March 10, 2007
College Hockey America Tournament Semifinals
Expect the Unexpected

By Warren Kozireski

DES MOINES, Iowa — In INCH's College Hockey America playoff preview, we referred to the league's tournament as a crapshoot. Well, third-seeded Robert Morris will play fifth-seeded Alabama-Huntsville Sunday afternoon for the CHA championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Crapshoot indeed.

Neither the Chargers (12-19-3) nor the Colonials (14-18-2) have a winning record, guaranteeing this year's national tournament its first sub.-500 entrant since Colorado College earned a bid in 1978 with an 18-21-1 mark.

Alabama-Huntsville 5,
Niagara 3
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-NIA Vince Rocco (9) EV
3:42 T. Gotto, R. Annesley
1-AH Mike Salekin (6) PP
6:38 S. Arvai, S. Canter

Second Period

2-NIA Egor Mironov (10) PP
7:02 M. Caruana, V. Rocco
3-NIA Chris Moran (9) EV
9:02 M. Caruana, V. Rocco
2-AH Kevin Morrison (8) EV
9:48 S. Canter, A.J. Larivee
3-AH Josh Murray (6) EV
12:20 G. Selinger, D. Nimmo
4-AH Mike Salekin (7) EV
19:50 J. Murray
Third Period
5-AH Cale Tanaka EV
5:06 T. Hilbert, T. Train
AH: Marc Narduzzi (59:56, 35 svs, 3 GA)
NIA: Juliao Pagliero (59:28, 30 svs, 5 GA)
Penalties: AH 5/10; NIA 9/29
Power Plays: AH 1-8; NIA 1-5


Alabama-Huntsville scored four unanswered goals over the final two periods and ousted top-seeded Niagara with a 5-3 College Hockey America semifinal victory Saturday.

After Niagara took a 3-1 lead midway through the second period on a Chris Moran goal, the Chargers rebounded on the next shift on a goal by Kevin Morrison.

Less than three minutes later, Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero got caught trying to play the puck behind his own net. A quick pass to the slot found Josh Murray for the open net to tie the game at 3-3.

Mike Salekin scored from his knees in the final seconds of the second to give the Chargers their first lead of the game and Cale Tanaka scored his first collegiate goal for the only offense by either team in the third.

“(The fourth goal) all started in the defensive end with a great shot block by Josh Murray,” said Salekin. “I jumped up in the middle and passed over to Murray and went to the net knowing there were only 10 seconds left. Murray put it on net and I was on my knees. The rebound came toward me so I tipped it through the five hole.

“We’ve come together as a group the last few weeks. We’ve always been close but there has always been one thing to knock us back down every time we got up. The last couple of weeks we’ve been getting the bounces and the goaltending.”

Niagara was whistled for a minor penalty and a five-minute major over the final three minutes of regulation to virtually eliminate any chance for a late comeback. Niagara was eliminated in the semi-finals for the third time in five years and the second time during that period at the hands of Huntsville.

“We had one bad shift and one bad bounce behind the net and it’s 3-3, but we just didn’t get a response from a lot of guys after that,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “There are a lot of guys in that locker room who played their hearts out, but you can’t win with half a tank.”

“We’ve lost a lot of games by one goal this year and this is just a late blooming team,” said head coach Doug Ross. “It took us to the second half of the season to play well, but we went up to Bemidji and played well and home against Niagara last week. I didn’t know when we would make the move, but we’re making our move right now.”

The Chargers have advanced to the CHA championship game on four previous occasions, the most recent coming in 2005, but have never won the league's playoff title. Naturally, achieving that goal is important to Ross, who'll step down as the team's coach after the season.

“We’ve played close in those championship games, and I’d like to go out with a championship," said Ross, "but more importantly, I’d like to see our seniors win it.”

Robert Morris 7,
Bemidji State 5
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-BS Luke Erickson (12) EV
3:44 R. Miller, B. Jarvis
1-RM S. Berkstresser (8) PP
9:23 L. Bittle, J. Towsley

Second Period

2-RM Brett Hopfe (2) PP
1:30 J. Gilbert, C. Margott
3-RM Jason Towsley (7) EV
1:40 D. Conley
4-RM Ryan Cruthers (15) PP
14:40 A. Clarke, S. Berkstresser
2-BS Ryan Miller (5) EV
15:44 unassisted
5-RM Ryan Cruthers (16) EV
16:12 C. Margott
3-BS Travis Winter (11) PP
19:46 R. Sirianni, C. Bostock
Third Period
4-BS Luke Erickson (13) PP
8:43 B. Jarvis, B. Marino
6-RM Chris Marcott (11) PP
11:48 B. Hopfe, J. Sparks
7-RM Joel Gasper (4) SH
13:43 R. Cowan
5-BS Travis Winter (12) EA
19:55 R. Sirianni, G. McManamin
RM: Christian Boucher (60:00, 27 svs, 5 GA)
BS: Matt Climie (58:43, 19 svs, 7 GA)
Penalties: RM 9/18; BS 11/30
Power Plays: RM 4-8; BS 2-7


Robert Morris beat Bemidji State for the fourth time in five meetings this season in a 7-5 shootout in Saturday's second semifinal. The Colonials, now in their third season of varsity hockey, are one win away from an NCAA Tournament berth.

