Jan 182018
 
Mike Corbett

The Chargers get their last eight regular season home games at home. (UAH Athletics)

John Denver sang, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.” For the Chargers, the Von Braun Center probably does feel like a long lost friend.

The Chargers have completed a stretch of six road series over seven weeks, including a three-week continuous trip from Bemidji, Minnesota, to Fairbanks, Alaska, to Anchorage, Alaska.

UAH finished the grueling 12-game swing with 3-8-1 record, which isn’t great. UAH did finish with wins in the last two series in Alaska, coming out of it in sixth place in the WCHA standings.

The Chargers came home Sunday and took three days off to rest, resuming normal practice on Thursday. This is a bye week before an eight-game home stand to finish the regular season.

The home stand starts Friday, Jan. 26, against Bemidji State.

The bye week is surely welcome, as the Chargers were fighting the injury bug near the end of the trip. Freshman winger Andrew Dodson was out most of the road trip, and sophomore forward Brandon Salerno missed the series at Anchorage.

“We got banged up along the way,” Corbett said. “Physically, we were pretty good towards the end of the road trip, for the guys who were able to play. I think it’s more mental health than anything. We need to get away from each other for a little bit.”

Sophomore winger Jordan Larson returned to action last Friday at Anchorage after missing the first 24 games of the season due to an ankle injury. But he left the second game Saturday with a concussion.

“It was unfortunate for Jordan, because he wasn’t 100 percent by any means conditioning wise, but his ankle felt very good and we were down a forward,” Corbett said. “He was comfortable enough to be able to go out there and play and he had some dynamite scoring chances.”

Then it seemed everyone got sick. Tyler Poulsen missed a couple of games in Alaska. Connor Merkley left after the first period on Saturday in Anchorage.

“I like the resolve of our group because we were able to do that,” Corbett said. “We finished one game with roughly two lines and an extra Saturday against Fairbanks (a 3-1 win), and we were able to get points in that game. We had literally seven forwards to play with in Anchorage on Friday (a 4-2 win).

“I was impressed by our conditioning. I was impressed by our actual energy levels physically coming down the stretch in that last week of the road trip.”

So the Chargers will get a chance to heal, and they may get an extra boost when they take the ice against Bemidji with the return of senior captain Max McHugh. McHugh also hasn’t suited up this season because of an injury, but he was scheduled to join the optional skate on Wednesday. Corbett is optimistic that he’ll be able to help down the stretch.

While the Chargers do get the rest of the regular season at home with four series in five weeks, it won’t be easy.  All four opponents are in the top four of the WCHA standings: Bemidji State (4th), Northern Michigan (2nd), Minnesota State (1st), and Bowling Green (3rd). The Chargers faced those four opponents on the road before going to Alaska, going 1-6-1.

“The goal is to get as many guys as healthy as possible,” Corbett said. “These are going to be well-earned points. These are teams that have come into our building and done well, so we have to be as prepared as we can. We don’t want to have it come down to that last weekend against Bowling Green.

“We played well in our past stretch at home (3-2-1 back in November), so we’d like to feel we’re coming into our friendly confines, and what better challenge is there than to play the top teams in the league to be able to solidify your playoff position.”

Goaltending has been solid for UAH, even when the scoring has been inconsistent. Jordan Uhelski has been in goal for all eight wins this season, but freshman backup Mark Sinclair has been making strides even if his statistics don’t bear it out.

“As much as Mark’s record and his numbers don’t look great, he’s played well,” Corbett said. “He deserved a better fate on Friday in Fairbanks (3-2 loss).”

“I have no qualms with our goaltending. Obviously, Jordan’s our go-to guy right now. Jordan has kept us in games and he’s given us a chance to win every night, and that’s all we can ask. Some nights we’re scoring, and some night’s we’re not.

“Our biggest thing right now is we’ve got to finish. In Fairbanks, we don’t finish on Friday, and we do on Saturday. We played a better game on Friday than we did on Saturday, but we finished on Saturday.”

Kestner for Hobey: For the second straight year, Josh Kestner is on the initial list of Hobey Baker Award nominees. Fan voting has begun on Facebook.

