Hoof Beats: Special improvement


Chad Brears has four power play points (1-3-4) to lead UAH thus far this season. (Photo credit: UAH Sports Information)

The Chargers are 3-3-2 in their last eight games, which in itself is enough to surpass all of last season’s win and non-loss totals. The improvement in record is also showing in the stats, particularly on special teams.

While a 1.93 goals per game offense isn’t great (50th of 59 Division I teams), it’s still better than last season’s dead-last 1.08. The defense has also improved, going from 4.37 goals per game last season (also dead last) to 3.07 so far this year (44th in D-I).

What’s remarkable is the improvement on special teams. Last season, UAH was also 59th of 59 in both power play (8.8 percent) and penalty kill (70.5 percent). This season, UAH is 24th in power play (18.2 percent) and 29th in penalty kill (84.5 percent).

According to collegehockeystats.net, the Chargers are second in the nation in combined special teams (the sum of power play goals scored and penalties killed divided by the total power play opportunities for and against).

The penalty kill in particular has been noticeable during the last eight games, as the Chargers have killed 88.2 percent of penalties — and it would have been even higher save for the three third-period power-play goals Air Force scored to force a tie on November 8. The game accounts for half of the power play goals UAH has allowed in the past four weeks.

UAH has gotten a lot of penalty killing practice, however. The Chargers are sixth in the country in penalty minutes at 17.2 penalties-in-minutes per game. In the last four games, opponents have had 32 power play opportunities, an average of eight per game. Fortunately, opponents have scored on only three of those chances.

Huskies come to town hungry: Michigan Tech, this weekend’s opponent at the Von Braun Center, was the No. 1-ranked team with a perfect 10-0 record going into last week’s clash at home against No. 9 Minnesota State in a key WCHA clash. The series didn’t disappoint in terms of drama, but Tech was on a short end of a couple of one-goal losses (2-1 and 3-2), dropping the Huskies to No. 6 in the USCHO.com poll and No. 5 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll released Monday.

Still, Michigan Tech will be the second-highest ranked team to visit Huntsville. Last season, St. Cloud State swept both games from UAH as the third-ranked team in Division I.

UAH is 2-29-2 all-time against teams ranked in the top 10 in the USCHO.com poll. The last victory came on Oct. 9, 2009, when the Chargers stunned No. 5 Notre Dame in South Bend, 3-2.

The Huskies are still in first place in the WCHA with an 8-2 record and 16 points, two more than Minnesota State (7-1) and Bowling Green (7-1).

This week’s promotions: The first 1,000 fans attending Friday’s game against Michigan Tech will receive a free UAH mini hockey stick courtesy of Maynard’s. On Saturday, the first 500 fans get a set of UAH hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo. Puck drop for both nights is 7:07 p.m.

For all home games this season, all kids 12 and under get free admission courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.

Toys for Tots: Please consider bringing an unwrapped toy or a donation for Toys for Tots at Saturday’s game:

Blue Line Club luncheon: Before every home series, come meet and greet with the coaches at the Blue Line Club luncheon. This Friday at noon at the Varisty Room, Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson and UAH head coach Mike Corbett will speak.

Terranova’s is catering. Tickets are $8 at the door, and free for Blue Line Club members.

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