does in fact breed contempt, expect the 2002-03 CHA campaign
to be a six-month scrap.
2 A.B. – After Bob, as in Peters, who ranks second
on the NCAA’s all-time wins list – at Bemidji
State. The Beavers were 12-18-5 in the first year
of the Tom Serratore Era, but return their top eight scorers
from last year. Among that quartet are senior forward Marty
Goulet, a preseason all-CHA selection who shared the conference
scoring title last season with 16 goals and 23 assists for
39 points, and frontliner Riley Riddell, the league’s
top-scoring freshman in 2001-02 with 14-18—32. Riddell
was one of three BSU rookies to tally more than 20 points
last season. Columbus draft pick Andrew Murray had 15-15—30,
while Wade Chiodo, a transfer from Alaska Anchorage, notched
7-15—22. The key to the Beavers’ hopes falls
on a defensive corps led by Bryce Methven and the progression
of junior goaltender Grady Hunt, who needs to improve on
his 3.87 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.
The sudden departure of rearguard Clay Simmons, who left
the team due to personal reasons Oct. 3, is a big loss.
FOR A FALL
Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder. He
takes over for Blaise MacDonald, who piloted the Purple
Eagles to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2000 and stood behind
the bench for arguably one of the biggest upsets in college
hockey history when his team downed New Hampshire in the
first round. He inherits a team consisting of 20 freshmen
and sophomores – the youngest in the country last
season – and guides them to a .500 overall record
and a fourth-place CHA finish. The problem? Niagara is still
young, with seven sophomores and nine freshmen. The schedule
is a killer – the Purple Eagles’ non-conference
slate includes Michigan, North Dakota and Michigan State
and the team closes the regular season by hosting Wayne
State, travelling to Bemidji State and returning home for
a two-game set against Alabama-Huntsville. This team looks
to be a year away.
Alabama-Huntsville program hasn’t skipped a beat since
moving to Division I from the now-defunct Division II ranks
prior to the 1998-99 season (the Chargers also played at
the D-I level from 1986 to 1992, but that’s a story
for another time). The legacy of success is due mainly to
one man – head coach Doug Ross. Entering
his 21st year in Huntsville and 24th as a head coach, Ross
comes into the season with a 431-231-29 (.645) overall record.
He currently ranks in the top 10 among active Division I
coaches in winning percentage – ahead of luminaries
such as Jerry York and Rick Comley – and trails only
Jack Parker, York, Comley and Red Berenson among active
coaches in victories. With 23 letterwinners returning, including
four of the CHA’s top eight scorers from a year ago,
Ross has a good chance of improving that career record and
leading his team to an automatic invitation to the NCAA
ON THE HOT SEAT
can Wayne State’s Bill Wilkinson
be on the hot seat? Aren’t the Warriors the defending
CHA regular season champions and winners of three straight
league postseason titles? Doesn’t Wilkinson welcome
back 21 letterwinners from last season’s team, including
the 2002 CHA Player of the Year, goalie David Guerrera?
Absolutely. But while Wayne State is the favorite to repeat
as league titleist, there hasn’t been an NCAA bid
at stake in any of the prior seasons. The pressure is on,
but it says here the Warriors are up to the task.
ACT TO FOLLOW
to the aforementioned MacDonald, the CHA qualifier
for the 2003 NCAA Tournament enters the postseason
knowing the last league team to make the trip shocked the
world. Or at least the entire state of New Hampshire. It’s
not like the conference isn’t up to the task, however.
Wayne State marched into the Kohl Center last October and
shaded Wisconsin. Bemidji State won at Ferris State, a place
where even the best CCHA teams struggle. Alabama-Huntsville
beat both Bowling Green and Western Michigan two years ago.
And Niagara counts Boston U., Rensselaer, Cornell, Colorado
College and Nebraska-Omaha among its all-time victims. Hey,
it’s not like winning the final game of the Summit
Series, but don’t say you weren’t at least warned
of the potential.
State goaltender David Guerrara, according
to the league’s preseason press release, has a chance
to become the second goaltender in college hockey history
to repeat as a conference player of the year, joining Michigan
State’s Ryan Miller and Minnesota’s Murray McLachlan
on that list. That's pretty good company. Guerrera set CHA
records for save percentage (.904), goals-against average
(3.00) and winning percentage (.618) to go along with a
19-11-4 record last season. Among his better performances
were a 50-save effort in the win at Wisconsin, 40 stops
in a victory at Alabama-Huntsville and 32 saves in a win
at Lake Superior State in which the Lakers enjoyed 10 power
plays. Bemidji State’s Goulet is not far behind, however.
Ohio, is a city of 37,000 people located about halfway between
Bowling Green and Lima on I-75. That didn’t help,
did it? Nevertheless, the Oilers’ hopes for staying
out of the CHA basement fall on the shoulders of sophomore
Rigel Shaw. The Vancouver native led all
Division I freshmen with 18 goals last season and set a
conference record with 15 goals in league play. As a point
of comparison, no other Findlay skater managed more than
nine goals last season. Shaw was selected to the CHA’s
preseason all-conference team, and he’ll have his
work cut out for him this year. He’s the only returnee
on the Oilers’ roster who managed more than 20 points
every CHA team returning a number of letterwinners, the
opportunities for freshmen to break into the lineup are
few and far between. Two recruits stand out, however, and
both are from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Alabama-Huntsville
goaltender Scott Munroe, late of the Athol
Murray College of Notre Dame Hounds, earned all-SJHL first-team
honors and the Harold Jones Trophy as the league’s
top netminder after setting the circuit record for lowest
goals-against average. He’ll likely back up Charger
senior Mark Byrne, however. Bemidji State’s Jean-Guy
Gervais, who played for Nipawin, was also an all-SJHL
first team pick last season after scoring 35 goals and 44
assists for 79 points for the Hawks last season. His career
totals with Nipawin – 180 points in 215 games. Oh,
and don’t forget 482 penalty minutes.
IT DOWN – Six things you can take to the bank in the
CHA this season:
will be hard pressed to start the season with a record other
than 0-6. The Chargers’ first three series –
at Wisconsin, at Denver, at Minnesota.
Huntsville may have difficulty avoiding a winless start
to the year, there will be a handful of upsets scored by
CHA teams this season. One to watch – look for Wayne
State to knock off Notre Dame at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit
State’s Marty Goulet and Riley Riddell will make life
miserable for the conference’s goaltenders this season.
Expect the Beavers to be among the nation’s top 15
teams in goals per game.
Neb., will be a great host city for the conference tournament.
The city’s two-year-old, 4,500-seat arena is regularly
packed for games of the United States Hockey League’s
Tri-City Storm. Plus, Nebraskans will do whatever they can
to take their minds off this season’s marginal Cornhusker
will make its presence felt at this year’s Frozen
Four. The Purple Eagles, along with Canisius of the Metro
Atlantic Athletic Conference, are the hosts for the 2003
national semifinals and finals, scheduled for April 10 and
12 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
take the supposed sure thing and tab Wayne State as the
2003 CHA Tournament champion. But don’t be surprised
if the Warriors don’t end up atop the league standings
at the end of the regular season, because Alabama-Huntsville
and Bemidji State will be part of a tight three-way race.
YOU AT TOURNEY TIME