Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first hockey championship moment in Huntsville, and perhaps the oddest game-winning goal in Charger history.
On March 5, 1983, the University of Alabama in Huntsville defeated Penn State 5-4 to win the U.S. National Club Ice Hockey Championship in front of 4,234 fans at the Von Braun (Civic) Center.
Bob Quaille’s goal — a trickler down the goalie’s arm and across the line — with two minutes left in the third period broke the tie and set off the first big hockey celebration in the Rocket City. It was the Chargers’ second straight national club championship, the 1982 title earned in Boulder, Colorado.
It also kick-started the legacy of Doug Ross, who was in his first season as UAH head coach after taking over for program founder Joe Ritch.
The 1982-83 season started inauspiciously, with a loss and a tie at Iowa State. UAH then won four straight before falling twice to those pesky Cyclones at home.
The Chargers then reeled off nine straight wins as they started rolling over Central States Collegiate Hockey League competition. Eleven Chargers scored double-figures in goals, led by Brian Kelly’s 38 goals and 80 points, as UAH finished 27-6-2 on the season.
UAH was a perfect 13-0 in conference play, but would lose to Marquette 5-4 in overtime at home in the league championship game.
No matter. UAH was the host of the United States National Club Ice Hockey Tournament. The Chargers easily dispatched their South bracket opponents: 16-2 over Auburn and 7-4 over Arizona. The championship would be against Penn State, which beat Ohio 5-4 and tournament favorite Miami (Ohio) 5-1 in the North bracket.
The Chargers dominated possession the first period thanks to four power play chances leading to a 16-3 shots advantage, but it was Penn State who had the lead after scoring just 1:57 into the game.
The second period saw the offenses crank up. The Nittany Lions made it 2-0 on another early-period goal, but UAH came roaring back to take the lead with three goals in a span of 3:22. Andre Gilbert got the Chargers on the board at 7:17. Kevin Monaco tied the game up at the 9:38, and Bobby MacQuisten broke the tie one minute later.
Things got chippy in the middle of the period, and Penn State took advantage of a two-man power play to tie the game at 3. Quaille, who was second on the team that season with 34 goals and 63 points, regained the lead for the Chargers heading into the third.
With the title on the line, the refs then put the whistles away for most of the final frame. PSU tied the game at 4 at the 11:24 mark, which set the stage for the final drama and Quaille’s winner.
Here’s how longtime UAH fan and eyewitness Terry Long described it:
With little time left in regulation, the Penn State goalie [John Davis] had played an amazing game even though he had surrendered four goals. Then, he gets hit in the chest with a wicked shot that rolls down his left arm, off his glove, onto the ice, across the line, and into the corner of the goal. It was almost in slow motion like in a movie.
No matter how it happened, it still goes down in the box score as the championship-winning goal at 18:00 of the third period.
UAH would win the championship again at the VBCC in 1984, and just miss a fourth straight title in 1985. UAH joined the varsity ranks and the NCAA, winning Division II championships at home in 1996 and 1998. But on that night 30 years ago, Huntsville learned how to host a championship party.
Old-school box score. Special thanks to Joey Daniels and the UAH Sports Information office. For the Penn State perspective, check out this write-up in Thank You Terry.
Penn State 1 2 1 -- 4 UAH 0 4 1 -- 5 First period -- 1, Penn State, Art McQuillan (Nick Pappas, Clark Dexter), 1:57. Penalties -- Clark Dexter, PSU (elbowing), 5:25. Jeff Legay, PSU (high sticking), 11:41. Dave Hornack, PSU (roughing), 13:23. John Holland, PSU (roughing), 13:23. Bobby MacQuisten, UAH (roughing), 13:23. Kevin Mills, UAH (roughing), 13:23. Joe Grainda, PSU (delay of game), 16:06. Glenn DeStefano, PSU (hooking), 19:16. Second period -- 2, Penn State, Joe Grainda (Mike Blackwell), 2:16. 3, UAH, Andre Gilbert (Brian Butcher, Frank Heller), 7:17. 4, UAH, Kevin Monaco (Bob Quaille), 9:38. 5, UAH, Bobby MacQuisten (Brian Kelly, Kevin Mills), 10:38. 6, Penn State, Brad Rush (Norm Jacobs, Clark Dexter), 11:14 (pp). 7, UAH, Bob Quaille (Daniel Dorothy), 14:41 (pp). Penalties -- Craig Whitacre, UAH (holding), 2:48. Bobby MacQuisten, UAH (slashing), 3:33. Will Hereford, UAH (hooking), 10:59. Bob Quaille, UAH (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:59. Art McQuillan, PSU (interference), 12:09. Steve Moerner, UAH (slashing), 12:09. Frank Heller, UAH (roughing), 14:10. Brad Rush, PSU (roughing), 14:10. Daniel Dorothy, UAH (roughing), 16:21. Kevin Mills, UAH (interference), 17:01. Norm Jacobs, UAH (slashing), 18:21. Daniel Dorothy, UAH (hitting from behind), 19:22. Third period -- 8, Penn State, Brad Rush (Norm Jacobs), 11:24 (pp). 9, UAH, Bob Quaille (Daniel Dorothy), 18:00. Penalties -- Andre Gilbert, UAH (hooking), :23. Nick Pappas, PSU (boarding), 7:27. Brian Kelly, UAH (hooking), 9:30. Shots on goal -- Penn State 3-20-11 34. UAH 16-14-9 39. Goalies -- Penn State, John Davis (39 shots, 34 saves). UAH, Steve Moerner (34, 30). Penalties -- Penn State, 10-23. UAH, 13-26. Power plays -- Penn State 2-7, UAH 1-6. A -- 4,324. Referee -- Doug Wilson.