True to Form
does anything in hockey go by the book, but this College
Hockey America season was pretty close.
State, Niagara and Alabama-Huntsville finished 1-2-3 in
the standings, just as the league's coaches predicted they
would before the season. Only Wayne State, which was picked
fourth and finished last, failed to live up to or exceed
the coaches' expectations.
CHA is the only Division I league that will wrap up its
tournament this weekend, meaning the winner can pencil itself
into the 16-team NCAA field and then sit back and watch
the other 15 seeds fall into place. Conventional wisdom
has Bemidji and Niagara meeting in Sunday's final in Kearney,
Neb., as both teams have byes into the semifinals.
remember, Wayne State won it all last year as the No. 3
seed. Perhaps there's an advantage to getting a game under
one's belt in the first round as opposed to sitting in the
stands all day Friday.
see soon enough whether the CHA playoffs follow the plan
like the regular season did. You can always expect the unexpected
in postseason hockey, right? Maybe not.
State won the regular-season crown by a healthy five points,
and lost just three league games all season. The Beavers
also led the CHA in scoring offense (4.50 goals a game)
and scoring defense (2.40 goals allowed) in conference contests
– which is a pretty hot combo.
be told, they're solid in all facets of the game. Coach
Tom Serratore's nine seniors will keep the team focused
on the ice and in the locker room in Kearney, and goaltenders
Grady Hunt and Layne Sedevie have both proved to be reliable.
The Beavers are difficult to beat because they're able to
win both defensive struggles and shootouts with equal ease.
And their bye into the semifinals doesn't hurt, either.
Alabama-Huntsville vs. No. 6 Wayne State
UAH: 11-15-4, 10-9-1
WSU: 8-23-3, 4-15-1
Season series: Tied, 2-2-0
Star center Jared Ross didn't record a shot in either
game against Findlay last weekend – the first
time all season that has happened.
Warrior Fact: The Warriors are 7-0
all-time in CHA Tournament games, including a 2-0
mark versus UAH.
UAH wins: On defense, keep Wayne State's
big forwards from crashing the net. Offensively, avoid
pressing if the puck doesn't go in right away.
How Wayne State wins: Keep the Chargers'
dangerous top line (Ross-Bushey-Mulherin) in check
defensively, and find a way to score some goals, which
has been a problem all season.
plays: No. 2 Niagara
4 Findlay vs. No. 5 Air Force
UF: 10-21-5, 7-11-2
AFA: 14-20-2, 6-13-1
Season series: Air Force leads, 2-1-1
Fact: The Oilers' recent five-game unbeaten
streak (4-0-1), which ended Saturday, was the school's
Falcon Fact: The Falcons, fresh off
a sweep at Wayne State, have entered the CHA Tournament
on a winning note four of the five years of its existence.
Findlay wins: Harness the nervous energy
of knowing it could be the last game in the program's
history, and channel it in a positive manner.
How Air Force wins: Get solid goaltending
(presumably from Mike Polidor) and work hard mentally
and physically to avoid defensive breakdowns.
plays: No. 1 Bemidji State
being told in January that the team will be discontinued
by the university after this year, fourth-seeded Findlay
is probably the hottest team in the field. The Oilers are
5-2-1 in their last seven games, including a sweep at No.
2 Niagara and a splits with No. 3 Alabama-Huntsville and
their first-round opponent, Air Force. The Findlay players
seemingly have banded together in an attempt to go out on
a high note before they scatter to various colleges next
year. That makes for a very scary opponent in a one-and-done
Always beware the wounded dog – especially when it
has arguably the league's best goalie in Will Hooper on
– Will Hooper, Findlay
Hooper had similar numbers (2.40 GAA, .913 save percentage
in league contests) to Niagara's Jeff VanNynatten (2.36,
.912) this year, and they were the league's only true No.
1 tenders throughout the season. But, while VanNynatten
won more games, Hooper achieved success with a lesser supporting
cast and led Findlay's second-half resurgence.
– Jeremy Schreiber, UAH
The Medicine Hat, Alb., native paced the league's blueliners
with 21 points (10-11), and was a consistent, steady force
in the Chargers' zone.
– Bryce Methven, BSU
The Beavers' captain put up respectable offensive statistics
(5-10—15). But, even more importantly to his team,
he was probably the toughest D-man in the conference to
– Jared Ross, UAH
Hometown hero Ross led the nation in points per game with
1.57 and dished out a league-leading 30 assists.
– Barret Ehgoetz, NU
The junior from Kincardine, Ont., tied for the national
scoring lead with 50 points (25-25) and led the CHA in goal-scoring.
– Brendan Cook, BSU
Overshadowed by Ross and Ehgoetz all year, Cook easily finished
third in the league in points (23-16—39). And his
team won the regular-season championship.
OF THE YEAR
above, Findlay has persevered through trying circumstances,
which can largely be traced back to bench boss Pat Ford.
In his first year as a Division I head coach, Ford kept
his players committed to each other and their goal of getting
to the NCAA Tournament, even though they – and probably
he, too – wondered what the future would hold. Most
preseason prognostications had Findlay pegged for fifth
place in the CHA. They didn't beat that prediction by much
– finishing fourth – but given their youth,
challenging nonconference schedule and off-ice distractions,
it's a marvel the
Oilers performed as well as they did. Credit Ford's crisis
OF THE YEAR
eyelash over Jared Ross, Niagara junior center Barret Ehgoetz
gets the nod here. He and North Dakota's Brandon Bochenski
were the only players in college hockey to reach 50 points
in the regular season, and he's one of only three players
to rank in the top 15 nationally in both goals and assists.
Ehgoetz is a responsible defender, too, and coach Dave Burkholder
raves about his work ethic in practice. The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder
also had a penchant for showing up in "big" games
this season, scoring goals against Colgate, Ferris State
and Union and a hat trick against New Hampshire.
OF THE YEAR
respect to Hooper, Bemidji State forward Luke Erickson earned
this by cracking the 30-point plateau, which only six other
CHA players did. Erickson out-paced the next highest-scoring
rookie (Wayne State's Jason Baclig) by eight points, and
was a key cog in the Beavers' league-leading offensive attack.
The 5-foot-8, 161-pounder from Roseau, Minn., also finished
second on the team with 110 shots and two game-winning goals,
and rated plus-6 for the year.
did Bemidji State junior forward Brendan Cook come from?
Well, technically he's a native of Reston, Manitoba, and
he played junior hockey for the Winkler Flyers (MJHL). But,
in the score books, Cook came from relative obscurity to
finish second in the CHA with 23 goals this year. Consider:
He had just two goals and eight points as a freshman, followed
by a modest 10-6—16 last season. But Cook turned it
up this year, and will be a consensus All-CHA honoree with
a tough-to-ignore 23-16—39 for the first-place Beavers.
With a similar 23-point jump next year...well, let's not
get ahead of ourselves.