The 2004-05 season will see a major change in the CHA
Conference. The University of Findlay announced in January 2004 that the school
would be dropping its hockey program at the end of the 2003-04 after eight
seasons. The departure of Findlay left the CHA with only five teams and in
jeopardy of losing their conference automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Enter
Robert Morris University. RMU, located just outside of Pittsburgh, PA,
officially made their announcement of adding a Division I Men’s (and later Women’s)
Ice Hockey program back in October of 2003. At the time, the school didn’t know
which conference they would be playing in. Soon after Findlay made its
announcement of dropping their hockey program, the CHA announced that RMU would
be added to replace Findlay. The Colonials will make their CHA debut on October
22nd at Canisius.
Also announced was the relocation of the CHA Conference
Tournament. After two seasons in Kearney, Nebraska, the postseason tournament
will call the IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota its new home. Bemidji
State will host the tournament.
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)
The defending CHA champion Purple Eagles will open their
ninth regular season on October 9th when they host visiting
non-conference opponent UMass-Lowell at Dwyer Arena.
Niagara is coming off one of their most successful seasons
in their young history that took them all the way to Frozen Four Tournament.
This season, they hope to continue that success, but have lost ten players, six
of them forwards. The most notable losses are former Hobey Baker candidate Joe Tallari and Chris Welch, both to graduation. Another significant loss was that
of sophomore-to-be Jeremy Hall, who
has transferred to UMass-Lowell.
Despite the numerous losses, the Purple Eagles will return
several of their top forwards including junior Justin Cross and sophomore Sean
Bentivoglio. Their most significant returning player however is last
season’s leading scorer and arguably the best forward from the CHA last season
in senior Barret Ehgoetz. Ehgoetz,
CHA Co-Player of the Year last season and an early candidate for the 2005 Hobey
Baker Award, was one of the nation’s top scorers last season. He finished the
2003-04 season ranked fifth in the nation in scoring with 52 points (25 goals,
27 assists). Ehgoetz was a model of offensive consistency for Niagara last
season. His 25 goals and 1.33 points per game ranked him tied for sixth in the
nation in each category.
Niagara will also get some offensive help from a group of
talented newcomers. Among the most notables are senior Kris Wiebe, who comes over from the now-defunct Findlay program, as
well as incoming freshmen C.J. Tozzo
and Clifford Ketchen. Wiebe led the Findlay Oilers last season in
scoring with 28 points (18 goals, 10 assists). Tozzo comes to Niagara from the
New York Apple Core (EJHL), where he had 86 points (32 goals, 54 assists) last
season. Ketchen comes to Niagara from the Portage Terriers (MJHL). He finished
third in the MJHL in scoring with 91 points (29 goals, 62 assists) last season.
The Purple Eagles were a very good defensive team last
season, and also one of the least penalized teams in the nation. Niagara
averaged just 12.9 penalty minutes per game, fourth fewest in the nation. The
Purple Eagles should be a solid defensive team again as they will return many
of their key defensive players including starting goaltender, junior Jeff Van Nynatten. Van Nynatten, who
was the CHA Tournament MVP, was stellar in the conference Championship game
versus Bemidji State and was instrumental in leading the Purple Eagles to the
Frozen Four Tournament. He finished the season posting an 18-8-3 record that
included two shutouts. He also posted very good numbers in the categories of
goals against average (2.81) and save percentage (.904).
The most pressing issue for Niagara coming into this season
is the power play. Despite ranking as one of the top 20 offensive teams in the
nation last season, the Purple Eagles power play ranked 49th in the
nation at a dismal 14.0 percent. Another concern is increased offense from the
blueline. Niagara got a mere 12 goals total from their entire blueline corps.
Junior Andrew Lackner led all
defensemen in points last season with 12 (two goals, nine assists), while junior
Brian Hartman led all returning
defensemen in goal scoring with three. Niagara welcomes four incoming freshmen
defensemen this season. Notable are Travis
Anderson and Mike Novosad.