Kestner is 13th in Division I in goals per game (0.62). He is tied for 10th in power play goals with six. Overall, he has 16 goals this season, already the most by a Charger in 11 years. Fourteen have come in WCHA play, tops in the league.

“Josh has taken steps every year,” Corbett said. “As much as people see, what they have to understand is Josh has taken off more off the ice, physically in the weight room and things like that. He’s matured that way off the ice and it’s shown on the ice.

“He’s at the top of everybody’s scouting report, the guy that people are trying to stop. The biggest key for an offensive player and a guy like Josh who is a shooter is to be able to find ways to get open, to put himself in position where he’s going to get a shot off and put the puck where he wants to put it. He’s learned to move well without the puck.”

“He has to have a good stretch, not only for himself, but for our team. He’s a guy we’re going to rely on, but we’re also going to need some other guys to chip in from an offensive standpoint.”

Overtime talks: The Wisconsin State Journal last week reported that a standard overtime format across all conference is being debated. However, there is no consensus.

Currently, all NCAA games have a 5-on-5 sudden death overtime period if it is tied after regulation. If neither team scores, the result is a tie.

In the western leagues (WCHA, Big Ten, NCHC), games continue to determine which team gets an extra point in the league standings, even though the game is still officially a tie. The WCHA and NCHC play five minutes of 3-on-3 and, if needed, a sudden-death shootout. The Big Ten uses a three-round shootout only.

The eastern leagues (Hockey East, ECAC, Atlantic Hockey) do nothing: When 5-on-5 overtime ends, they go home.

Corbett, who is on the Division I championships committee, said overtime was a topic of discussion over the summer. The NCAA tournament field is based on the Pairwise rankings. A component of the Pairwise is the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which basically “shuts off” once the 5-on-5 overtime period is over.

Corbett said there is concern among college coaches should the NCAA adopt the NHL system, which uses a 3-on-3 overtime right after regulation. “I think college coaches are afraid that then all of a sudden they’re going to turn the RPI back on on the five minutes of 3-on-3. And they don’t want RPI points being given from a gimmick.”

This is the second year the WCHA adopted the three-point conference game system with an additional 3-on-3 overtime and shootout, and Corbett says it is good.

“It’s a little bit about the fan experience when it comes with 3-on-3 and the shootout. I like it. You know you’re getting points, it’s a little strategic and makes you work harder as a coach, thinking a bit more about who you’re putting out there. And you’re going to see that it’s going to make a difference at the end of the year.”

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Jan. 19
* Bemidji State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
* Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska Anchorage at #17 Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 20
* Bemidji State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
* Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska Anchorage at #17 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
#9 Minnesota State at #3 St. Cloud State, 5:07 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 23
#14 Minnesota Duluth at #9 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Jan 142018
 

The Chargers scored in the first minute, but couldn’t muster much afterward in a 2-1 loss at Alaska Anchorage on Saturday.

The disappointing loss finished off a long road trip for UAH (8-16-2 overall, 7-11-2 WCHA). The Chargers went 2-4-0 in the continuous Bemidji-Fairbanks-Anchroage trip, and 3-8-1 in the 12-game stretch on the road.

Alaska Anchorage earned just its second win of the season and broke a 9-game losing streak.

UAH had won back-to-back games after a 4-2 victory Friday in the series opener.

The Chargers will have next week off before playing at the Von Braun Center for the first time in two months against Bemidji State (Jan. 26-27).

UAH pounced on a turnover in the UAA zone to take a lead just 48 seconds in. Tyler Poulsen got the steal, fed the puck to Brennan Saulnier, who found Connor Merkley in the slot, and Merkley scored his second goal of the season.

It was a team-leading 12th assist for Poulsen, and the sixth helper for Saulnier.

The Chargers had a 8-2 shots advantage at one point, but the Seawolves asserted themselves and started making life difficult for UAH goaltender Jordan Uhelski. UAA outshout UAH 13-2 the rest of the first period, and at 12:43 tied the game as Alex Jackstadt poked the puck through a pileup in front of Uhelski.

The second period had a lot of hard hits, and the worst may have been on UAH sophomore winger Jordan Larson, who had just made his season debut Friday after a preseason injury kept him sidelined.

