HUNTSVILLE — The homestanding UAH Chargers (0-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) started out fast and faded away at the end, as freshman forward Max Letunov (Moscow) scored a natural hat trick to power the visiting Connecticut Huskies (1-0-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East) to a 5-2 win in front of 2,193 at Propst Arena. (Box Score)
The Chargers stumbled out of the gate, giving up a first-minute goal when sophomore David Drake (Naperville, Ill.) fished a puck out of a wall scrum and found a wide-open Patrick Kirtland right in the middle of the slot. The senior captain from Rocky Hill, Conn. took one stride to his left and ripped one past UAH junior goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué., 30sv).
The boys in white (and lots more blue!) would even the score at 7:16 of the first when sophomore forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia) would pick up a breakout pass in the right-wing circle, make a move, and rifle one past Husky junior goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas). The marker perked up the crowd and the team, which was noticeably flat to start.
Sophomore forward Max McHugh (Seattle) and senior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alberta) picked up where they left off in 2014-15. Brears rifled a puck from the top of the right-wing circle looking for McHugh’s stick, and the Chargers’ scoring leader from last season tipped the puck high past Nichols to bury it and put the Chargers up 2-1 going into the first intermission.
From there, though, the Chargers faded. UAH coach Mike Corbett summed it up well, saying, “We ran out of gas a little at the end, and that’s disappointing. The ice was bad, but that affected both teams. We turned pucks over, and that killed us — and really, it was just us not being hard on pucks and taking it to them. That led us to chasing the puck a lot, and that definitely hurt us.”
Chase they did, but they couldn’t quite catch up to Letunov, a highly-regarded prospect drafted in the 2nd round by St. Louis in 2014. Corbett noted the Chargers’ inability to shut the Huskies’ top scoring line down. “He’s a good player. That was the line with him and Naas on there. Naas is their returning leading scorer, and that’s the line that we wanted to put some guys out there against. I wouldn’t say that they beat us — they were opportunistic and made their chances.”
The Chargers did not manage a shot on goal in the third period.
UAH will get a chance to rotate in talent on Saturday night that watched from the stands on Friday. Corbett looks forward to making the changes. “We want to keep our legs. The good thing about us is that we’ve got numbers. We’ve got a guy like (Regan) Soquila and someone like Willie (Adam Wilcox) ready to come in and play.”
The Chargers face the Huskies on Saturday night at 7:07 p.m at Propst Arena. The first 500 fans receive a Charger trading card set. The game will be available online for pay-per-view at WCHA.tv.