February 20, 2003
The CHA Seven?
Conference considers expansion next week

By Mike Eidelbes

Wayne State (dark jerseys) could be one of seven teams in College Hockey America by the 2004-05 season.

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Coming soon to a College Hockey America arena near you...a new conference opponent?

It could happen. College Hockey America commissioner Bob Peters told Inside College Hockey this week that the league is in the process of examining a candidate for membership. Peters won't divulge the identity of the school in question, but confirms it is a Division I school that currently competes in another conference.

The CHA Structure Committee meets via teleconference next week to discuss not only expansion, but also criteria for adding future teams. Among the considerations for admitting new members:

• Quality of facilities
• Commitment to reaching the NCAA maximum limit of 18 scholarships
• Having a staff of three full-time coaches
• Ability to meet the CHA dues structure and admittance fee
• Travel concerns
• Image, which Peters says is the commitment, effort and sincerity toward running a quality Division I program

"I don't see a
ny logjams out there right now," Peters said.

The CHA Structure Committee is chaired by Alabama-Huntsville director of athletics Jim Harris. Other members include Peters, Wayne State A.D. Rob Fournier, Bemidji State A.D. Dr. Rick Goeb and Findlay head coach Craig Barnett. The group will pass a recommendation on to the rest of the league's members – a recommendation that could come as soon as next week. The CHA schools will then decide whether to admit the applicant to the league. Peters expects the process to be complete no later than the end of April.

While the team in question wouldn't join the CHA as a full-fledged member until the 2004-05 season due to scheduling requirements, Peters said conference schools would be encouraged to add them to their slates for the 2003-04 campaign.


Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves is at the center of a controversy regarding a physical altercation with one of his players earlier this season.

Back-checking Bucky
Wisconsin's record since 1998-99


Overall (WCHA - place)
15-19-4 (13-12-3 - 4th)
31-9-1 (23-5-0 - 1st)
22-15-4 (14-10-4 - 5th)
16-19-4 (12-13-3 - 5th)
10-19-3 (4-15-3 - 9th)

According to published reports out of Madison, Eaves had an argument with sophomore forward Alex Leavitt in a Grand Forks hotel Nov. 23 following the Badgers' 3-2 loss to North Dakota over an alleged curfew violation. Leavitt, a 19-year-old from Edmonton, told Adam Mertz of the Capital Times he had planned to eat dinner with his girlfriend and her parents following the game, but realized he would miss the team's 11 p.m. curfew if he stayed. He asked his girlfriend to bring his meal to his room and walked back to the team hotel.

Leavitt said that he was in his room when assistant coach John Hynes made the first bed check, and got the go-ahead from the coach for his girlfriend to drop off the food. She showed up at the hotel around 11:15 and was present when Eaves made a second bed check around 11:20. He politely asked the pair to wrap up their conversation; Leavitt's girlfriend left about five minutes later.

Eaves, Richter statements
Head coach Mike Eaves and director of athletics Pat Richter comment on the Leavitt incident
"After our game vs. North Dakota on Nov. 23, 2002, Alex Leavitt and I had a confrontation at the team hotel. Upon returning to Madison, I met with the Leavitt family, their representatives and athletic department administrators. I apologized for my actions at North Dakota. We met and left with a mutual understanding of what was expected of me, and I have fulfilled all of those requirements. I regret the incident at UND and feel we have put it in the past and established a plan for the future." – Mike Eaves
"Shortly after the confrontation, Athletic Department administrators, including myself, met with Coach Eaves, the Leavitt family and their representative. We had open and candid conversations and reached an understanding of the next steps to be taken. Mike has totally adhered to the requests that were approved by all parties. Understandably, this has been a difficult season for the men's hockey team, but I have complete confidence that Mike is the right coach for this program." – Pat Richter

The player said that he returned to his room and was watching TV when Eaves burst through the doorway looking for the girlfriend and said, "Where's that (expletive) broad you had in here?" When Leavitt told Eaves she had left, the coach replied, "I don't (expletive) trust you...for one second. You're always up to no good."

Leavitt says he was face-to-face with Eaves when the coach poked him under his eye; he asked Eaves not to touch him. Leavitt then alleges that Eaves got mad when he again told the coach not to touch him, and says Eaves grabbed him by the shirt, pushed him across the room into a chair and pinned him in the seat while he launched into a tirade. Before leaving the room, Eaves allegedly tossed Leavitt's duffel bag on the floor.