During a 2-on-1, Larson’s backhand shot went wide, and he was soon hit high by UAA defenseman Aaron McPheters. Larson was slow to get up, but eventually made it back to the bench. A few minutes later, however, Larson had to be escorted off the ice and to the locker room with his head down.

Late in the second, Hans Gorowsky received an elbow to the face by UAA’s Corey Renwick, who would get a major penalty. Gorowsky was shaken, but skated to the bench on his own power.

UAH couldn’t score on the major power play that bled into the third period, nor could the Chargers score on another major power play after David Trinkberger cross-checked Saulnier. Somehow Saulnier got an embellishment penalty, which shortened the power play by two minutes.

Anchorage killed the penalties unscathed, and with 10:19 to go, took its first lead of the series when Trey deGraaf’s second attempt got over Uhelski’s pad.

The Seawolves withstood the Chargers’ final barrage on shots on UAA senior goaltender Olivier Mantha, who stopped all 12 UAH shots in the third period.

Shots for the game were tied 29-29. Uhelski finished with 27 saves.

Jan 132018
 

Levi Wunder’s goal with 2:55 to go was the game-winner as the Chargers grinded a 4-2 win at Alaska Anchorage on Friday.

The second line of Wunder, Hans Gorowsky, and Josh Kestner was the spark of the offense for UAH (8-15-2 overall, 7-10-2 WCHA), which has won back-to-back games.

BOX SCORE

Wunder had a goal and an assist, Gorowsky had a goal and an assist, and Kestner had two assists before his empty-net goal, his 16th of the season, in the final second.

Alaska Anchorage (1-16-4 overall, 1-11-3 WCHA) has lost nine straight.

 

UAH scored first at the 3:54 mark. Kestner found Levi Wunder wide open driving down the left wing. Wunder centered the puck to Hans Gorowsky, who had an easy third goal of the season. It was the fifth assist of the season for both Wunder and Kestner.

UAH took a 2-0 lead on a two-man advantage early in the second. Brennan Saulnier whipped a nasty shot from the high slot, hitting the bottom of the crossbar at 4:14. Kurt Gosselin got his sixth assist, and Cam Knight his 10th.

Like UAH’s last game in Fairbanks, that 2-0 lead did not last long as UAA got on the board 1:19 later. The rest of the Charger power play was killed via a hooking penalty, and on the resulting power play for Anchorage, Austin Azurdia cut it to 2-1 as a puck came to him in front of a wide open net after UAH’s Jordan Uhelski made a save on Tad Kozun.

Anchorage tied the game at 2-2 just before the halfway point of the third period. Brandon Switzer prevented a UAA icing, then found Nicolas Erb-Ekholm all alone in front of the UAH net. Erb-Ekholm beat Uhelski high.

Then came Wunder’s game-winning goal, the second for the freshman. Kestner passed the puck ahead to Gorowsky on the left of Mantha. Gorowsky’s shot was saved, but the rebound went right to Wunder, who put it away.

UAA pulled Mantha for the extra attacker in the final minute, and Kestner scored unassisted with :00.2 left.

Uhelski had 18 saves in the win.

UAH shotout UAA 25-20 in the power-play-filled game. UAH had eight opportunities and UAA had six.

The series finale — and the final road game of UAH’s 12-game road swing and the regular season — is Saturday night at 10:07 p.m. Central.

Notes: Kestner now has 22 points on the season, giving him back-to-back seasons of 20 points or more. … Jordan Larson made his season debut, coming back from a preseason injury.

Jan 112018
 

Where: Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska
When: Friday, 10:07 p.m.; Saturday, 10:07 p.m. (CST)
Watch: WCHA.tv
Team stats: UAH | Alaska Anchorage

Charger update: UAH (7-15-2 overall, 6-10-2 WCHA) split the series at Alaska Fairbanks last week, losing 3-2 and winning 3-1. The victory snapped a six-game losing streak.

In the first game, Kurt Gosselin scored his fourth goal of the season and Austin Beaulieu tallied his first, but the Nanooks broke a 2-2 tie with a goal with 55 seconds remaining to prevent Mark Sinclair (21 saves) from getting his first win in his fifth start.

