NCAA CHA preview

By DJ Powers

Bemidji State University
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The reigning CHA champions will open their 50th intercollegiate regular season on October 7th when they travel to the DECC to face off against host Minnesota-Duluth. BSU plays eight of their first ten games on the road to start the season.

The Beavers capped off an outstanding 2004-05 season as a top 15-ranked team. One of BSU’s strengths last season was their excellent offense, which ranked tenth in the nation. The trio of Brendan Cook, Andrew Murray (CBJ), and Luke Erickson comprised one of the NCAA’s most lethal line combinations. The Beavers offense took a significant hit this off-season when Cook and Murray graduated. The two graduates finished first and tied for second respectively on the team in scoring and accounted for nearly one-quarter of the team’s total points. Both players also leave BSU having solidified their places in the Beavers D-I Era history books. Murray, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets this off-season, leaves BSU as the school’s D-I era leader in career scoring (115 points) and assists (69). Cook leaves BSU as the school’s D-I era leader in career goals (55) and power play goals (21).

Despite the losses of Cook and Murray, the Beavers will return an impressive group of forwards that include Erickson, fellow junior Rob Sirianni, and seniors Ryan Huddy and Jean-Guy Gervais. Erickson is the top returning scorer. He finished tied with Andrew Murray for second on the team in scoring with 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists). Erickson’s 27 assists led the team. Sirianni and Huddy finished third and fourth respectively on the team, having played much of last season together on the Beavers’ second line. Sirianni finished with 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) and was second on the team with seven power play goals. He was also the lone forward to have played in all 37 games last season. Huddy, the son of Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Charlie Huddy, posted 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) and finished third on the team with three game-winning goals.

In addition to their outstanding returning players, BSU will welcome in five newcomers that include Brandon Marino, Mark Soares and Travis Winter. Marino comes to BSU from Helena (NAHL), where he led the team in most statistical categories including points (63) and penalty minutes (109). Soares comes to BSU from Coquitlam (BCHL), where he led the team in points (69) and power play goals (15). Winter comes to BSU from Indiana (USHL), where he led the team with nine power play goals and finished second on the team in scoring with 42 points.

The Beavers defense also suffered some significant losses as top scoring defensemen John Haider and Peter Jonsson have both graduated. Haider leaves BSU as the school’s all-time leader in career games played (143). With the loss of Haider and Jonsson, the BSU defense will be very young this season. The Beavers will have only two upperclassmen amongst their blueline corps in senior Andrew Martens and junior Nathan Schwartzbauer. BSU brings in a trio of freshman defensemen this year that include two from Finland’s Ilves Tampere in Juha Kienanen and Anssi Tieranta. Tieranta represented Team Finland at the 2005 WJC in North Dakota.

With a young defensive corps, BSU will be relying heavily on their goaltenders. The Beavers return all three of their goaltenders from last season in junior Layne Sedevie and sophomores Matt Climie and Orlando Alamano. One player to watch is Climie. He enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign for BSU that culminated in his selection to the CHA All-Rookie Team. Climie backstopped BSU to convincing post-season wins over Air Force and Alabama-Huntsville. In one of his best performances of the season in the NCAA Tournament’s Northeast Regional semi-finals, Climie stopped 45 of 49 in the heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the high-powered Denver Pioneers. In 21 outings, Climie posted a 12-5-1 record that included four shutouts. He finished tied for 24th in the nation with a .916 save percentage and finished tied for third with a 1.80 goals against average.

The biggest issue that the team will need to address this season is the power play. BSU struggled mightily with the man-advantage last season, finishing 31st in the nation with a disappointing 17.5 percent efficiency rating. To compound matters, the Beavers lost half of their power play goal scoring from last season with the departing seniors.

Air Force Academy
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Falcons will open their final regular season in the CHA on October 7th when they travel up the road to Colorado College’s World Arena to face off against Hockey East powerhouse Maine in the Icebreaker Tournament. Beginning next fall, Air Force will move over to the Atlantic Hockey conference.

Air Force lost five players to graduation in forwards Seth Pelletier, Ryan Wiggins and Josh Priewe along with defensemen Steve Mead and Ross Miller. Brandon Merkosky, who led Air Force in scoring last season with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists), has transferred to Clarkson University.