Anderson comes to Niagara from the Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL), where he had
18 points (two goals, 16 assists) playing in all 17 games last season. Novosad
comes to Niagara from the Nepean Raiders (CJHL). Novosad finished sixth on his
team with 48 points (12 goals, 36 assists) last season.
Air Force Academy
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)
The Falcons will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 15th when they travel to the Northford Ice Pavilion in
Hamden, CT to face off against non-conference opponent Bentley in the Q-Cup
Tournament. This season Air Force will host the annual “military grudge match”
versus Army on the weekend of January 14th at Cadet Ice Arena.
Air Force finished the 2003-04 season fifth in the
conference, improving on their last place finish in 2002-03. After posting only
three wins away from Cadet Ice Arena in 2002-03, the Falcons nearly tripled
that this past season to eight. Air Force will look for continued improvement
and more success this season.
The area of primary concern for the Falcons this season is
offensive production and the power play. With the loss of the team’s top two
scorers from last season in Spanky
Leonard and Shane Saum to
graduation, the concerns are even more magnified. The Falcons power play ranked
last in the nation in 2003-04 at just 11.0 percent. In addition, the team
scored a total of 101 goals last season and the now-departed duo accounted for
24 of them. With offense and the power play being such pressing issues, it will
be up to the returning forwards pick up the slack. One player that the Falcons
will be relying on to lead the offensive charge is junior Mike Knaeble. Knaeble, perhaps one of the CHA’s most underrated
forwards, is the top returning scorer for Air Force this season. He finished
the 2003-04 season with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists). One area where
Knaeble excels is in scoring short-handed goals. He finished tied for second in
the conference and tied for seventh in the nation in that category with three.
The Falcons will welcome four incoming freshmen forwards including Erik Ehn. Ehn comes to the Air Force
Academy from the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL), where he had 32 points (12 goals,
20 assists) in 59 games last season.
Another area of concern is in goal. Standout goaltender Mike Polidor has graduated. Sophomore Peter Foster will likely be the Falcons
starter this season. Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster appeared in
18 games last season, posting a 6-7-0 record that included one shutout. While
goaltending is a concern, the defensive corps looks very solid. The Falcons return
nearly all of their defensemen from last season. The two players who’ll be
leading the Air Force defense are senior Steve
Mead and junior Brooks Turnquist.
Mead led all Falcons defensemen in scoring last year with 19 points (two goals,
19 assists). The talented two-way defenseman Turnquist finished second on the
team among defensemen in scoring with 17points (four goals, 13 assists). His
four goals also led all defensemen in that category. The Falcons will have four
incoming freshmen added to their roster including Frank Schiavone. Schiavone comes to the Air Force Academy from the
Chiliwack Chiefs (BCHL). He finished third among the team’s defensemen in
scoring with 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 70 games played last season.
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)
The Chargers will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 22nd when they host non-conference opponent Holy Cross at
the Von Braun Ice Center for a weekend series.
The 2003-04 season is likely to go down as the Season of Jared Ross at UAH. The Chargers leading
scorer had a phenomenal season to say the least. His torrid scoring pace and
offensive dominance earned him CHA Co-Player of the Year honors. Ross will be
among the many returning players to help the Chargers battle for the CHA crown
UAH lost only three players to graduation in forwards Steve Milosevski and Jackson Harren and goaltender Adam MacLean. While offensive
production from their top scorers isn’t likely to be a concern this season,
spreading out and increasing the scoring will be. UAH scored a total of 92
goals last season, which ranked them fifth in the conference in that category.
Fifty-three of the 92 goals (or roughly 58 percent) last season were scored by
top defenseman Jeremy Schreiber and
the top line combination of seniors Jared
Ross and Craig Bushey and
sophomore Bruce Mulherin.