In the finale, Josh Kestner notched his team-leading 15th goal (2nd in the WCHA) and Beaulieu scored again to give UAH a 2-0 lead. Christian Rajic’s empty-net goal with 43 seconds to go sealed the win.

Jordan Uhelski made 35 saves on Saturday, raising his overall save percentage to .911, the second-best in the WCHA this season.

Kestner leads the WCHA for goals in conference play with 13.

The Chargers are in sixth place in the WCHA standings with 21 points, seven points behind fifth-place Michigan Tech.

This is UAH’s last road series of the regular season. The Chargers will have its last four series at home, starting with Bemidji State coming to the VBC on Jan. 26-27.

Players to watch:
Josh Kestner (Sr., F, 15 goals-4 assists-19 points in 24 games played)
Tyler Poulsen (Jr., F, 5-11-16 in 22 GP)
Brennan Saulnier (Sr., F, 7-5-12 in 22 GP)
Christian Rajic (Fr., F, 8-4-12 in 24 GP)
Kurt Gosselin (Jr., D, 4-5-9 in 24 GP)
Jordan Uhelski (Sr., G, 2.90 goals against average, .911 save percentage in 19 starts)

About the Seawolves: Alaska Anchorage (1-15-4 overall, 1-10-3 WCHA) has lost eight games in a row and is winless in its last 12. The Seawolves’ lone victory came Nov. 4 at Lake Superior State.

Last week, UAA lost 5-2 and 4-1 to WCHA-leader and seventh-ranked Minnesota State at home. The Seawolves are in last place in the WCHA, 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

Senior goaltender Olivier Mantha has started all 20 games for the Seawolves this season, posting a 3.43 goals against average and .907 save percentage.

Players to watch:
Austin Azurdia (Sr., F, 8-5-13 in 20 GP)
Tad Kozun (Sr., F, 4-7-11 in 20 GP)
Jonah Renouf (Jr., F, 2-8-10 in 15 GP)
Olivier Mantha (Sr., G, 3.43 GAA, .907 SV% in 20 starts)

UAH Tale of the tape
(per game averages)
Alaska Anchorage
7-15-2 Overall record 1-15-4
6-10-2 WCHA record 1-10-3
2.50 (7th) Goals 1.71 (10th)
3.11 (7th) Goals allowed 3.64 (10th)
16.2 (2nd) Penalty minutes 14.4 (4th)
17.6% (5th) Power play 13.2% (9th)
82.6% (6th) Penalty kill 67.2% (10th)
WCHA rank in parentheses, conference games only

 

Series notes: Alaska Anchorage leads the all-time series 20-8-3, but UAH is 6-2-2 in the last 10 meetings. This includes UAH getting a 5-1 win and a 3-3 tie in Huntsville back in November. UAH is 3-14-0 all-time in Anchorage, but those three wins have come in the last four games there.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Jan. 12
* UAH at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
* Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
* #14 Bowling Green at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
* #8 Minnesota State at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
#7 North Dakota at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 13
* UAH at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
* Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
* #14 Bowling Green at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
* #8 Minnesota State at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at #7 North Dakota, 7:07 p.m.

Jan 102018
 

By Asher Kitchings

Ben Allen

Ben Allen will be joining the Chargers next season.

Two members of UAH’s 2018-2019 freshmen class were on the move this past week in trades that were likely perpetuated to give both players more ice time in their final seasons of junior hockey.

Ben Allen (Allen, Tex.), a 1997-born forward who had been with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, returned to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he played last season. The Vees had 10 — yes, TEN — forwards committed to NCAA D-I hockey programs alone, so it’s no surprise that ice time was hard to come by.

Allen, who had four goals and seven assists with Penticton, will now be on a playoff-bound Melfort Mustangs squad where he’ll be counted on to play top-six minutes and put up points.

Bauer Neudecker (St. Louis Park, Minn.), the aptly named former Mr. Hockey candidate from hockey-mad Minnesota, was traded from the team that drafted him this past May, the Dubuque Fighting Saints, to the Sioux City Musketeers.

The trade is already paying dividends as Neudecker scored a goal, his first of the season, in his first game as a Musketeer in the U.S.’s top junior circuit, the USHL.

Expect these two future Chargers to see a spike in productivity with increased roles on their new squads.