The Falcons most pressing issue coming into this season is team offense, which finished 50th in the nation last season and averaged just 2.28 goals per game. The departure of Merkosky adds to pressing need for more offense. One returning player that will be relied upon to boost the team scoring is outstanding senior Mike Knaeble. Knaeble missed nearly eight weeks of action last season due to a broken fibula he suffered in the Falcons 5-0 win over Robert Morris back on November 19th. Sophomore Andrew Ramsey, who finished second on the team in scoring with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), will also be counted on for offensive production. One forward to watch this season is sophomore Eric Ehn, whose stellar rookie campaign earned him a spot on the CHA All-Rookie team. Ehn, a cousin of current Nashville Predator Adam Hall, led all Falcons rookies in scoring with 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) and finished third among all rookies in the conference.

One of Air Force’s strengths last season was in goal, thanks to the excellent performance of junior Peter Foster. Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster, posted a 12-14-3 record with a .900 saves percentage and 2.66 goals against average. His five shutouts were tied for fourth in the nation.

Despite the losses of Mead and Miller, the Falcons return a very solid defensive corps led by senior Brooks Turnquist, junior Brian Gineo and sophomore Matt Charbonneau. The reliable Turnquist was one of only seven Falcons last season to have played in all 36 games. He finished second on the team among defensemen in scoring with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists). Gineo led all Falcons defensemen in scoring last season with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists). Charbonneau was one of two Air Force freshmen last season to earn a selection to the CHA All-Rookie team. Charbonneau finished the 2004-05 season with 12 points (two goals, ten assists). Two players who will bring some size and toughness to the Falcons blueline will make their debut with Air Force this season. Mike Mayra and Greg Flynn both played for Billings (NAHL) last season. Mayra led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 27 points and led the team in penalty minutes with 119. Flynn amassed 15 points (all assists) for the team last season.

University of Alabama-Huntsville
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Chargers will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 21st when they travel to Alfond Arena to face off against host Maine.

UAH finished second in the conference behind Bemidji State thanks to some great offense and superb goaltending. The Chargers took some significant hits on offense as they graduated two of their top three scorers from last season in forwards Jared Ross and Craig Bushey. The departing duo accounted for nearly 33 percent of UAH’s goal scoring last season. Ross, the son of head coach Doug Ross, leaves UAH as the school’s second leading scorer all-time. He has signed with the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators for 2005-06.

The Chargers will be relying upon returning forwards senior Bruce Mulherin, juniors Steve Canter and Brett McConnachie along with returning senior defenseman Jeremy Schreiber to pick up the offense left by the departed players. Mulherin finished second on the team in scoring last season with 39 points (24 goals, 15 assists). His 24 goals led the team and tied for seventh in the nation. Schreiber, who will serve as team captain, led all UAH defensemen in scoring with 23 points (two goals, 21 assists). His 21 assists were tied for first on the team.

Two incoming players of note that will help boost the Chargers offensive production are forward Josh Murray and defenseman Scott Kalinchuk. Murray, who comes to UAH from Williams Lake (BCHL), brings some outstanding special teams numbers to the Chargers lineup. Of the 26 goals he scored, 16 came on the power play and three came shorthanded. Kalinchuk is a skilled offensive-minded defenseman from Canmore (AJHL), who led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 50 points (9 goals, 41 assists). Of his nine goals, seven came on the power play.

UAH returns the CHA’s best defensive team from last season nearly intact. The Chargers finished the 2004-05 season with the nation’s 16th ranked defense that allowed an average of just fewer than two and a half goals per game. Senior Scott Munroe, the backbone and workhorse for UAH, was instrumental in propelling the Chargers to the CHA Championship game. Munroe posted some impressive numbers, going 16-10-4 that included three shutouts, playing in 31 of UAH’s 32 games last season. His excellent .930 save percentage ranked tied for third in the nation while his 2.29 goals against ranked 19th. His outstanding performance also earned him a spot on the CHA All-Conference First Team. Munroe is likely to get some fierce competition from incoming goaltender Jordan Erickson. Erickson comes to UAH from Spruce Grove (AJHL), where he went 34-15-4 for the season that included five shutouts and a .919 save percentage.

UAH lost two defensemen to graduation in Ryan Brown and the dependable Doug Watkins. Despite the losses, the Chargers return a very good group of defensemen led by seniors Schreiber and Jeff Winchester. In addition to Kalinchuk, UAH will welcome another talented newcomers in Christian Beaudry. Beaudry comes to UAH from the NAHL Champion Texas Tornado. The gritty defensive defenseman finished last season with six points (two goals, four assists) and 117 penalty minutes in 47 appearances.

The one area that the Chargers will need to address this season is the high number of penalty minutes. UAH averaged nearly 26 penalty minutes per game, leading the nation. The team ranked seventh in overall penalty minutes with 832. Penalties proved costly to the Chargers throughout last season. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Thanksgiving weekend series versus Western Michigan where the Broncos went 6-for-16 on the power play in the two game series.

