percent of
their power-play chances in league play. How UAH wins: Keep the score down
by playing a shell game, and wait for opportunities.
2 Niagara vs. No. 3
NU: 20-10-4 (12-6-2 CHA) RMU: 15-14-4 (10-7-3 CHA) Season series: Niagara won, 4-2 Purple Eagle fact: The last
time these two teams met, Niagara scored seven goals
— all at even strength. The Purps averaged more
than 4.5 goals per game against RMU this season. Colonial fact: Cruthers and Margott
accounted for exactly one-third of the goals scored
by the Colonials this season. How NU wins: The Purps need to match
the Colonials' physical style like they did in the
sweep of RMU on next-to-last weekend of the regular
season, and have their power play convert at least
once. How RMU wins: The Colonials keep
it simple with cycling and puck possession in the
offensive zone to create better chances and allow
the skilled offensive players to take over.
1 Bemidji State vs. Wayne State/Alabama-Huntsville
WSU: 10-24-2 (6-14-0 CHA)
UAH: 6-20-4 (3-13-4 CHA)
BSU: 16-15-3 (13-4-3 CHA)
Season series: BSU won 4-2-0 vs. WSU; BSU
won 3-0-1 vs. UAH Beaver fact: Half of defenseman
Cody Bostock’s six goals this season are game-winners. How BSU wins: Grind and grind some
more. Both teams are extremely young, which means
there will be plenty of mistakes on which to capitalize. How WSU wins: The line of Paskaris,
Tylor Michel, and Derek Bachynski needs to score at
least twice ... and maybe more. How UAH wins: Get shots through from
the point — the Beavers are very adept at blocking
shots which helps create their transition game.
THE GATE CRASHER
Home ice, senior privilege, or the farewell
Niagara finished second to Bemidji State in
the regular season, but closed the year by going 9-2-3 over
its last 14 games. And let's not forget the Purps' home
ice advantage, they were 11-2-3 at Dwyer Arena this season.
Niagara is more than hungry after coming up empty the last
two seasons following regular season crowns.
Robert Morris has a roster that boasts nine
seniors who play regularly. If you believe experience wins
playoffs games as was the case with Alabama-Huntsville's
run to the title one year ago, the Colonials will win their
first title this season.
The sentimental pick is Wayne State. The Warriors
won just 10 regular-season games, but defeated every team
in the conference except Robert Morris at least once. A
second trip to the NCAA tournament would be a fitting close.
INCH'S ALL-CHA TEAM
F - Ryan Cruthers, Robert Morris The county's third-leading scorer heading into
the weekend, Cruthers piled up 85 points in 67 games over
two seasons after transferring to RMU from Army. He's a
likely Hobey Baker Award finalist.
F - Chris Margott, Robert Morris The junior finished tied for ninth in the nation
in scoring and 11th in assists with almost half of his season
total 15 goals coming with the man-advantage. He finished
top-six in the league in power play points, goals, power
play goals, scoring and assists.
F-Vince Rocco, Niagara The Woodbridge, Ontario native had scored 43 points
in his first two seasons with the Purple Eagles. He led
Niagara this season with 41 points in 34 games.
D - Jeff Caister, Wayne State The St. Lawrence-bound sophomore racked up the
highest single-season point total by a defenseman in the
program’s history — a 29-point effort —
and anchored the Warrior power play with his booming shot.
D - Tyler Gotto, Niagara Quietly steady at both ends of the ice, the sophomore
saved 17 of his 22 points for conference games. Despite
missing three games, he racked up 21 assists, many of them
from feeding Rocco, Caruana, and Cook during the man advantage.
G - Matt Climie, Bemidji State Climie gets the nod over Niagara's Juliano Pagliero
because of one more shutout (five) and a better goals against
average (2.17.) The senior started all but 10 games during
the regular season and finished with 13 wins.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Tom Serratore, Bemidji State.
Picked to finish third in the preseason coaches poll, he
piloted the Beavers to their third league regular-season
crown and first since 2005. Especially impressive was the
team’s 6-2-2 CHA road record — BSU allowing
just 19 goals in its 10 league games. By the way, the last
time the Beavers finished first in the CHA regular-season
standings, they advanced to the NCAA tournament.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ryan Cruthers, Robert Morris.
Tied for third in the nation in scoring, 10th in goals,
and 11th in assists, the West Point transfer enters the
league tourney with 22 goals and 48 points. He set several
school scoring records and led the Colonials to their first
plus-.500 season in the program's short history.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Matt Read, Bemidji State.
The Iderton, Ontario native finished fifth in scoring in
conference games, averaging more than a point per game.
He was a part of the Beavers' power play and penalty kill
virtually from day one. He comes into the CHA tournament
tied for 23rd in the nation in points per game by a freshman.
Vince Rocco, Niagara. With
Matt Caruana, Ted Cook, Les Reaney, and Chris Moran back
to lead the offense and power play, Rocco was an afterthought
prior to the season’s start. All he did was lead the
Purple Eagles in scoring with 41 points and set career highs
with 14 goals and 27 assists.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Warren Kozireski can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.