2008-09 College Hockey America Preview
Bemidji State won its third regular season
title, Niagara advanced to the NCAAs for the third time, Wayne
State discontinued its program, and the only commissioner
the league has known, R.H. Peters, retired. Just another year
and offseason in a league that has also seen Findlay and Air
Force also leave within the last four years.
Niagara Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin was
announced as interim league Commissioner and the conference
playoffs were awarded to Bemidji State March 13-14, 2009.
Oh, and the NCAA awarded the fledgling league
another reprieve by granting their request for an auto-bid
for the 2008-09 season.
As for this season, the league is literally
up for grabs.
Playoff champ Niagara not only lost senior captain
Matt Caruana and defenseman Scott Langdon, but watched Les
Reaney (left during the season) and power forward Kyle Rogers
sign pro contracts before their eligibility expired.
Regular season champ Bemidji State lost two
prime minute-munching defensemen in Riley Weselowski and Dave
Deterding along with their four-year starter in goal with
the departure of Matt Climie.
goalie Juliano Pagliero is the most proven netminder in
College Hockey America.
Robert Morris will be re-tooling after having
14 seniors complete their eligibility. But the rebuild will
be helped a bit with the addition of three transfers from
the defunct Wayne State roster in defensemen Matt Krug and
Brock Meadows and forward Chris Kushneriuk.
And Alabama-Huntsville's freshmen have spent
a year in the Danton Cole system and found their legs late
in the season with two of their season total six victories
and a tie over their final six games.
Alabama-Huntsville. After winning
just two games over the first half of the season, the Chargers
were victorious four times and added two ties in the second
half as the young squad began to grasp Cole's system and college
hockey in general. Included were a road win and a tie at Robert
Morris and another road tie at Niagara.
The unit lost just one senior who played significant
minutes in Tyler Hilbert and returns the majority of its offense
including blueliner Brandon Roshko, who was the only defenseman
in Division I to lead his team in scoring.
And the team plays four of their final six regular
season games in front of the largest fan base in the conference.
With the youth of Robert Morris, the Chargers could make things
interesting deciding who plays the first place team in the
first round of the playoffs.
PRIMED FOR A FALL
Robert Morris. As was the case
one year ago with conference mates Wayne State and UAH, the
Colonials lost more than a dozen seniors after last season.
RMU will have only three players returning on defense and
one of those – Jake Obermeyer – didn't play after
January. Warrior transfers Matt Krug and Brock Meadows on
the backline will help take some of the pressure off, but
losing four-year starter Christian Boucher in net leaves Wes
Russell and Jim Patterson as returnees. The two failed to
win a game last year in 16 appearances.
PRESSURE TO PERFORM
Bemidji State Goaltending.
Four year starter Matt Climie has moved on leaving senior
Orlando Alamano, sophomore Matt Dalton and freshman Dan Bakala.
The two returners combined to appear in just eight games with
a 3-8 record and Dalton did not appear in a single conference
game. In addition, without Weselowski and Deterding on the
backline, it will be tough to repeat their best-in-the-conference
39 goals allowed over 20 games.
Defensemen Cody Bostock, Pittsburgh draftee
Chris Peluso and Graham McManamin will be asked to play in
all situations and the newcomers, including Wayne State transfer
Ryan Adams, need to step in right away.
The Beavers have the makings of a great first
line with Matt Read, Tyler Scofield and Travis Winter, but
then it's a long way down last season's scoring chart to who
plays on the second line with Brandon Marino.
TOUGHEST ACT TO FOLLOW
Niagara. After a third trip
to the NCAA tournament, the Purple Eagles will again re-tool
their offense and power play without captain Matt Caruana
and forward Kyle Rogers, who gave up his last year of eligibility
to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
But again the cupboard is far from bare with
All-CHA First Team selection and leading scorer Vince Rocco,
Ted Cook, Chris Moran and Egor Mironov all back from the top
five scorers last year. The four combined for 56 goals and
The Purps also lost just one defenseman in Scott
Langdon, so the backline corps led by Tyler Gotto and Ryan
Annesley in front of senior netminder Juliano Pagliero should
Like many teams, Niagara has two solid forward
lines and the season will hinge on how new and returning players
perform on the third line.
Morris senior Chris Margott is a big point producer for
the Colonials and could shine even brighter this season
following the graduation of Ryan Cruthers.
Chris Margott, Robert Morris.
After scoring 25 goals with 23 assists over his first two
seasons combined, the senior netted 18 goals and 26 assists
last season earning him a spot on the All-CHA second team
(he should have been a first team selection, in this writer's
This year, it's expected that Nathan Longpre
will take Ryan Cruthers' spot on Margott's line with the Colonial
brain-trust hoping the pair can come close to the 63 points
the two put up last season.
Though the Colonials don't have the depth they
enjoyed last season, Margott is used to being the focus of
attention and shouldn't have any trouble repeating his performance
if Longpre continues to progress.
Honorable Mention: Vince Rocco, Niagara
Trevor Lewis, Robert Morris.
He recorded 31 goals and 36 assists last season with the Syracuse
Stars to lead the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Was named
EJHL Player of the Year and EJHL Offensive Player of the Year.
Will get plenty of ice with the departure of so many seniors
and could see time on the second power play unit which will
help his numbers.
Niagara defenseman Dan Sullivan.
The senior appeared in all but one game last season for the
Purps and accomplished the rare feat among blueliners of not
spending a single minute in the penalty box (also done by
Bemidji State's Cody Bostock).
He scored a goal with an assist and was plus-4
in Niagara's CHA semi-final playoff victory over Robert Morris
and was plus-4 over the final four games of the regular season.
And the Scarborough, Ontario native almost tripled his offensive
output from his disappointing sophomore campaign.
Generally on the third pair, he just quietly
and efficiently gets solid position in his own zone. Having
the reliable third pair allows the top two to still have legs
left in the third period.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
1. Everywhere you go, everyone
asks "What's going to happen with the CHA?"
2. Who will be the All-CHA
Second Team goaltender after Pagliero?
3. Will the Beavers keep the
trio of Matt Read, Travis Winter and Tyler Scofield together
on the same line or will they be split up to add offensive
MARK IT DOWN
Seven things you can take to the bank in College Hockey America
• There will be further rumors about Atlantic
Hockey—this time with Robert Morris and
Niagara agreeing to surrender some scholarships over time
• Bemidji's Winter and Read will score
more than the two goals each tallied in non-conference games
a year ago.
• Alabama-Huntsville sophomore goaltender
Wyatt Russell finally plays in a game and there's a free screening
of the movie "Miracle" starring his dad Kurt Russell
as Herb Brooks immediately after the game on the Von Braun
• Robert Morris falls well below the 600
penalty minute mark after Brett Hopfe and Jeff Gilbert among
• UAH wears their Devil-like image third
jersey at Robert Morris for their Halloween night tilt in
• After losing just one defenseman to
graduation, Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero again finds
himself on the national leader board in goals against and
• Niagara and Bemidji State will have
another once-in-a-lifetime event decide one of their four
regular season games – or maybe they'll wait for the
playoffs and really throw the Glas Center fans into a tizzy.
||If you believe the adage that it all
starts with goaltending, the Purps are the only team in
the conference without a question mark.
||Home ice for the playoffs could pay
off if Dalton proves to be the answer in goal.
||As Margott and Longpre go, so go the
Colonials and they will need to score often to win.
||Could challenge for third if one or
more of the forwards can beat out the defensemen in scoring.