Niagara University
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Purple Eagles will open their tenth regular season on October 7th when they welcome ECACHL rival Clarkson to Dwyer Arena.

After a stellar 2003-04 campaign that saw the team earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Niagara struggled through a somewhat tumultuous 2004-05 campaign, finishing a disappointing third in the conference.

The Purple Eagles strength last season was their superb offense. The 23rd ranked offense in the nation averaged better than three goals per game. This season, the Niagara offense will be challenged as three of the team’s top six scorers in Barret Ehgoetz, Ryan Gale and Kris Wiebe have all graduated. The trio accounted for nearly 40 percent of Niagara’s points last season. Ehgoetz leaves Niagara having re-written the school’s record books. He finishes his collegiate career with 71 goals and 95 assists for 166 points, all school records.

Outstanding junior Sean Bentivoglio, who finished third on the team in scoring last season with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists), returns as the team’s top scorer. He, along with seniors Justin Cross and team captain senior Jason Williamson will be relied upon to step up on offense. Niagara will also get some offensive help from a very good group of incoming freshmen that include Les Reaney and Ted Cook. Reaney comes to Niagara from Williams Lake (BCHL) where he finished the season with 100 points (38 goals, 62 assists) and 166 penalty minutes. Reaney led the team in most statistical categories. Cook comes to Niagara from Omaha (USHL), where he amassed 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists) in 59 games. Cook was third on the team with ten power play goals.

Defensive consistency and cohesiveness was a problem for the Purple Eagles last season. The team finished 40th in the nation, giving up an average of nearly 3.20 goals per game. Only RMU finished worse in the CHA. Niagara will try and turn things around this season but they will do so without the services of two key defensemen in Ryan Carrigan and Shayne Bayliss. Both players were lost to graduation. Carrigan was one of only four players on the Niagara roster who finished on the plus side last season. With the loss of Carrigan and Bayliss, the Purple Eagles will also be very young on the blueline this season. All but two of Niagara’s defensemen are underclassmen. Outstanding senior Andrew Lackner and junior Pat Oliveto are the lone upperclassmen. Their leadership will be vital to Niagara’s success this year.

Part of what contributed to Niagara’s defensive woes last season was the injury to starting goaltender Jeff Van Nynatten. Van Nynatten, who will be a senior this season, suffered a finger injury that forced him out of the lineup for nearly two months back in mid-season. He’ll be looking to return to form this year. Van Nynatten is one of four goaltenders that the Purple Eagles will carry on their roster this season. Sophomore Scott Mollison and junior Allen Barton should help to stabilize the Purple Eagles young defense this season. Also in the picture is talented newcomer Juliano Pagliaro, who comes to Niagara from Estevan (SJHL). Pagliaro finished last season with a 35-15-5 record that included a .917 save percentage and earned the Saskatchewan Junior “A” league’s Goaltender of the Year honor.

Robert Morris University
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Colonials will open their second regular season in the CHA on October 9th when they welcome non-conference opponent Canisius to the Island Sports Center.

Despite being a first year D-I team made up of almost entirely freshmen, RMU fared remarkably well in its inaugural season. Perhaps the biggest reason behind the Colonials first year success can be attributed to the outstanding goaltending of Christian Boucher. Boucher, who will be a sophomore this season, finished his rookie campaign with an 8-17-4 record that included two shutouts. Even more impressive was the fact that he faced an average of 35 shots per game. He was named team MVP at the Colonials’ season-ending awards ceremony back in April.

Battling Boucher for ice time will be junior Joe Tuset and newcomer Chris Carlson. Tuset saw action in just three games last season. Carlson comes to RMU from Santa Fe (NAHL), where he posted an 11-10-1 record in 24 games.

RMU had two rookies selected to the CHA All-Rookie team last season in forward Jace Buzek and defenseman Chris Kaufman. The energetic Buzek led the Colonials in scoring with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists). His 13 assists also led the team. Kaufman had a slow start to his rookie campaign but finished the season with 11 points (two goals, nine assists), nearly all of which came in the second half of the season.