"I no longer feel like I can take the fall for someone while I'm being pushed out the door," said Leavitt to Mertz. "I wanted to set the record straight."

Leavitt has been a healthy scratch in each of Wisconsin's last three games, but prior to learning he was going public with the issues, Eaves offered him the chance to return to the lineup for Friday's game against St. Cloud State. The player had initially agreed to keep the incident confidential after a meeting with school officials the week after the incident, but said his reduced role moved him to speak out. He doesn't plan on quitting the team this season, but is looking at options for next year.

"I don't care if I play another game this season," said Leavitt, who has two goals and 13 assists this season after scoring 11 goals as a rookie. "Ice time was not a factor; it's that I was isolated from the team and get a negative feeling from being on the team."

Eaves told reporters Wednesday that he doesn't condone physical contact by coaches.

"Obviously, it's wrong," the coach said. "And I admitted that in that incident. There's a letter of reprimand in my file, and that's duly documented."

Wisconsin is in the midst of one of their worst seasons in school history. With a 10-19-3 overall record and a 4-15-3 mark in WCHA play, the Badgers are on a pace to set school records for fewest overall victories and fewest conference wins.


Had Michigan goaltender Al Montoya and Michigan State forward David Booth not accelerated high school studies to graduate a year early, they'd probably still be playing in Ann Arbor with the U.S. National Team Development Program. They'd also be sure-fire selections in this year's National Hockey League Entry Draft.

Things People Say

"I guess you could call it a shot in the dark. It probably went by four or five players, through a crowd." – Denver defenseman Aaron MacKenzie, whose goal with two seconds left in regulation gave the Pioneers a 2-1 win over North Dakota Saturday.

"We've got a group of athletes that are pretty laid-back...they're not Type-A personalities. And that's something that, for them to step out of their comfort zone, it takes a good, swift kick in the ass." – Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, following the Badgers' losses at Minnesota last weekend.

"One guy called to say good luck. Another guy, I try to talk to him once in a while to keep his head on straight. They're always popping up. Especially when they're at the bar and I can't be." – Buffalo Sabres' goaltender Ryan Miller, asked recently if his former Michigan State teammates stay in touch with him.

Both are in the CCHA, however, and are shining for their respective teams. Montoya has been a workhorse for the Wolverines this season, posting a 21-8-3 record, a 2.24 goals againse average and a 91.2% save percentage. Booth leads the Spartans with 15 goals and is second among conference freshmen in scoring. But thanks to an NHL rule, they'd have to forego their final three years of college eligibility in order to make themselves available for the draft.

"I graduated high school in three years, so I worked hard to play college hockey early so I could have an extra year of college before I was drafted," said Booth, voicing his obvious displeasure with the rule. "Montoya did the same thing. We worked at it, and I think we should be rewarded for doing that."

The rule affecting Montoya and Booth states that players who have reached their 19th birthday are automatically eligible for the NHL Draft. Any 18-year-old, defined by the NHL as a player born between Sept. 16, 1984 and Sept. 15, 1985, must opt in, thereby forfeiting their remaining NCAA eligibility.

Since Montoya and Booth have both put together solid freshman campaigns, the rumor mill is abuzz with talk that one or both may opt in to this year's draft and play in the Ontario Hockey League – his rights are held by the Windsor Spitfires – next season. Michigan associate coach Mel Pearson says Montoya will return for his sophomore season.

Montoya, who is the youngest player in the Division I ranks, would be wise to return to Ann Arbor in the long run. Most experts feel the crop of goalies eligible for the 2004 draft is weaker than this season's group, and he has a golden opportunity to impress the hundreds of scouts in attendance at April's IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He'll likely play in the event if the Wolverines fail to advance to the NCAA Frozen Four.

Booth, meanwhile, says that, on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 1 meaning he'd opt in and 10 meaning he'll come back to MSU – he's a 10.

"If I'm a good player and the NHL scouts know that, I'll have a great season next year," says Booth, who would be one of the few undrafted 19-year-olds in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and could slide into the first round with a strong sophomore year and a solid showing at the World Junior Championship. "It will help me out even more. I've just got to stay positive and play better next year. That's the road I want to take right now."

Booth, whose OHL rights are owned by the Sarnia Sting, once thought the best route to the NHL was through the major junior ranks. But he's since seen the light.

"College is the safe way, and tons of great players come out of college hockey," Booth explains. "I thought (the OHL) would be better hockey. I really had no clue, and I didn't care that much about school. My dad emphasized school and I realized that was the way to go.

