Dec 202014
 

The announcers on NCHC.tv for #12 Nebraska-Omaha (11-4-2, 6-3-1 NCHC) regularly lamented that the homestanding Mavericks were “letting the Chargers stay in this game”, a remark that kinda irked me on Twitter:

 

But the only way that UAH (3-14-2, 2-10-0 WCHA) are only going to garner national respect when they win these kinds of games.  Unfortunately for the Chargers, keeping an even shots-on-goal differential (31 for UNO, 25 for UAH) didn’t translate into a lot of Grade A chances.  As such, the lone UAH goal came off of the stick of senior forward Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hill, Ont.) with just :11 remaining in regulation, cutting UNO’s final margin to 2-1 and denying sophomore goaltender Kirk Thompson (Surrey, B.C.), who made 24 saves to pull up to move to 2-1-0 on the season.

The Chargers outshot the Mavs 10-9 in the first period, but it was a late power-play goal at 18:56 that put the home squad up 1-0 heading into intermission.  :17 into sophomore forward Matt Salhany‘s (Warwick, R.I.) hooking penalty, Maverick junior defenseman Brian Cooper (Anchorage, Alaska) potted a goal on the nation’s #1 special teams unit.  Cooper’s fourth goal of the season was assisted by freshman forward Tyler Vesel (Rochester, Minn.) and freshman forward Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids, Minn.).

The second period was fairly quiet — as was the whole game, really.  UNO had a speed advantage, but time and again, the recovering UAH defensemen would push the forecheckers wide and deflect shots and passes into the corner.  This is evident in the stats for UAH sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.), who made 29 saves in an effort that dropped him to 3-8-1 on the season.

UNO sophomore forward Justin Parizek (Lakeville, Minn.) scored his eighth goal of the season just :13 after freshman defenseman Brandon Parker‘s (Faribault, Minn.) slashing penalty ended, as the Mavs had the Chargers scrambling to return to their standard set.  Vesel notched his second assist of the night on the game-winner.

While UAH kept working to the end, the only reward was Vanderlugt’s goal, which was assisted by freshman defenseman Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.).

There were plenty of things to like tonight:

  • The SOG differential was far more even than I expected, given UNO’s talent level.  That was a very workmanlike effort for the Chargers.
  • Mike Corbett definitely has his shutdown line in senior forward Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.), senior forward Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.), and sophomore forward Brent Fletcher (New Westminster, British Columbia).  I think that Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson is still complaining about the Bulldog Line’s harassment of his top line; UNO coach Dean Blais probably feels the same way.  There were a couple of shifts tonight where Pierce was an absolute wild man, seemingly every where at once and using his body to full effect.  Make no mistake: those guys really, really give a crap.
  • Carmine looked very good in net — the game-winner was a slapshot glove/short side that ricocheted in off of the post.  Will he start tomorrow night?  My guess would be that sophomore goaltender Matt Larose (Nanaimo, British Columbia) will get the nod to keep him fresh.  UAH plays all five weekends in January, and since it’s reasonable to think that Carmine starts at least seven of those games, you need to keep Larose in the groove.
  • Penalties!  The boys only committed four penalties for eight PIM!  That’s half of the usual total!  Sadly the blazing hot streak of the PK units seems over, but we’ll take the result.
  • There was just a lot of energy all night long, and let’s be honest — it’s the weekend before Christmas.  The boys went to Alaska right after finals.  They couldn’t really go too far afield before going to Nebraska on Thursday.  They want to see their families just as much as any of the rest of us do.  These pre-Christmas games are really, really hard to play, and you have to respect that the boys came out with jump all night long.

The two teams tangle at 5:07 p.m. Central to finish UAH’s 2014 slate.  Michael will take care of you on Sunday night.  Y’all have a great time with friends and family in the last week-plus of the year, no matter how you choose to celebrate it!  UAH hockey is better for your support and interest.

Dec 182014
 

The Chargers’ last series of 2014 is at 12th ranked Nebraska-Omaha this weekend. Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m. Saturday and 5:07 p.m. Sunday.

