Hoof Beats: Anatomy of a slump

Remember when the Chargers were 3-2-1? UAH had come off its first road sweep since 2009 after two wins at Lake Superior State, including its first shutout in five years. Those were good times.

Unfortunately, the Chargers have lost six straight games after being swept at home by Bemidji State on Wednesday and Friday. UAH is now 3-8-1 overall and 2-7-1 in the WCHA, and has fallen to last place in the league standings.

So what has changed? For one, the competition has gotten tougher. UAH faced two teams expected to compete for the WCHA title in Michigan Tech and Bowling Green, each having hot goaltending in Jamie Phillips and Chris Nell. Even so, UAH remained competitive against them, losing the four games by a total of five goals.

That competitiveness against Michigan Tech and Bowling Green boded well for the Chargers coming into the Bemidji State series. The Beavers are not a bad team, but they appeared to be right where the Chargers wanted them: At the VBC, struggling to score goals and winning only one game in their last nine.

Brandon Carlson

A bright spot: Brandon Carlson, back among the forward lines, has two goals in the last four games. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

What happened instead was UAH continuing its struggles to score, only getting two goals in the series. After scoring 22 goals in the first six games of the season, the Chargers have only scored 10 in the last six. Meanwhile, Bemidji State got timely goals for its first series sweep of the season.

UAH’s top two scorers, Brennan Saulnier and Max McHugh, have been particularly neutralized after strong starts. Saulnier started with six goals and nine points in the first six games (although he was suspended for one game), earning WCHA Player of the Month honors for October, but has only two assists since. McHugh had three goals and eight points in the first six games, but has had just three assists since.

What happened during the Bemidji State series that saw the Chargers play their worst hockey of the season?

“Our fundamental hockey wasn’t very good,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett told Penalty Box Radio on Saturday. “We want to be aggressive, and we weren’t very aggressive. You play tentatively, and so you’re overthinking it a little bit. You’re passing when you should shoot, and shooting when you should pass. That’s where we need to get a little confidence and be able to feel good about ourselves.”

First 6 games Last 6 games
Record 3-2-1 0-6-0
Goals scored 22 (3.67 per game) 10 (1.67 per game)
Goals allowed 17 (2.83 per game) 21 (3.5 per game)
Power play 3-24 (12.5 percent) 4-28 (14.3 percent)
Penalty kill 18-21 (85.7 percent) 20-27 (74.1 percent)
Penalty minutes 64 (10.7 per game) 105 (17.5 per game)


How hard will it be to get back into the groove? The next six games/three opponents offer varied levels of difficulty. And while UAH is in last place, it is only four points out of fifth, so the opporunity to climb quickly is there.

This weekend the Chargers are back at the VBC, hosting Northern Michigan. UAH swept the Wildcats last season at home. NMU is 1-3-2 in its last six, just coming off two one-goal losses at Bowling Green. Like the Bemidji State series, this looks like a prime opportunity to get back into the win column if they execute. NMU goaltender Atte Tolvanen has played very well in his freshman season.

Next, UAH goes to Minnesota State, the defending WCHA champion, preseason favorite, and current league leader with a conference record of 7-1-2. The Chargers are 0-6 against the Mavericks since joining the WCHA, and 0-4 in Mankato (scoring only two goals), so this will be the hardest spot to get points.

Finally, the Chargers return home on Dec. 18-19 against NCHC opponent Colorado College, which just got its first win Saturday against Air Force. The struggling Tigers are 1-13-0 this season, scoring only 22 goals in 14 games (and shut out five times). UAH should be favored in that series.

Goaltending grind: With his fourth start of the season on Wednesday, Matt Larose has now played enough minutes to qualify for the WCHA’s goaltending leaderboards. His 2.48 goals against average is seventh in the WCHA, while his .918 save percentage is sixth. He made 20 saves on 23 shots in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Bemidji State.

The goaltending rotation has been established with Larose playing the openers of series and Carmine Guerriero playing the second game. Guerriero stopped 22 of 25 shots in Friday’s 4-1 loss, and now has a 2.99 goals against average and .891 save percentage.

This week’s festivites: The Chargers host Northern Michigan on Friday and Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m. both nights.

On Friday, the first 500 fans receive a free set of UAH Hockey trading cards, presented by Spirit Coach. On Saturday, the first 500 fans can bring the noise after receiving a free set of UAH Hockey thunder sticks, presented by SportsMed.

The Blue Line Club lunch will take place Friday at noon at the Varsity Room of Spragins Hall. Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle and the UAH coaching staff will be there to talk about this week’s series. Bojangles will be catering.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Minnesota State 7-1-2 16
Michigan Tech 8-4-0 16
Bowling Green 6-2-2 14
Ferris State 5-5-2 12
Northern Michigan 3-4-3 9
Bemidji State 3-5-2 8
Alaska-Anchorage 3-4-1 7
Lake Superior State 2-3-3 7
Alaska 2-6-2 6
UAH 2-7-1 5

WCHA roundup: Bowling Green extended its home unbeaten streak to 11 games after two one-goal victories against Northern Michigan. The Falcons are ranked 14th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. … Minnesota State stayed in a tie for first place in the WCHA after sweeping Alaska Anchorage. Teddy Blueger had a five-point night on Saturday, all coming in the first period (a goal and four assists). … Michigan Tech kept pace with MSU with a sweep of Alaska in Fairbanks. The Huskies are tied for 17th in the USCHO.com poll. … Lake Superior State ended a five-game home losing streak Saturday to earn a split with Ferris State.

Wednesday, Nov. 25
Bemidji State 4 at UAH 1

Friday, Nov. 27
Bemidji State 4 at UAH 1
Northern Michigan 1 at #15 Bowling Green 2
Ferris State 1 at Lake Superior State 0
Alaska Anchorage 0 at Minnesota State 2
#19 Michigan Tech 4 at Alaska 1

Saturday, Nov. 28
Northern Michigan 3 at #15 Bowling Green 4, OT
Ferris State 2 at Lake Superior State 3
Alaska Anchorage 2 at Minnesota State 6
#19 Michigan Tech 3 at Alaska 1

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