CHA Preview, 2006-07
by Kyle Stefan/CHN Reporter
The CHA has come close to wins in the NCAAs, but now it wants to get one. But its biggest NCAA victory was its very survival, which would not have happened without a waiver to be allowed an automatic NCAA bid while having just five member teams — caused when Air Force skipped out to Atlantic Hockey.
Coach: Tom Serratore
2005-06 Record: 20-14-3 (12-7-1 CHA)
League finish: Tied 2nd (won conference tournament)
NCAAs: lost NCAA first round
Changes: First-team all-CHA defenseman Andrew Martins departs, but the Beavers have signed a seven-member freshman class, including Kyle Hardwick, Chris Peluso and John Vadnasi to shore up the defense. Forwards Tyler Lehrke and Chris McKelvie are the top incoming freshman recruits.
Strength: Luke Erickson (16-19—35) returns after leading the team in scoring and earning All-CHA first team honors last year. Freshman defenseman Cody Bostock (2-6—8, +12) and forward Tyler Scofield (6-19—25) were named to the CHA's all-rookie team last year.
Weakness: The Beavers would like to settle on a starting goaltender after both Layne Sedevie and Matt Climie saw moderate success while sharing playing time last year.
Outlook: With a bevy of returning talent and incoming freshmen, as well as two goalies with starting experience in Sedevie and Climie, the Beavers appear the clear-cut favorite after winning consecutive conference tournament championships. The Beavers, along with Niagara, received votes in preseason polls.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 1st
Coach: Dave Burkholder
2005-06 Record: 20-15-1 (13-6-1 CHA)
League finish: 1st (lost conference tournament final)
Changes: Niagara brings in an 11-member freshmen class including four defensemen. Newcomers Blair Hennes, Trevor Foster, Chris Moran and Ryan Olidis, all forwards, are highly-touted and expected to contribute to an already-potent offense.
Strength: Forwards Ted Cook (20-20—40) and Les Reaney (13-27—40) return after starring as freshmen last year. The duo is expected to lead a potent offense that includes senior Sean Bentivoglio (16-22—38), who was first-team All-CHA last year, and junior Matt Caruana (12-24—36).
Weakness: Niagara will have to replace the co-CHA Player of the Year in goalie Jeff Van Nynatten (19-13, .911 save percentage) with either Scott Mollison or Juliano Pagliero, both of whom played sparingly last year.
Outlook: After dropping a tough game in the CHA tournament final, the Purple Eagles should return motivated with a young and talented group. If the incoming freshman class can gel with a highly-talented group of underclassmen, Niagara could possess the league's most dynamic offense.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 2nd
Coach: Doug Ross
2005-06 Record: 19-13-2 (12-7-1 CHA)
League finish: tied second (lost conference tournament semis)
Changes: The Chargers welcome six incoming freshmen, including three defensemen — Davide Nicoletti, Brandon Roshko and Brennan Barker — left-wingers Cale Tanaka and Kevin Morrison as well as center Tom Train. Three first team All-CHA members graduated, including forward Bruce Mulherin and defenseman Jeremey Schreiber.
Strength: Senior center David Nimmo (9-12—21) returns and will be expected to shoulder more of the scoring load. Alabama-Huntsville was solid at home, going 11-1.
Weakness: The Chargers lost two of their top three scorers and its starting goaltender, co-CHA Player of the Year Scott Munroe. The power play was abysmal, converting at just 16.2 percent. Playing away from home was a different story for Alabama-Huntsville, as the Chargers were 8-11-2.
Outlook: Relying on an inexperienced starting goaltender and freshman in the starting defensive corps might be a forecast of regression for Alabama-Huntsville as the Chargers look to challenge for the league's upper tier.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 3rd
Coach: Bill Wilkinson
2005-06 Record: 6-23-6 (3-12-5 CHA)
League finish: 6th (lost conference tournament first round)
Changes: The Warriors lost their top two points leaders, as Adam Krug left the team and defenseman Steve Kovalchik graduated. Kovalchik was a second-team All-CHA selection last year. The team adds goaltender Brett Bothwell from the Yorkton Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and two freshmen defensemen — 6-foot-2 Jeff Caister and 5-foot-8 Ryan Bernardi — to its 18 returning letterwinners.
Strength: Wayne State returns its top two goal scorers — senior forwards Nate Higgins and Jason Bloomingburg — along with Derek Bachynski (10-8—18), Jason Baclig (6-10—16) and Stavros Paskaris (6-9—15), who all finished in the top six on the team in points last year and should form the core of the Wayne State offense.
Weakness: Neither Will Hoper (2-13-3, .889 save percentage) nor Matt Kelly (4-10-3, 4.33 GAA) was particularly effective in splitting time in goal last year, and only Hoper returns. He will be pushed for the starting position by Bothwell and senior Kevin Bonikowski, who didn't see any playing time last year.
Outlook: A young, inexperienced Warrior squad managed little in the way of offense and took its lumps through the CHA schedule last year. WSU returns 12 of 14 forwards from last year's team and should see an increase in scoring. The non-conference schedule is tough, with games against Minnesota, Cornell, St. Lawrence, Western Michigan and Lake Superior that should prepare the Warriors for their CHA slate.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 4th
Coach: Derek Schooley
2005-06 Record: 12-20-3 (7-11-2 CHA)
League finish: tied 4th (lost conference tournament semis)
Changes: The Colonials welcome three newcomers including two defensemen, Jake Obermeyer and Rob Cowan (6-foot-4, 205), and one forward, Nathan Longpre.
Strength: Chris Margott was named to the CHA's all-rookie team last year. There are 15 juniors on the roster. Schooley believes incumbent goaltender Christian Boucher, a junior, is ready to take the reins as the best goalie in the conference; at least, he returns with the most minutes plaed. "He was an all-star in the Ottawa junior league," Schooley said. "He didn't do well in the playoffs at times, that was his knock. But I've been very, very pleased with how he's been and we need him to be more of a leader now. ... not just a guy who stops the pucks."
Weakness: The overall depth and skill level continues to improve, but those are obvious areas that need shoring up as RMU continues to build the program.
Outlook: The Colonials are playing an ambitious non-league schedule, and Schooley thinks his program is ready, now in its third year.
CHN's Predicted Order of Finish: 5th