CATCHING THE GAMES
Times: 7:07 p.m. Sat, 5:07 p.m. Sun
Online video: NCHC.tv (subscription): Sat | Sun
Online audio: KZOT
Live stats: Click here
Twitter: @weloveuahhockey, @uahhockey, @UNO_Hockey

All-time series: Omaha leads 10-2-2 in the series, which dates back to Omaha’s inaugural varsity season of 1997-98. The last meetings were in Omaha in November, 2012, and the Mavericks won 3-2 and 8-0. The last UAH victory came on Nov. 2, 2011, a 3-1 win in Nashville. The other Charger victory was Jan. 29, 2011 in Omaha, 2-1 in overtime.

Chargers recap: UAH (3-13-2 overall, 2-10-0 WCHA) has lost five straight following a two-game sweep at Alaska in Fairbanks.

In the Friday game, Max McHugh put UAH on top in the second period with his fourth goal of the season (and team-leading ninth point), but the Nanooks tied it up just 2:45 later and Tyler Munson scored the game-winner in overtime as Alaska won 2-1. UAH stayed in the game despite being outshot 46-17, thanks to Carmine Guerriero’s 44-save performance.

In the Saturday game, the Nanooks dominated in a 4-0 win. Matt Larose stopped 37 shots as Alaska had another favorable shots on goal disparity, but the Charger penalty kill — which had a streak of 17 straight kills — allowed three power play goals and could not muster much of a threat offensively.

Guerriero is now 10th in the Division I in save percentage at .934.

UAH Tale of the tape
NCAA rank in parentheses
UNO
3-13-2
2-10-0 WCHA
Record 10-4-2
6-3-1 NCHC
1.78 (53rd) Goals/game 3.19 (T19th)
3.22 (47th) Goals allowed/game 2.44 (T24th)
16.4 (6th) Pen. minutes/game 12.4 (24th)
17.0% (29th) Power play 15.9% (34th)
84.6% (25th) Penalty kill 86.2% (T20th)

About the Mavericks: Omaha (10-4-2 overall, 6-3-1 NCHC) is ranked 12th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Last week, they swept No. 12 St. Cloud State at home by scores of 3-2 and 5-3 to extend their winning streak to three games. At 20 points, the Mavericks are in third place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, one point behind co-leaders Miami and Minnesota-Duluth.

Sophomore right wing Austin Ortega leads UNO in goals (9) and points (18) this season. He leads the team by far in shots on goal (63), and six of his nine goals are game-winners. Sophomore left wing Jake Guentzel is on Ortega’s line, and has 16 points with 11 assists.

Freshman Jack Randolph leads Omaha in assists with 13, sitting on a line with sophomore Justin Parizek, who has seven goals.

Senior Ryan Massa is the Mavericks’ top goaltender, sporting a 2.06 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Michigan Tech 10-2-0 20
Minnesota State 10-2-0 20
Bowling Green 8-1-1 17
Ferris State 6-4-0 12
Northern Michigan 5-5-2 12
Alaska 5-7-0 10
Bemidji State 3-6-3 9
Lake Superior State 3-11-0 6
Alaska-Anchorage 2-6-2 6
Alabama-Huntsville 2-10-0 4

Around the WCHA: UAH is the only WCHA team in action this weekend, and UAH-UNO is the only regulation game in NCAA hockey. The Chargers are off next weekend, while most of the league’s Michigan schools are in holiday tournament play, notably the Great Lakes Invitational.

Here’s the schedule for league teams the next two weeks. All times are Central. Games involving WCHA teams at home can be seen online on WCHA TV.

Saturday, December 20

UAH at #12 Omaha, 7:07 p.m.

Sunday, December 21

UAH at #12 Omaha, 5:07 p.m.

Sunday, December 28

Michigan Tech vs. Michigan, 2:30 p.m. (Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit)
Ferris State vs. Michigan State, 6 p.m. (Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit)
Lake Superior State vs. Cornell, 6:30 p.m. (Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.)

