March 13, 2008
Who's In From This Five?

By Warren Kozireski

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.

College Hockey America

Robert 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.

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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 time around.

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.

CHA Tournament Matchups

No. 4 Wayne State vs. No. 5 Alabama-Huntsville
10-24-2 (6-14-0 CHA)
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.

No. 2 Niagara vs. No. 3
Robert Morris
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.

No. 1 Bemidji State vs. Wayne State/Alabama-Huntsville winner
10-24-2 (6-14-0 CHA)
6-20-4 (3-13-4 CHA)
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.


Home ice, senior privilege, or the farewell tour?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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