The Chargers will also have to address two problems that
plagued them last season — winning on the road and wins against non-conference
opponents. Despite going 11-16-4, UAH won on the road only four times: at Air
Force on January 24th, at Findlay in the season finale on March 24th
and a sweep at Wayne State back on January 17th and 18th.
Versus non-conference opponents, the Chargers were a dismal 1-7-3. UAH’s only
victory over a non-conference opponent came back on October 25th
versus UConn. Interestingly, their three non-conference ties came against
formidable in Holy Cross, Northern Michigan and Maine respectively.
The Chargers strength this season will likely be on the
defensive side. With the departure of Adam MacLean, junior Scott Munroe will be seeing the bulk of the work between the UAH
pipes. Munroe split time with MacLean last season, posting a 5-9-1 record in 17
games played. Two talented incoming freshmen in Marc Naduzzi, formerly with the South Surrey Eagles (BCHL) and Paul Gibson, formerly with the St.
Thomas Stars (OJHL), will be battling for the backup job. UAH will return all
of its defensemen, led by outstanding offensive defenseman, junior Jeremy Schreiber. Two defensemen who
will provide some toughness on the UAH blueline are sophomore Jeff Winchester and junior Doug Watkins. Both finished last season
ranked first (113) and third (97) respectively in the conference in penalties
Bemidji State University
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 1)
The Beavers will open their 49th regular season
on October 22nd when they host non-conference opponent Ferris State
at the John S. Glas Fieldhouse for a weekend series.
For Bemidji State, last season’s ending was a very bitter
pill to swallow. After laying claim to the R. H. “Bob” Peters Cup as the CHA
regular season champions, they fell to second-seeded rival Niagara in a
heartbreaking 3-2 loss in overtime. This season, the Beavers hope to remedy
that. BSU comes into this season with some significant losses, particularly in
goal and defense. Goaltenders Grady Hunt
and Dannie Morgan, along with
defensemen Bryce Methven, Jesse Balsimo
and Anders Olsson have all
graduated. Senior-to-be center Riley
Riddell has been suspended indefinitely following a recent arraignment that
stemmed from a criminal sexual assault charge. Riddell finished second on the
team in scoring last season with 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists).
With the departure of so many key defensive players, the
Beavers will be a lot younger this season. Nowhere will that be more evident
than in goal. The lone returning goaltender is sophomore Layne Sedevie. Sedevie played remarkably well last season despite
seeing action in only 13 games. He posted a 6-4-3 record with a 2.70 goals
against average and .900 save percentage. Incoming freshman Matt Climie will likely challenge
Sedevie for the starting job. Climie was one of the top CJAHL goaltenders last
season with the Truro Bearcats (MJAHL) and is ranked by Inside College Hockey as one of the top incoming freshman
goaltenders this season.
The defense will be solid but a bit less experienced this
season. Despite losing three defensemen
to graduation, the Beavers will return five including seniors John Haider and Peter Jonsson. Jonsson led all Beavers defensemen in scoring last
season with 13 points (three goals, ten assists). Haider finished second among
defensemen in points with 12 (five goals, seven assists). His five goals led
all defensemen in that category. Two incoming freshmen round out the Beavers
defensive unit. Rugged David Deterding
comes to BSU from the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL), where he amassed eight
points (one goal, seven assists) in 57 games last season. Riley Weselowski is an offensive defenseman who comes to BSU from
the Neepawa Natives (MJHL). He led all MJHL defensemen in scoring last season
with 60 points (20 goals, 40 assists).
BSU’s strength this season will be in their offense. The
Beavers ranked fifth in the nation last season in goals per game (3.64). They
also led the CHA in total goals scored with 131. With the return of nearly all
of their top scorers from last season, they could again finish atop the CHA in
scoring this season. Leading the offensive charge this season will be the
returning top scoring line combination of seniors Andrew Murray (CBJ) and Brendan
Cook and sophomore Luke Erickson.