Monday, December 29

Great Lakes Invitational 3rd place game, 2:30 p.m.
Great Lakes Invitational championship, 6 p.m.
Lake Superior State vs. Miami or Notre Dame, 3 or 6:30 p.m. (Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.)

Dec 162014
 

UAH’s second season in the WCHA is almost half over, and I’ll join USCHO’s Jack Hittinger, who has told everyone what he’s learned so far.  After this weekend’s non-conference tilts with UNO, UAH’s remaining Division I games are against WCHA foes.  UAH is 2-10-0 in its first 12 conference games, a record that ties last season’s conference win total.  If the goal was “be better this year than last year”, UAH has succeeded.

The 2014-15 WCHA looks like it has two tiers: the triumvirate of Tech, Mankato, and BG, followed by everyone else.  UAH has played all three of those teams so far, and despite having home advantage in four of those games, UAH went 0-6-0 and was outscored 25-7.  That’s the bad part.  Worse, UAH still has to travel to both Tech (1/30-31) and BG (3/6-7).

The good part is that UAH does not play Mankato again.  Better, UAH’s 18-41 GF-GA differential means that the Chargers are just 11-16 in the remaining six games to this point.  Better still, with 16 league games left, the Chargers have 12 more cracks at the non-elite teams.

Yes, the playoffs are still very much in play, especially with Alaska being ineligible.

When I look at the league, it’s something like the following:

1a-1b Tech-Mankato

3 (close to the #1s) BG

4 Motte State University (and there’s a big gap to here)

5 Northern Dahlströhm University

6 Rodent State

Alaska

7 Anchorage (and there’s a bit of a gap to here)

8 UAH (and a bit of a gap to here, to be honest)

9 LSSU

Yes, I have the Lakers behind the Chargers.  The teams split in Huntsville, and the UAH loss was marred by two major penalties that kept the Chargers from having much in the way of even-strength play.  The next night, the boys poured it on and won going away in the first home win in some time.  While you can argue that UAH benefits from home ice advantage in a way that only the Alaska teams do, the matter is that UAH could and should have won both contests.

The Lakers have played two more league contests and are 3-11-0.  UAH could easily split any of their 12 contests against non-powers and be even.  Worse still for the Lakers, they play at Mankato, at BG, and at Alaska for their big road trips the rest of the season.  They have a shorter trek to Marquette for a weekend with the Wildcats and home contests with Bemidji, us, and Ferris.  That is not an easy slate.  UAH has four home weekends left, all of them with winnable games; LSSU has just three.  The teams each play two elite teams on the road, but the Lakers also have that trek to Fairbanks.

With Alaska’s woes, UAH’s road to the playoff runs right through the Soo, where the two will tangle on Valentine’s Day weekend.

With Mathias Dahlströhm banged up in Marquette, the Wildcats fall behind Ferris in my rankings.  Both teams are powered by their goaltending.  The Wildcats’ one bad weekend — 10 GA against the Falcons — came when Dahlstrohm wasn’t healthy; in their other 16 league contests, they conceded just 16 goals.  While UAH picked up a split in Big Rapids, the Chargers’ 3-2 win counts for 21% of the goals the Bulldogs have allowed in league play.  The Chargers have also played a non-conference series with the Wildcats, tying 1-1 and losing 4-1.  In short, the Chargers have a puncher’s chance against both teams, and they get six more cracks at them, four of those in Huntsville.  Figure that UAH could take two of those, and you have UAH up to eight league points.

The Chargers’ six remaining WCHA contests feature the teams in the middle of the remainder of the pack.  The two Alaska schools come to Huntsville, while the Chargers return to the scene of the crime in Brrrrmidji.  While the Chargers were stout on Friday night, Saturday night in Fairbanks just wasn’t any fun.  A one-goal weekend just won’t cut it, but the boys have also had just one off weekend all season, with finals superseding hockey for the weekend prior to the longest road trip in the WCHA.

