1-1 hockey games aren’t much fun to recap: a goal a side, maybe you talk about the goalies, and hopefully there was some crazy end-to-end or something. There’s not a lot to talk about with this one, but I do have three things for you.
The pace felt slow at times, as if the teams would find their fatigue simultaneously. The effort was there, to be sure, but it’s not as if we saw a lot of breakaways or odd-man rushes. It was just an even-set 5×5 hockey game with just ten penalty whistles. The U-18 goal was on the power play in a close-in scramble. [I will note that a potential UAH goal was blown down; the light went on a half-second after the whistle came down, and it was clear that a goal would not be awarded, although not to some disappointed home fans.]
Lasse Uusivirta’s goal was a rifle shot through traffic. It was hard to tell from the other end whether it bounced off of bodies, but kudos to Lasse for letting rip and seeing what happened. I have enjoyed watching his game mature over the last couple of years, and his pairing with Curtis deBruyn has been a fine one this season.
John Griggs was very good tonight. He flashed leather a few times, but his best moves were redirecting shots, solid pad saves denying the bottom of the net, and a couple scrambling combinations to keep the game tied. Well done, sir. 35-of-36 (.972) garnered him a well-deserved first star, as he kept the increased pressure in the third completely choked off.
The boys face John McCabe’s Finlandia team on Friday night at 7 and Saturday afternoon at 3.
On the surface, this was one of those games where you’d say, “Oh well, we competed hard.” That the boys worked hard is certainly true, but this is a night where you’d better not be saying it sarcastically or roll your eyes. This game came down to puck luck and two excellent Husky goals. Unfortunately, it was a one-goal game with an empty-netter tacked on at the end to seal off the doubt.
Even the Northeastern announcers noticed early on that the boys had jump. You never heard “our guys are playing down to their level” or “we’re just not playing that hard” or “we’re letting them stay in this one”. The boys really did make their marks all over this game. The finishes just weren’t there.
Kyle Lysaght scored the Chargers’ lone goal with just 7:01 gone in the first. Lysaght picked the puck up in the slot and pulled off a spin move to get the puck onto his forehand. His rip left Chris Rawlings (24 SV) guessing and gave the boys the lead that they’d hold for more than a period. Alex Allan and Lasse Uusivirta got the assists.
The penalty situation is something that many Charger fans have decried of late, but the ones taken tonight were “good penalties”. Graeme Strukoff took two penalties that likely saved Husky goals, while Uusivirta took a hooking penalty near the net that certainly slowed things a bit. Certainly Coach Kleninendorst would prefer that the guys not put themselves into the position of needing to cancel the advantage with two minutes in the penalty box, but at least the penalties were serviceable.
Gregg Gruehl was a revelation for the Chargers in net. After stopping 20-of-21 on Saturday night in St. Lawrence, he earned Kleinendorst’s confidence and showed up big, stopping 31-of-33—including all 14 in the third, when the Northeastern announcers kept praising his work. The two goals he allowed were difficult saves: a tip-in from his stick side that went between his mask and glove, and a point-blank shot through the five hole on the power play. A third marker on his card was disallowed when a Husky was found to be in his crease, impeding Gruehl’s progress going from right to left.
Gruehl now sports a .944 SV% and a 1.82 GAA. Will he start to eat into Johnny Griggs’s minutes?
The boys played with good pace and intensity for most of the game. Coach Kleinendorst talks about the process and how that will drive wins. If you watched both last night’s game and tonight’s, you’ll see how that process has driven progress, but at 0-9-1, the boys aren’t seeing the results they want.
The Chargers next travel to the Soo to play Lake State on Friday night and Saturday night. That’s a tough week on the boys, who will fly out of Boston on Monday morning, practice and go to classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then leave out that night for the long bus trip to the UP. The end of this road string is in sight! After a weekend series at Omaha right after Thanksgiving, the Chargers return to Huntsville for a couple of weekends.
Today, several members of the 2011-12 Charger hockey team participated in the “Get Your Beer Goggles On” event on campus, which highlights the risks of alcohol consumption followed by attempts to operate a motor vehicle. The beer goggles device provided simulates the limitations of visual acuity caused by blood alcohol levels above the legal limit without endangering students. The event is coordinated and run by campus police.
On to the photos!
Both senior forward Jamie Easton and junior forward Sebastian Geoffrion participated in a field sobriety test with their goggles on.
There is no truth to the rumor that Jamie was better at this because he’s lower to the ground.
Having looked at the goalies, let’s turn our eyes to the young men who help keep pucks away from them in the first place: the defensemen.
