CHA tournament wide open

It's not too often when every team in a league can go into a postseason tournament will a realistic expectation to come out the winner. But that the exact situation for the upcoming College Hockey America Tournament, set to begin today in Des Moi...

It's not too often when every team in a league can go into a postseason tournament will a realistic expectation to come out the winner.

But that the exact situation for the upcoming College Hockey America Tournament, set to begin today in Des Moines, Iowa. Tournament play begins tonight as fourth seed Wayne State University takes on Alabama-Huntsville in a 7 p.m. play in game. The winner will advance to face top seed and regular season league champion Niagara at 2 p.m. Saturday. Second seed Bemidji State will square off against third seed Robert Morris in a 7 p.m. start Saturday.

The championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.

Talk about parity, this was the closest finish ever in the history of the CHA has the top four teams were separated by only six points. None of the five teams in the league won 50 percent of their league games, with the top three teams each winning nine, Wayne State eight and UAH seven over the 20 game schedule.

"Just look at how close the teams were in terms of points," said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. "And then, the fourth and fifth place finishers come in as the hottest teams. This is really anybody's tournament."


A look at the teams:


Regular season: 18-12-6, 9-5-6 CHA (first)

The Purple Eagles claimed their second consecutive regular season CHA title, edging BSU by the slimmest of margins (24 points to 23).

Niagara seemed to have a hammer lock on the league title with three weeks to go but slipped down the stretch, finishing 1-2-3 in its last six games. The Purple Eagles clinched the league title with a 2-2 OT tie at Alabama-Huntsville Saturday, after being defeated 3-1 the night before.

Talent laden Niagara dominated the post season awards. Senior forward Sean Bentivoglio was named the CHA Player of the year, freshman Chris Moran was named Rookie of the year and head coach Dave Burkholder was named Coach of the year.

Teammates joining Bentivoglio on the All-CHA First team were sophomore forward Ted Cook and senior defender Pat Oliveto, while sophomore forward Les Reaney and sophomore goalie Juliano Pagliero were All-CHA second team selections. Joining Moran on the CHA All-Rookie team was defender Tyler Grotto.

Cook (20-6--26), Bentivoglio (4-21--25) and Reaney (9-15--24) finished 1-2-3 in league scoring. Cook was the first player in CHA history to lead the nation in goals with 32. He also had a nation high 21 power play goals.


Niagara won the team scoring title, averaging 3.5 goals per game, while finishing second in team defense by allowing 3.1 goals per game.

Pagliero ended third among league goalies in goals against average (2.93), first in save percentage (.918) and second in winning percentage with a record of 7-5-3 (.567).

"Niagara has the most talent on offense in the league," Serratore reported. "They have the most dangerous power play. If those areas of their game are on, look out."

Bemidji State

Record: 14-13-5, 9-6-5 CHA (second)

The two time defending CHA Tournament champions, the Beavers enter the tournament looking to end a late season slide of their own. BSU went 1-4-1 in their last six games and 2-4-2 in their last eight.

Still, Serratore believes the Beavers are the team to beat in the tournament.

"With all due respect to the other teams,' he said, "we've won the tournament the last two years. We're still the champions until someone knocks us off. I like our team. I believe we have the best goalie in the league in Matt Climie (unanimous All-CHA first team selection) and a lot of talent both offensively and defensively. I believe we can be a very difficult team to play against."


Beavers leading scorer sophomore Travis Winter joined Climie on the All-CHA first team, while freshman Joey Moggach was named to the All-Rookie team.

BSU had a league year where the team struggled to score, but was buoyed by strong team defense and topnotch goaltending. BSU was last in the league in scoring at 2.8 goals per game, but was first in team defense, allowing just 2.7, The Beavers were also last in power play (14.2 percent), but first on the penalty kill (83.8 percent).

Climie was first in the league in goals against average (2.51) and winning percentage (8-5-5, .583), while finishing second in save percentage (.909).

Robert Morris

Record: 13-18-2, 9-10-1 CHA (third)

It was a break out year for the Colonials who are competing in only their third season at the NCAA DI level. Robert Morris also slipped down the stretch, finishing 0-3-3 their last six, including being swept by Wayne State last weekend.

Robert Morris turned head nationally when the team defeated Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish were ranked second in the nation.

Senior Aaron Clarke, the team's leading scorer, was an All-CHA second team selection.


"Robert Morris is what we call a 'blend' team," Serratore reported. "They play very strong defensively and have a veteran team. But they also have a few guys who can light the lamp. Clarke, Ryan Carruthers and Doug Conley have brought the team to another level this years offensively."

Robert Morris ended second in the league scoring, connecting for 3.35 goals per game.

Junior goaltender Christian Boucher had a sub-par year for the Colonials, ending league play at 6-6-1 with a 3.52 goals against average and .904 save percentage. Boucher has shown the ability in the past, however, to take over a game.

Wayne State

Record: 12-20-2, 8-10-2 CHA (fourth)

It was an up and down for Wayne State. However, the upside has come along at the right time.

Wayne State comes into the tournament as the hottest team in the league, going 5-0-2 down the stretch. Included were a sweep of Robert Morris and a win and tie against Bemidji State and Niagara.

Senior defender was the only All-CHA selectee for WSU, being named to the second team. But forward Jared Katz, defender Jeff Caister and goalie Brett Bothwell were all named to the All-Rookie team.


"This is a team I would just as soon avoid in the tournament," Serratore reported. "I really respect the job coach Bill Wilkinson has done by holding the team together after a rough start (3-13-0). Their playing like they were a few years back when they were one of the best teams in the league. They are very difficult to play against."


Record: 10-19-3, 7-11-2 CHA (fifth)

It's said that going into post-season play a team wants players who have been there before. That's the case for Alabama-Huntsville that's a senior laden group that has gone through the wars of CHA Tournament play.

The Chargers have also seemed to pick up their game at the right time of the year, ending 3-2-1, taking two victories and a tie against Niagara and Bemidji State in the process.

"Huntsville is playing well right now," Serratore said. "They have the type of team that leaves and dies with its goaltending. If the goalie is on, they can be tough. If not they can be a little vulnerable."

The Chargers feature a strong senior class, including center Grant Selinger, center DavidNimmo, forward Brent McConnachie, defender Shaun Arvai, forward Steve Canter and defender Mike Salekin.

"This is their last chance to kick the can," Serratore reported. "They will also have an emotional edge in these will be the last games for head coach Doug Ross."


Junior Marc Narduzzi has been the man in net for the Chargers, ending 3-8-2 in league games with an .888 save percentage and 3.5 goals against average.

Arvai was an All-CHA first team selection with Selinger and Salekin named to the second team.

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