March 11, 2007
College Hockey America Tournament Final
Alabama-Huntsville Charges Back, Wins CHA Title

By Warren Kozireski

DES MOINES, Iowa — Alabama-Huntsville was trying to become just the second team in College Hockey America history to win three games at the league tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Robert Morris was trying to advance to the NCAAs in its third year of existence, and become the second team to win the CHA title in year three.

No matter which team won, a below-.500 team would be going to the tourney for the first time since Colorado College in 1978.

Alabama-Huntsville 5,
Niagara 3
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-RM Ryan Cruthers (17) PP
6:35 S. Berkstresser, A. Clarke
2-RM Dave Cowan (1) PP
9:02 L. Bittle, R. Cruthers
3-RM Sean Berkstresser (9) EV
12:09 D. Conley, J. Towsley
4-RM Chris Margott (12) PP
16:43 A. Clarke, R. Cruthers

Second Period

1-AH Kevin Morrison (9) PP
1:18 S. Kalinchuk, J. Federoff
2- AH David Nimmo (13) PP
2:57 M. Salekin, S. Arvai
3-AH Grant Selinger (17) EV
19:40 J. Murray, D. Nimmo
Third Period
4-AH Scott Kalinchuk (6) PP
5:22 B. McConnachie, S. Arvai
5-AH David Nimmo (14) SH
12:31 unassisted
AH: Marc Narduzzi (12:25, 1 sv, 3 GA)
AH: Blake MacNicol (59:54, 38 svs, 1 GA)
RM: Christian Boucher (72:13, 45 svs, 5 GA)
Penalties: AH 13/26; NIA 7/14
Power Plays: AH 3-6; RM 3-13
All-Tournament Team
G: Blake MacNicol, Alabama-Huntsville
D: Dave Cowan, Robert Morris
D: Mike Salekin, Alabama-Huntsville
F: Sean Bertstresser, Robert Morris
F: Chris Margott, Robert Morris
F: Kevin Morrison, Alabama Huntsville
F: David Nimmo, Alabama-Huntsville (MVP)

That honor — and challenge to prove it belongs — goes to Alabama-Huntsville. Senior forward David Nimmo, the tournament MVP, took advantage of a fallen defenseman to break in on a two-on-one to score the game winner 12:31 into OT as the Chargers rallied from a 4-0 first-period deficit to beat the Colonials, 5-4.

“I tried to jump up and Josh Murray was going as hard as he could to try to pull their defenseman back,” said Nimmo outside a festive Charger locker room. “I kind of bobbled it a bit, but got it on my backhand so I just threw as hard as I could and it just got by [RMU goalie Christian] Boucher.”

Robert Morris scored on four of its first seven shots. UAH starting goaltender Marc Narduzzi made just one save on four shots, giving up goals to the Colonials' Ryan Cruthers, Dave Cowan (who scored his first collegiate goal on a power play and with goaltender Christian Boucher pulled for an extra attacker as UAH had been whistled for a late penalty), and Sean Berkstresser.

Chargers coach Doug Ross yanked Narduzzi after the third goal, replacing him with freshman Blake MacNicol, who promptly allowed the fourth tally on a tip-in.

“I told everybody that our guys come back from behind and never quit,” said Ross. "It was tough to take Narduzzi out of there, and then they bounced another one past Blake (McNicol).”

“I’m not used to doing that,” said MacNicol when asked about entering the game cold. “Narduzzi bailed me out Friday (against Wayne State), so I had to step up. It was tough to get amped up for the game thinking I was just going to sit on the bench.”

Alabama-Huntsville started its comeback with goals by Kevin Morrison and David Nimmo in the first three minutes of the second period. Grant Selinger then converted in the final minute of the second after great cycling with linemates Josh Murray and Nimmo to narrow the RMU advantage to 4-3.

“We regrouped in the second period and got the two early, and the one late in the period really was key,” said Ross. “We just needed to stay out of the box so we could get our four lines moving.”

Defenseman Scott Kalinchuk scored a power-play goal from the point a little more than five minutes into the third period for the Chargers to send the game into overtime.

The win gives Alabama-Huntsville its first College Hockey America title in five trips to the championship game, and the first CHA postseason crown for Ross, who will retire at the end of the season after 25 years behind the Charger bench.

“I’ve been trying to retire and this team won’t let me,” joked Ross. “To see the joy in the players faces and the happiness of knowing what they did, that gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

“We’ve been through a lot together," said Nimmo, discussing Ross and the team's 10 seniors. "Our sophomore year, we lost in the finals to Bemidji State, which was a heartbreaker. Last year, we lost to Bemidji again in the semis even though we were up 3-1 in the third. Coach has been around here for 25 years and deserves it as much as anybody.”


INCH Flashback
It wasn't too long ago that we took an in-depth look at the birth of the Robert Morris program.

• Sunday's game was third CHA championship game to go into overtime. The others were in 2002, when Wayne State defeated Alabama-Huntsville, and 2004, when Niagara defeated Bemidji State.

• Each of the tournament's four games featured at least one team scoring four unanswered goals. In the final, both did it.

• Not unexpectedly, neither team made a single line or pairing change from the second round to the championship game. The only change for UAH since the opener was at goaltender with Marc Narduzzi getting the start in the second round and final.

• Confidence: UAH coach Doug Ross had his fourth line and third defense pairing on the ice together in the first five minutes of the overtime.

• Twist of fate? Joe Federoff transferred to Alabama-Huntsville from Robert Morris. He became eligible after the transfer in January.

• A pre-game back injury necessitated the replacement of one of the referees scheduled to work Sunday's championship game. Two groups of three officials were in town for the tournament. Barry Pochmara, who worked games Friday and Saturday, was summoned at the last minute.

• Talk about neutral ice. It’s only 110 miles further from Huntsville, Ala., to Des Moines than from Pittsburgh to the tournament's host city — 1,668 vs. 1,558 miles. And yes, both teams bused.

• Someone was watching the Weather Channel: two Robert Morris players were seen taking advantage of the 50-degree weather in Des Moines, playing catch in the arena parking lot two hours before game time. Who thought to bring baseball gloves on a 1,550-mile round trip?

• Along with the McLeod Trophy, named for former CHA and current WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, the Chargers also received CHA Championship caps and watches to commemorate the win.

• CHA commissioner Bob Peters, the former Bemidji State coach, reported that the tournament site for next year will be determined at the conference's meetings in Florida next month.