Photo credit: Will Nickelson
The Chargers are led by their gritty captain, Ryan Burkholder. As we noted in our rundown of the captains for 2010-11, Ryan has just two assists in three years in the blue and white. What “Burky” may lack in offensive production, he more than makes up for in defensive ability and character. Like Scott Kalinchuk before him, Ryan is a quiet leader of his team, taking players aside to reinforce the coaches’ instructions during practice. I watched the Chargers practice this morning, and one thing that struck me is that Ryan was totally locked in during any instruction from Coach Luongo. His attention didn’t waver a whit, and that focus is definitely shown by his play on the ice. Ryan is also a good student, with a GPA in excess of 3.0, which is no small feat at UAH.
Photo credit: Nick Franklin
Matt Baxter brings a wealth of experience to the ice, serving as one of the team’s alternate captains for this season, his final one in a Charger uniform. Known to his teammates and coaches as “Jim”, Baxter combines size, skating ability, and a strong left-handed slapshot to provide the Chargers with solid blueline play as well as sparking the offense. What I always notice about Jim is that he keeps working. Baxter will be leaned on for his leadership on and off the ice this season, as the Chargers graduated Dave Nicoletti, Brennan Barker, and Brandon Roshko from last year’s defensive corps. As previously noted, Baxter is an excellent student, with a 3.5+ GPA while majoring in psychology and sociology.
Photo credit: Will Nickelson
Tom Durnie has battled to get in the lineup his first two seasons, playing just 38 games in that span. “Durns” will be called upon to step up this season with half of the defensive corps being freshmen. The keys for Durnie are to play within himself and to utilize his reach effectively to disrupt the opposing offense’s flow down low. Tom has all the tools and needs to play consistently; I feel that he will make huge strides this season.
Photo credit: Geof Morris
Curtis deBruyn was a great addition to the Charger defensive corps in 2009-10, playing 32 games and scoring a goal and six assists. deBruyn plays within himself and does the smart thing, which you can see in the box score as he’s taken just 14 PIM in his college career. Despite playing for a 2009-10 team that had a -16 goal differential, deBruyn finished -2 for the season. Selected by his teammates as an alternate captain for this year, what I’ve noticed in watching practice for the last week is that deBruyn is a vocal leader on the ice.
Photo credit: Geof Morris
Lasse Uusivirta is the second Finnish player in as many seasons to come to play his college hockey in Huntsville. Uusivirta means “new stream”, and he promises to bring a scoring touch from the blueline. In 118 games for the Espoo Jr. Blues U20 team, Lasse was 36-41–77 and captained his team last season. Having watched him in practice, I expect Lasse to log plenty of minutes this season, including time on the power play. He seems to have a deft scoring touch from the outside, and I feel like he has a good feel for the game. There are always concerns about how a player will adjust to the speed of the college game, and freshmen will, of course, make freshman mistakes. My gut feeling, though, is that Lasse will be just as important to the team as deBruyn was last season. For the record, you pronounce it “Oo-see-VEER-tuh”—or at least that’s how I’ve heard it from teammates.
Photo credit: pointstreak.com
Mat Hagen is the smallest of the Chargers’ freshman defensemen, listed at 6’0″, 185. From what I’ve seen in practice, Hagen is a good skater with decent hands. He seems to be a bit slow at times to move the puck offensively across the blue line, which will certainly bite him in the college game, but he seems coachable and should learn quickly what he needs to do to be successful at this level. In 62 games played for the Kanata Stallions in 2009-10, Hagen scored three goals and 28 assists, which bodes well for him to be an offensive contributor for the Chargers going forward.
Photo credit: pointstreak.com
Nickolas Gatt comes to Huntsville from the Topeka Roadrunners of the North American Hockey League, where he scored two goals and 14 assists in 54 games. More importantly, Gatt finished +18 on the season, which indicates that he should be a solid addition for the Chargers defense. Listed at 6’3″, looks like he will fill out from his current 195-lb frame as his college career continues. Gatt has made strides in the week of practices I’ve watched, and I expect that he’ll be in the mix for a spot on the Chargers’ third pair.
Trevor Conrad is a big, bruising defenseman, 6’0″-215. He first caught my eye in practice by absolutely creaming Sebastian Geoffrion in the corner. Conrad looks to fill the role of the punishing defender, but he is working on his overall game in practice. As with Hagen and Gatt, Conrad promises to be in the mix defensively this season. All three will get on the ice based on their work in practice, and I’ve seen all of them give a good effort. Oh, and for the hockey fight fans amongst you, Conrad is the man in black …
[Ed.: I had Mat Hagen's height wrong, and also had his incorrect junior team listed for 2009-10. I regret the error. --GFM]