It’s hard to know what to make of the Seawolves.  After a very strong start to the season, they took care of business against the Lakers at home; fought gamely against the Huskies in Houghton; got creamed against the Bulldogs in Big Rapids, letting the home side nearly double their season goals output; and split with Northern and Bemidji (two ties) at home to end their season.  When they come to town, the green and gold will have not played competitive hockey for a month.

Then there are the buck-teeth rodents.  They’ve had the sixth-toughest schedule in Division I so far, with (all rankings at-the-time) #2 North Dakota (home-and-home split, each road team winning), #1 Minnesota (swept in MSP), #16 Alaska (home sweep), #13 Minnesota State (swept in Mankato), #5 Michigan Tech (swept in Bemidji), #18 Bowling Green (swept in Ohio), #16 St. Cloud (home split), two ties at Anchorage, and a home split with a Northern Michigan team that had just fallen out of the rankings and didn’t have Dahlströhm.   That’s a tough row to hoe.

UAH is lucky in that they’ll face the Beavs after the home team will have had a month away from competitive hockey and a weekend after the Chargers face the Seawolves at home.  While it would be better if Bemidji had some bus legs to go with the rust, we can hope that the rust is enough.  Neither squad seems likely to give an inch in a rivalry that is being reborn.

Michael and I talked before the season, and we figured that the Chargers could win 6-8 games this year, with the real step forward coming next season.  That looks to be the case.  UAH can conceivably win one or two of the first four league games coming out of the break, one or two of the remaining four against NMU, a split in the Soo, and one or two of the four at home against Ferris and Alaska.  That puts the Chargers at anywhere between six and nine wins, and that should be good enough to make the playoffs, especially given the Lakers’ remaining schedule.  They will need home splits every weekend and a split in their series with Northern to stay apace, but this is a team that’s already lost 17 games this season.  Laker fans, we know the pain you’re having.  Stay the course.

You may say, “What difference do the playoffs have?  We’re just going to play Mankato or Tech, and they’ve destroyed us.”  But I say that playing in the postseason is good experience for the boys.  Win-or-go-home is a great way to play, and those are the kinds of experiences that they’ll need in 15-16 and 16-17 when we’re looking to build on the season and hopefully make the NCAAs.  (You laugh, but would you have expected the 2006-07 or 2009-10 teams to do that?)

UAH has exceeded six wins just once since Doug Ross retired in 2007, when UAH won 12 games in a season powered by Cam Talbot.  Cam’s major stats that year were 2.61 GAA and .925 SV%.  Sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.) is 2.44 and .934.  Folks, we’re just not that far away.  It starts with putting more shots on the net, cutting the penalties, and continuing to play strongly on special teams.

Let’s end with a song that’s appropriate for a blue-collar hockey team.

Dec 142014
 

After a heartbreaking loss on Friday, the Chargers did not have much for the Alaska Nanooks on Saturday night. And it didn’t help that their much improved penalty kill cooled off at the wrong time.

Alaska rolled to a 4-0 victory over UAH (3-13-2 overall, 2-10 WCHA) to complete a two-game sweep. The Nanooks (10-8 overall, 5-7 WCHA) used three power play goals and a 41-14 shots advantage to take the game from start to finish.

UAH, which lost 2-1 in overtime on Friday night, dug a hole for itself in the first period with two goals 1:47 apart.

First, after a Cody Marooney tripping penalty, Nolan Huysmans put in a rebound past Matt Larose on the ensuing power play to give Alaska a 1-0 lead. The goal at the 6:01 mark broke a streak of 17 straight penalties killed by the Chargers.

Then at 7:48, Tyler Morley notched his sixth goal of the season, beating Larose with a backhander and giving the Nanooks a 2-0 advantage through one period.

UAH had a chance to cut Alaska’s lead after Brennan Saulnier’s rush out of the penalty box was denied by goaltender Davis Jones, who had his third shutout of the season with 14 saves. But it was all Nanooks after that.

