From four years without a home win to FOUR HOME WINS IN SIX GAMES!!!
— UAHHockey.com (@weloveuahhockey) January 17, 2015
… and the other two were against the #6 team in the country. Suffice it to say that the boys are on a bit of a roll at home. Where you could write off the win over Lake Superior and the sweep of Alaska-Anchorage as doing the job of beating the teams below you in the WCHA standings, beating Northern Michigan — and better, their top-flight goalie — is a whole other kettle of fish. The Wildcats are the first ranked team — in the sense that the team has been ranked at any point in the season — that the Chargers have defeated in 2014-15, and after playing Omaha to 1-2 and 3-3 scores, you could tell that they were on the edge.
Don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re tryin’ to find your way home,
You don’t know which way to go?
If you’re goin’ down South
They go no work to do,
If you don’t know about Chicago.
You know why there’s no work down South? Because the Chargers already did it all.
The homestanding Alabama-Huntsville Chargers moved 6-16-3 (5-12-0 WCHA, good enough for 8th place) on the 2014-15 season off the strength of an early 2-0 lead over Northern Michigan (9-7-5, 6-7-4 WCHA) that the boys held on to despite a 14-2 Wildcat shots-on advantage in the third period. Sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué.) moved to 6-9-2 on the season, while Wildcat junior goaltender Mathias Dahlström (Smedjebacken, Sweden) fell to 9-5-3.
There was little significant action in the first period as the teams felt each other out; the score sheet is marked only by three minor penalties (two elbowing minors to UAH, a goalie interference infraction on NMU) and twelve shots on goal, seven for the visitors and five for the home squad.
Things were far, far different in the second. The Chargers again picked up a pair of minors — another elbowing whistle and one for roughing the goalie — but the key things were two UAH goals.
Junior forward Jack Prince (Leicester, England) got scoring started for the Chargers, taking a feed from freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.) on a brief rush, winding up from the left-wing faceoff dot to push the puck under Dahlström’s arm (13 sv). The goal was Prince’s fourth of the season, and McHugh’s assist was his ninth, tying him with freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Faribault, Minn.) for the team lead while extending his scoring lead.
“That’s the kind of play that we work on in practice,” UAH coach Mike Corbett says. “Everyone does it: feed a guy on the wing, rip a shot, pounce on the rebound. This time, the puck went in on the initial shot.”
Corbett is famous for saying that “there ain’t a lot of one-shot goals“, but both Charger goals on Friday night were twine-seeking missiles. The game-winner came off the stick of junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.), his fifth of the season. “There was a scrum on the right half-wall,” Misuraca said, “and the puck came to Kestner. I was calling for it, and he threw a back-hand pass off the boards up to me, and I just put my head down, gathered the puck, and shot it as hard as I could.” While freshman forward Josh Kestner (Huntsville) was not credited with an assist, it seems likely that he will be in a scorer’s revision.
From that point, it was about holding on to a hard-fought lead. A goal by sophomore forward Shane Sooth (Canyon Country, Calif.) broke up Guerriero’s shutout bid (32 sv). The Chargers’ last shutout remains a 1-0 win by Cam Talbot (Caledonia, Ont.) in the 2010 CHA tournament semifinal. You have to go back to October 25, 2003 for the last home UAH shutout, a 6-0 win over Connecticut shared by Adam McLean (Woodstock, Ont.) and Scott Munroe (Moose Jaw, Sask.).
Senior forward and team captain Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.) had high praise for Guerriero’s effort. “He’s been rock solid,” Reid said. “We knew that it was going to be a goalie battle, too, and he stood out. When asked about the last goal, both the captain and the coach spoke of a lull in the Charger defense. “I think that guys were just standing around and watching the puck,” Reid said, “and they took advantage of it and got a luck bounce.”
Guerriero was sharp in net, but it wasn’t just Huntsville’s favorite French-Canadian keeping pucks out of the net. “We had a lot of guys sacrificing their body,” Misuraca said. “I know that we had a couple of guys get hit up high in the chest by pucks on the penalty kill.” Assistant coach Gavin Morgan added, “You know what? [Guerriero] looked great, but the guys are playing well in front of him.”
It’s clear that things are different in Huntsville. The Chargers are on a three-game home winning streak, an occurrence whose last appearance goes back to the 2009-10 season, culminating in the final home win by the Chargers prior to the Lake State win. “We’re trying to change the culture,” Corbett said. “We’re still making it hard for ourselves, but at least they’re aggressive penalties.”
A win streak longer than three goes all the way back to 2005-06, when the Chargers ripped off a staggering ten-game home winning streak, sweeping Air Force 1/6-7, Robert Morris 1/13-14, Bemidji State 2/3-4, RIT on 2/10-11, and Wayne State on 2/24-25. We’ve talked about that last game in the past, as it’s the high-water mark of Charger hockey at 132 games over .500. The Chargers went 11-1 at home that season.
Hey @WCHA_MHockey: can we play all the rest of our WCHA tilts at home? 😉
— UAHHockey.com (@weloveuahhockey) January 17, 2015
Home series are where the Chargers will make their hay. With both Alaska-Anchorage and Lake Superior winning last night, the Chargers’ hold on eighth place — seventh if you pull the Nanooks out of the standings — remains tenuous. UAH does pull back to within three points of Bemidji in 7th/6th with the win, but they will need help.
The Chargers’ home WCHA slate to finish has Saturday night’s tilt against Northern and then series against Ferris State (whom the Chargers defeated in Big Rapids) and Alaska (whom the Chargers took the Nanooks to OT). Getting six points out of those five games would get the Chargers to 16. The road isn’t as kind, with contests against Tech and BG, who handled the Chargers pretty handily in Huntsville earlier this season; the other road series is a trip to the Soo, and both teams will have that marked as a roadblock on the way to the Final 4ive.
7:07 p.m. Central in Huntsville Saturday night: will the streak continue?