“We got the job done and competed the whole game,” said forward Ryan Cruthers, who scored two goals. “Having a bunch of juniors and five seniors, we had the confidence just as much as they did. They might have been here more than us, but we’ve been around for three years and have veteran guys.”

BSU jumped out to a 1-0 lead when captain Luke Erickson banged home a second rebound at 3:44 of the first period. The Colonials tied it up six minutes later when Sean Berkstresser converted a 5-on-3 power play off passes from Logan Bittle and Jason Towsley.

RMU opened a wild second period with goals ten seconds apart — Brett Hopfe on the power play and Jason Towsley on a one-timer — to take a 3-1 lead. That advantage grew to 4-1 when Cruthers one-timed a pass from Aaron Clarke past BSU goalie Matt Climie at 14:40.

The Beavers pulled to within two a little more than a minute later when Ryan Miller scored his fifth of the season at 15:44, but the Colonials regained their three-goal edge 28 seconds later when Cruthers scored for the second time in the period. Still, BSU battled back to cut the lead to 5-3 on Travis Winter’s power play marker with 14 seconds remaining in the second period.

The two teams combined to score four goals over the final 5:20 of the second period.

Erickson scored his second of the game at 8:43 of the third to narrow the RMU lead to 5-4, but the Colonials responded with a power-play goal from Chris Margott and a shorthanded effort from Joel Gasper two minutes apart to regain their three-goal lead with just over six minutes left in regulation.

Winter tallied a meaningless goal for BSU with five seconds remaining.

“We responded every time they scored and every time the game got hairy,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “It could have been deflating when they scored with 14 seconds left in the second period, but we came back and responded again. You saw an effort from every player — we didn’t want to be denied tonight.

“Now it’s the three-seed against the five seed to go to the NCAA Tournament. Both teams have losing records. I don’t know if it’s happened in the modern era with a team going with a losing effort.”


• After taking a shot off the collarbone from teammate Steve Canter in warm-ups Friday, Alabama-Huntsville goaltender Marc Narduzzi gave the senior forward quite the look when he again shot high in Saturday’s warm-up.

• Niagara’s forward lines featured defensemen Armando Scarlato and Jim Burichin at wings on the third and fourth lines, respectively — something the coaching staff has toyed with over the past few weeks.

• Alabama-Huntsville coach Doug Ross was spotted mingling among the Chargers pep band during the second intermission.

• Speaking of Ross, UAH has assembled a search committee to find his replacement behind the Charger bench. The group has met once and word has it that a new coach could be announced as soon as next month.

• Why don’t UAH’s goaltender Blake MacNicol or defenseman Davide Nicoletti have names on their jerseys? MacNicol joined the team in January while Nicoletti has played in 22 games.

• Bemidji State senior Garrett Roth played in his first game since February 17, while senior Shane Holman saw his first action since suffering a separated shoulder February 9 at Robert Morris.

• Robert Morris dressed junior Jake Sparks at defense for just the third time this season. The Colonials have been juggling personnel on the blueline since Chris Kaufman suffered a season-ending injury February 3.

• Robert Morris tied a school record with four power play goals against the Beavers. They first did it against Bentley in 2005.

• There were 84 faceoffs in the RMU-BSU game. All teams are having difficulty adjusting to the lower height of the glass along the side boards. It only extends four feet above the boards, resulting in numerous pucks flying out of play in the first three games of the tournament.

• As the highest remaining seed, Robert Morris had the option of moving into the large locker room occupied by the United States Hockey League's Des Moines Buccaneers, which Niagara vacated following its loss. Coach Derek Schooley decided not to mess with a good thing, and his Colonials stayed in the same room.

• Things are different here ... the public address announcer continues to announce penalty and goal times as the time remaining on the clock instead of subtracting from 20 minutes.

• They're welcome to attend any tournament, any time — a group of Bemidji State fans constructed a beer-cup pyramid built from about 40 empty glasses in front of section 12.