The critical juncture came at 6:36 of the second, when Saulnier made contact to the head on Alaska’s Kyle Froese, drawing a five-minute major and a game misconduct. It was Saulnier’s fifth major penalty of the season, and his second game misconduct call for contact to the head.

Alaska took advantage to extend its lead to three, as Josh Atkinson’s one-timer from the right circle found space behind the net.

The Nanooks rode the power plays and the momentum to a 17-3 shots on goal lead in the second period. Ten of those shots were on the power play.

More penalties kept the Chargers from mounting any sort of rally in the third period. Meanwhile, Alaska tallied a third power play goal by Marcus Basara at 8:46, giving the Nanooks a 4-0 lead.

Larose made 37 saves on 41 Alaska shots to spell Carmine Guerriero, who was peppered with 46 shots in Friday’s game. Larose has made 32 or more saves in all seven of his starts this season.

The Nanooks had a total of 87 shots on goal for the series.

The Chargers have lost five straight heading into a non-conference series next Saturday and Sunday at Nebraska-Omaha.

Dec 132014
 

Box score

In the end, you thank Carmine Guerriero for even making the situation possible. But in the end, it’s still a painful loss for the Chargers.

Tyler Munson’s goal with 3:37 left in overtime gave Alaska a 2-1 win over the Chargers on Friday night at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Alaska outshot UAH by a 46-17 margin. Guerriero stopped 44 of those shots, but couldn’t make a 45th as Munson, finding the puck all alone and crossing in front of Guerriero, was able to tuck it past him and he couldn’t poke it away.

Last season, the Nanooks won both games in Fairbanks against the Chargers by 6-1 scores, with similar advantages in shots on goal. This time, Guerriero was the difference, making all the critical saves — including two on an Alaska two-on-none break late — to keep UAH within sight of a fourth win of the season.

Alaska fired away early and often, putting 11 shots on goal to the Chargers’ three. Guerriero’s biggest save came with about six minutes left in the period, when the puck was all alone in the slot and Guerriero out of position. The ever-scary Tyler Morley, who was tied for third in the WCHA with 16 points coming into the night, pounced with a one-timer, but Guerriero got back to keep the game scoreless.

UAH’s best chance of the first came on a steal by Brennan Saulnier in the Alaska zone, but he was denied by defenseman Josh Atkinson backing up goaltender Davis Jones.

Alaska’s possession dominance continued into the second, as the Nanooks peppered Guerriero with the first seven shots on goal in the frame.

But it was actually the Chargers who struck first. Cody Champagne’s drive from just inside the blue line found Chad Brears in front of the Nanook net, then Max McHugh, who redirected it past Jones to give UAH a 1-0 lead with 10:52 left in the second. It was McHugh’s fourth goal of the season.

It would be UAH’s only shot on goal of the second for a while, and Alaska eventually found a way to find the net. Alec Hajdukovic, on a rush on the right side, beat Guerriero on a shot high and glove side to tie the game at 1-1 with 8:07 left in the second. Nolan Kaiser and Trevor Campbell got the assists.

Matt Salhany had a chance with a shorthanded break and Regan Soquila had a left wing drive, but Jones prevented the Chargers from retaking the lead.

So after two periods, Alaska had a 25-8 shots on goal advantage, but it was a tie game.

Even though Alaska would outshoot UAH 17-9 in the third, it seemed like a more balanced period.

With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Cody Marooney failed to beat Jones on a 2-on-1 with Matt Salhany — the best chance the Chargers have to steal the victory.

Then came the two-on-none Alaska breakaway. Guerriero stopped Brandon Morley’s first shot, then robbed Marcus Basara on the rebound with 3:23 left in regulation.

The Chargers and Nanooks face off again Saturday at 10 p.m. Central Time/7 p.m. Alaska.

Notes: Guerriero has made 30 or more saves for the ninth time in 11 starts. … The Chargers have lost seven straight in the all time series with Alaska. … UAH’s last overtime loss was Feb. 3, 2012, a 4-3 decision at Maine.