Cook not only led BSU in scoring, he was among the top goal scorers in the
nation last season as well. His 23 goals ranked him tied for ninth in the
nation in that category. Cook is also ranked among the nation’s best special
teams players. He ranked tied for second in the nation in shorthanded goals
(five) and tied for seventh in power play goals (10). Erickson, the CHA Rookie
of the Year, was stellar in his rookie campaign. He finished the season with 32
points (12 goals, 20 assists), which ranked him third on the team. His 32
points and 0.91 points per game both ranked him tied for fifth in the nation
among all rookies in each category.
Murray, the lone NHL Draft selection from the CHA, will be a
player to watch this season. He missed 11 games with an ankle injury that he
suffered back on December 5th versus Wayne State. Despite the games
missed however, Murray was still able to finish sixth on the team in scoring
with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists). While he didn’t put up overwhelming
numbers, Murray was impressive in his all-around play last season. His patience
with the puck and outstanding passing skills, coupled with his size and
excellent skating ability made him the perfect compliment to his smaller
linemates. Another player to watch this season is outstanding incoming freshman
forward Blaine Jarvis. Jarvis, one
of the many excellent players coming into the NCAA this season from the Salmon
Arm Silverbacks (BCHL), finished tied for fifth on the team in scoring with 72
points (29 goals, 43 assists).
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)
The Colonials will make their Division I regular season
debut on October 22nd when they travel to the Buffalo State Sports
Arena to take on non-conference host Canisius in a home-and-home weekend
Derek Schooley is the head coach of the Colonials. Prior to
arriving at RMU, he was an associate head coach at the Air Force Academy and
before that was an assistant coach at Cornell. Coach Schooley recently spoke to
Hockey’s Future to share his thoughts about the upcoming season and what can be
expected from the newest member of Division I.
“We’re going to be a new team, so it’s going to be a
challenge for us every night. We have to come to work hard and play our best to
compete at this level (Division I) because we’re so young,” Schooley explained. “It’s like a team of rookies in the NHL
playing against the Stanley Cup Champions. We need to come ready to work hard
every day and just get better every day. I cannot emphasize that enough. That’s
got to be our motto is daily improvement. If we do the little things like block
shots, finish checks and work extremely hard, wins will take care of
themselves. I just want to see improvement from our team every day. I just want
to see us get better in some aspect of our hockey game every day. If we can do
that we’ll be fine. It will be bringing young kids along and teaching them our
systems and teaching them how to be Division I athletes. Everybody’s foundation
is good defense. You have to start from the goal out and work from there. We’re
going to be a hard working, in-your-face type of team, very similar to the Air
Force Academy teams that I’ve coached, until we can get older, more experienced
guys in our lineup. If you can’t play good defense, you can’t win. We have to
teach literally every system that we have to 28 new kids. It’s going to be a
challenge for our kids to absorb it all. If we don’t compete and we don’t work
hard, we’re going to get blown out. A successful season would be to just
improve every day and set ourselves up for the future. Very similar to your
title of your site, Hockey’s Future,
that’s kind of where we’re looking at. The reality of the situation is we need
to build this program to be successful down the road, and hope that there isn’t
very many bumps in the road this year.”
Four of RMU’s players have had previous NCAA experience.
Junior forward Kurt Wright comes
over from the now-defunct Findlay program. He had six points (four goals, two
assists) in 20 games played last season. Defenseman Bryan Mills, who’ll be red-shirted this season, is a transfer from
Niagara. He amassed nine points (one goal, assists) in 20 games played last
season. Sophomore forward Doug Conley,
who played with the Tri-City Storm (USHL) last season, is also a former Niagara
player. He amassed 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists) playing in 58 games for
Tri-City. Goaltender Joe Tuset
played a year and half at Northern Michigan before coming to RMU. He sat out
all last season. Schooley and his staff are counting on the four players to
share their experiences with and give insights to the many incoming freshmen
both on and off the ice.
“They have to show the way. They’re going to contribute more
than just on the ice. They’re going to contribute off the ice, just kind of
showing the guys how to be Division I student-athletes,” said Coach Schooley.