"That's when it made sense to come to college. That's the route I chose, and thank god for that."


Packing for the playoffs: Imagine working the entire regular season to secure the home-ice advantage for the first round of the conference playoffs, only to be evicted from your building by girls' basketball players. Welcome to the Ohio State Buckeyes' world.

Three Great Weekend Getaways
120x60 - Brand Red

1. Minnesota-Twin Cities at Minnesota-Duluth: The improved play of the Bulldogs, coupled with the up-and-down nature of the Gophers' season (they're up right now), adds even more spice to this heated rivalry. It's always interesting to watch the free-wheeling UMTC offense try to adjust their game to work on the Boston Garden-esque ice sheet at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center, where open space in the neutral zone is harder to find than a favorable review for a Martin Lawrence movie. Question: Has the "Spehar sucks" chant become to UMD fans what the "Potvin sucks" chant is to New York Ranger fans?

While you're there: There are many pre- and post-game entertainment opportunities in the Canal Park area, just a short walk from the DECC. None is better than Grandma's, the restaurant hard by the Aerial Lift Bridge that spurred Duluth's waterfront boom in the '70s. Its menu boasts a nice variety try the chicken tetrazzini. Looking for a quick pick-me-up before heading into the rink? Stop by the Curling Club, which is in the same complex as the arena, for a burger, a beverage and the early line on who'll win this year's Silver Broom.


2) Michigan at Nebraska-Omaha: With the Mavericks on the outside looking in with regard to a home-ice berth for the first round of the CCHA playoffs, these could be the last conference games played at Omaha's venerable Civic Auditorium – UNO closes the season with a non-conference match against visiting Minnesota State, Mankato. That being said, who better that the Wolverines to close the Bullpen?

3) North Dakota at MSU, Mankato: Even the when the Fighting Sioux were at their national-championship best, the Mavericks always gave Dean Blais' teams fits. Both teams are jockeying for playoff position; points here could spell the difference between advancing to the WCHA Final Five semifinals with a first-round series win versus being subjected to the dreaded play-in game.

OSU can clinch home ice this weekend with a win against Alaska-Fairbanks or a Notre Dame loss. But the Ohio High School Athletic Association girls' basketball tournament is scheduled for Value City Arena March 13-15. We could see if VCA operators would sell their souls for LeBron James, but girls' hoops? Incidentally, the Bucks are 14-1-0 at home this season and a perfect 10-0-0 against CCHA foes in 2002-03. In their last 17 against conference opponents at home, OSU is 14-0-3.

Nationwide Arena, home to the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, is booked for hockey on March 13 and 15, with a visit from University of Minnesota alum Yanni on March 16. Might the hoary OSU Ice Rink – basically a glorified pole barn now home to the Buckeye women's team – get a last chance to bask in the CCHA glory?

Future watch
: The Hockey News' annual Future Watch issue is on newsstands now and, as usual, a host of players with college ties are listed among the publication's top 50 prospects. The magazine considers a prospect as a player who has played fewer than 50 NHL games.

Former Minnesota standout Jeff Taffe, now in the Phoenix organization, is the top-rated prospect with WCHA ties at 18th. Ex-Michigan blueliner and current Mike Komisarek is the first CCHA player to appear on the list at 22nd; he's playing in the Montreal system. Fellow Wolverine and Los Angeles hopeful Mike Cammalleri is ranked 31st. Gopher defenseman Paul Martin, whose rights are held by New Jersey, is rated 39th. Michigan forward Eric Nystrom rounds out the top 50. He was chosen by Calgary with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Groslie Grounded: Snake-bitten Nebraska-Omaha got another dose of bad news earlier this week when sophomore Gus Groslie announced his hockey career is over due to recurring head injuries.

"I'm to a point where I notice it, but it's not going to cause that much damage to my life," Groslie said. "But in the same regard, I am worried about it and I don't want it to get any worse."

The sophomore from Moorhead, Minn., was forced out of hockey for nine months after being diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome last spring. He returned to the Maverick lineup Nov. 1, but suffered another head injury in a win against Ohio State in Omaha Jan. 25. Groslie finished his UNO career with seven goals and six assists in 49 games.