While offensive production was a problem last season, RMU should improve this season having gone through the “growing pains” of a first year team. Among the players to watch this season is sophomore Brett Hopfe. He finished tied for second on the team in goal scoring with seven. Hopfe also became the first player in RMU hockey history to record a hat-trick back on October 23rd versus Canisius. In addition to their returning players, the Colonials will welcome four incoming freshmen forwards. The most notable is Andrew Jackman. Jackman, who comes to RMU from Portage (MJHL), is a player blessed with outstanding hockey sense and skill. Jackman amassed 75 points (31 goals, 44 assists) in a season that saw him take the Manitoba Junior “A” League Playoff MVP honor. Niagara transfer Aaron Clarke will make his RMU debut in December. Clarke will bring both offensive ability and experience to RMU.

Along with Kaufman, sophomores Jeff Gilbert and Rob Cowan return to lead a still very young but a bit more experienced defensive corps that should also be better this season. Gilbert, RMU’s top scoring defenseman from last season, finished second on the team with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists). Cowan was one of only two Colonials defensemen that played in all 33 games last season. RMU will have two new members added to their defensive corps in Jeremy Barber and Greg Peterson. Barber, who comes to RMU from Toledo (NAHL), is a defenseman who brings intensity and an ultra-competitive nature to the team. He amassed 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and 54 penalty minutes last season. Peterson is an offensive-minded defenseman who comes to RMU from Bay State (EJHL), where he amassed 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 45 appearances.

Senior Kurt Wright, one of only four non-rookies on the roster last season, will serve as team captain. While Wright will help to contribute offensively, his leadership will provide the youthful Colonials team with a mature, steadying presence that will be vital in the team’s continued success.

Wayne State University
(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 0)

The Warriors will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 8th when they travel to the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio to face-off against non-conference rival Michigan State in the Lefty McFadden Tournament.

This season the Warriors will once again call the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum home. The arena was the team’s home rink back in the 1999-2000 season. The move will mark the third arena in four seasons that WSU has called home. The Warriors will also host the CHA Tournament in March.

The Warriors come into the season with some high expectations and returning nearly the entire squad intact. The WSU offense, which ranked 22nd in the nation, looks poised to be even better this season. Two players who will lead the Warriors offense are sophomore Stavros Paskaris and junior Jason Bloomingburg. Paskaris enjoyed a sensational freshman season that culminated with the CHA Rookie of the Year honor. He led WSU in scoring with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists). His 33 points led all CHA rookies and tied a CHA record for most points by a freshman. Paskaris also finished seventh in the nation among rookies in points per game (0.94). Bloomingburg finished second on the team with 30 points (20 goals, 10 assists). His 20 goals led WSU and also set a new school record. Five newcomers will be battling the returning players for ice time this season. The most notable is Jon Grabarek. The talented center comes to WSU from the Clark Cup champion Cedar Rapids Roughriders (USHL), where he amassed 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games.

Youth and inexperience were particularly obvious with the WSU defense last season. In 2004-05, the Warriors gave up as many goals per game on average as they scored. With a year of experience under their belts, the Warriors should see improvement from the blueline. WSU return all of their top defensemen led by senior Steve Kovalchik and junior Dan Iliaskis. With the competition becoming increasingly fierce in the conference, WSU will look to get more offensive production out of their defensemen this season. Kovalchik led all Warriors blueliners in goal scoring last season with six. Kovalchik accounted for over half of the goal scoring by the entire team defensive corps. One newcomer well worth watching this season is the rugged Matt Krug. Krug, who is the younger brother of sophomore forward Adam Krug, comes to WSU from the NAHL Champion Texas Tornado. He notched 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists) along with 145 penalty minutes in 56 appearances. Krug adds size to an already imposing defense.

Consistent goaltending will be crucial in WSU’s quest for the CHA crown. Senior Matt Kelly looks to be the likely starter for the Warriors this season. Kelly enjoyed a stellar junior campaign that culminated in his selection to the CHA All-Conference Second Team as well as earning team MVP honors. Kelly posted a 10-10-1 record that included one shutout. His 9.22 save percentage ranked second in the conference and tenth in the nation. Junior Will Hooper, who served as backup will challenge Kelly for the starting job this season. Hooper played in 14 games and posted a 4-7-3 record.

The most pressing issue for WSU coming into the 2005-06 season is special teams, specifically penalty-killing. The Warriors finished last season with the conference’s worst penalty killing efficiency rating at 79.5 percent. Interestingly, as bad as the team penalty killing was, WSU ranked among the top teams in the nation in scoring short-handed goals. WSU’s nine short-handed tallies were tied for third in the nation.

The Warriors power play didn’t fare all that much better, finishing 33rd in the nation and averaged an efficiency rating of just under 17 percent. While the power play did improve from the season before, the Warriors will want to continue to improve that this season.

Copryight 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.