When you watch UAH play Minnesota State, you can see the gap between the programs. The Mavericks are simply faster and more skillful, worthy of being favorites to win the WCHA this season.
Once again, Carmine Guerriero made that gap not seem so big. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough to get UAH a point.
The sophomore goaltender from Montreal put up another 54 saves at Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday, keeping UAH (0-5-0 overall, 0-3-0 WCHA) in the game as long as he could in a 3-1 loss to 13th-ranked Minnesota State (3-2-0, 1-0-0).
Last February in Mankato, Minnesota State put up 65 shots against the Chargers. Guerriero stopped 61 in the 4-0 loss, setting a UAH modern Division I record for saves in a game. That’s 115 saves in two career starts in Mankato.
The Chargers needed every stop to have a chance at an upset.
From the outset, like that game in February, the Mavericks fired and shot and blasted and whatever synonym you want. They had 18 shots on goal in the first, 19 in the second, and 20 in the third.
Yet after two periods, it was scoreless.
The best chance for the Chargers up to that point came in the second period, where Regan Soquila’s shot from the left circle was stopped by Maverick goalie Stephon Williams, then Matt Salhany was denied by Williams on the rebound.
But UAH could not get the puck possession needed to mount any sustained offensive pressure against the tough Mavericks, as it has been in recent years. The Chargers only had 18 shots on goal in the game to the Mavericks’ 57.
Late in the second, Guerriero made two critical saves to keep the game scoreless. The first came on a 2-on-1: Guerriero made a sliding pad save from right to left on Brad McClure. Then Guerriero gloved a bullet from Jordan Nelson, shooting from the left circle, with 30 seconds left.
In the third period, the Mavericks finally got their rewards.
MSU went up 1-0 on a goal by Jean-Paul Lafontaine, set up by Matt Leitner, only 51 seconds into the period. Then 2:40 later, a power play goal on a rebound to Bryce Gervais made it 2-0 Minnesota State.
The Chargers had a chance with six minutes left with a two-man advantage following roughing and high-sticking penalties to Minnesota State, but the Maverick defense clamped down and kept UAH scoreless at that point.
UAH finally got on the board with 30 seconds left in the contest with the extra attacker. Max McHugh notched his first collegiate goal in front of the Maverick net, assisted by Matt Salhany and Brandon Carlson.
With Guerriero still pulled for the extra attacker, Matt Leitner won the center-ice faceoff, sent it to Zach Palmquist, who fired it from neutral ice into the empty net for the final 3-1 score.
The Chargers are now winless in their last 15 games against the Mavericks — the last win coming in 2002. The last time UAH won in Mankato was in 1999.
Game two of the series is Saturday night at 7:07 p.m.