Wedded Badger Bliss: Even though Wisconsin dropped games to arch-rival Minnesota at Mariucci Arena Friday and Saturday, the weekend wasn't a complete downer. Sunday, Bob Heisler, father of junior forward Jake Heisler, and Kay Talafous, mother of sophomore forward Pete Talafous, were married in St. Paul suburb of Afton. Heisler is from the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, while Talafous calls Hudson, Wis. – just across the St. Croix River from the Twin Cities area – home.

Not to be outdone, junior defenseman Dan Boeser served as best man for friend Robbie Nelson at his wedding Thursday. The two were pee wee hockey teammates in the Minneapolis suburb of Burnsville and went to high school together. Nelson and his wife arranged the ceremony around Boeser's schedule. An added twist: the union occurred just before Nelson, who's in the armed forces, was shipped to the Middle East.

News of the weird: Ever heard of Negro League star Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, who earned his nickname by pitching the first game of a doubleheader before playing catcher in the nightcap? If not, say hello to Chris "Double Duty" Brooks. When the Western Michigan assistant coach's schedule allows, he's playing in home games for the Kalamazoo Wings of the United Hockey League. In four games with the Wings, Brooks has a goal and two assists...Every CCHA series Alaska-Fairbanks has been a part of this season has ended up with one team taking three of four points...Ferris State is the first CCHA team to clinch home ice for the first round of the conference playoffs. The Bulldogs, who haven't hosted a playoff game since 1993, have never lost a postseason game at home – they're 4-0-0...With Air Force's 11-game winless streak by the wayside, the CHA's dubious honor for longest win drought belongs to Findlay. The Oilers are 0-11-2 since beating Connecticut Dec. 29...Wayne State's power play was a combined 0-for-18 in two losses at Alabama-Huntsville last weekend...St. Cloud State goaltender Jake Moreland is probably flinching in his sleep this week. He made 42 saves in a win vs. Colorado College Friday, then stopped 49 shots in a 5-3 loss the following night...The straw that stirs the drink? Since captain Grant Potulny returned from injury a little more than a month ago, Minnesota is 5-1-2...Who are the four WCHA newcomers averaging more than a point a game? Three are gimmes – North Dakota's Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek of Minnesota and Colorado College's Brett Sterling. The fourth? Minnesota-Duluth sophomore T.J. Caig, who has 13 points since making his long-awaited debut Jan. 3.


Western Michigan goaltender Mike Mantua: He took the loss Sunday against visiting Ferris State, but in the game's first five minutes, he was as good as any netminder in the nation. Mantua stopped prohibitive CCHA Player of the Year favorite Chris Kunitz on a breakaway 30 seconds into the first period and later stoned defenseman Matt York as he raced in all alone. He also twice thwarted Kunitz on point-blank power-play opportunities.

Air Force: The Falcons snapped an 11-game winless streak in impressive fashion, sweeping MAAC power (oxymoron?) Quinnipiac by 5-4 and 6-2 scores at Cadet Ice Arena. The 11 goals on the weekend snapped a prolonged scoring slump for the Zoomies; the team had notched 18 goals during its 0-9-2 skein.


Ferris State detractors:
Plenty of e-mails were sent our way after INCH promoted Ferris State to No. 2 in our weekly Power Rankings. Get over it, folks; this team is for real.

The INCH West Notebook Jinx: Last week, Michigan Tech and Wayne State were featured in the West Notebook. The Huskies and Warriors proceeded endure series sweeps – Tech to Minnesota-Duluth, Wayne State to Alabama-Huntsville – and were outscored by a combined margin of 22-8. Shame on us.


Atlanta Thrashers: Recalled forward Ben Simon (Notre Dame) from Chicago of the American Hockey League; placed defenseman Andy Sutton (Michigan Tech) on injured reserve, retroactive to February 13; assigned goaltender Damian Rhodes (Michigan Tech) to Greenville of the East Coast Hockey League.

Dallas Stars: Acquired defenseman Bubba Berenzweig (Michigan) and a conditional draft pick from the Nashville Predators for forward Jon Sim; assigned Berenzweig to Utah of the American Hockey League.

Montreal Canadiens: Assigned defenseman Mike Komisarek (Michigan) to Hamilton of the American Hockey League.

New Jersey Devils: Recalled forward Steve Guolla (Michigan State) from Albany of the American Hockey League.

St. Louis Blues: Claimed forward Ryan Johnson (North Dakota) off waivers from the Florida Panthers.


Cleveland Barons (AHL):
Assigned goaltender Mark Kielkucki (Air Force) to Cincinnati of the East Coast Hockey League.

A variety of sources were used in the compilation of this report.

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