With the great strides that the CHA has made in its overall
growth and development its young history, Schooley understands how competitive
and difficult it will be for his team right from the outset.
“This conference is a very difficult conference to play in
and a legitimate Division I conference. Our schedule is extremely challenging
for a first-year program. For us to be successful, we have to come ready to
compete every day and improve every day. This is a tough league and we’re
playing a tough schedule,” said Schooley.
RMU plays its home games at the Island Sports Center on
Neville Island near downtown Pittsburgh. While the Colonials home rink is
unfamiliar to just about everyone outside of the Pittsburgh region, the man who
is in charge of it is not. Dave Hanson, who portrayed Jack Hanson of the Hanson
Brothers in the film “Slapshot”, is the general manager of the Island Sports
“He’s a world class human being,” Schooley said of Hanson.
“He’s nothing like the Hanson Brothers that you see in the movie. He’s a great
guy. When you bring recruits into the building they see that. Even 10-year-olds
that have seen Slapshot get a big kick out of seeing him.”
(Number of NHL prospects on the 2004-05 roster: 0)
The Warriors will open their 2004-05 regular season on
October 16th when they host visiting non-conference opponent
Clarkson at the Compuware Sports Arena in a weekend series.
With their new season starting at home, WSU will be
looking to address one of their biggest problems of last season right from the
get-go: winning at home. In their home rink of Compuware Sports Arena, the
Warriors were a horrendous 1-11-1 last season. Their lone home win of 2003-04
came back on October 16th, 2003 versus conference rival Findlay. The
Warriors will also be looking to better their last place finish in the
conference last season. They will see many new faces on their roster this year,
as nine players were lost in the offseason.
The most losses are among the forwards. Five were lost this
offseason, most notably Billy Collins.
Collins, who opted to forego his final season of eligibility to sign with the
Muskegon Fury (UHL), finished the 2003-04 season ranked third in scoring with
17 points (11 goals, six assists). With the loss of so many forwards, WSU will
be looking to their returning players for increased scoring production. The
Warriors offense ranked dead last in the CHA and near the bottom nationally.
They will however, return their top two scorers in sophomores Nate Higgins and Jason Baclig. The two sophomores were the only Warriors to have
notched 20 or more points last season and will be relied upon heavily to lead
the offensive attack this season. Imposing redshirted freshman Mike Forgie returns to the Warriors
lineup after missing nearly the entire 2003-04 season with an injury. Sophomore
Jason Bloomingburg will make his WSU
debut this fall, after transferring from Providence and sitting out all of last
year. In addition to Forgie and Bloomingburg, three incoming freshmen will also
provide scoring depth for WSU. Most notable is Tylor Michel. Michel comes to WSU from the Owen Sound Saugeen Greys
(MOJHL). He led his team in scoring with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in 45
games played last season.
Defensively the Warriors will be significantly younger this
season. Defensemen Nick Stodgell and
Aaron Hundt as well as goaltender Marc Carlson are all no longer with the
team. The blueline corps will feature only two upperclassmen this season in
juniors Steve Kovalchik and Greg Poupard. In goal, WSU will return
sophomore Matt Kelly. Kelly, who
split time with Carlson last season, fared better than his counterpart, posting
a 7-13-2 record in 22 appearances. Kelly will get some serious competition for
the starting job this season as the Warriors will welcome an excellent
goaltender in sophomore Will Hooper.
Hooper, a CHA All-Rookie Team selection last season, comes over from the
now-defunct Findlay program where he posted a 9-13-3 record that included two
shutouts (one of which came against his new team). Hooper also put up
impressive numbers in the categories of goals against average (2.64) and save
percentage (.913). WSU will have only one incoming freshman defenseman in Mark Bradshaw. Bradshaw comes to WSU
from the Humboldt Broncos (AJHL), where he had 41 points (four goals, 37
assists) in 55 games last season.
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