The Chargers needed a win in the worst way Saturday, and they got it thanks to a local.
Huntsville native Josh Kestner scored two goals, and Matt Larose made 28 saves, to lead UAH to a 3-1 victory over Alaska and a series split. It was UAH’s first win over Alaska since 1992, ending a streak of 11 straight victories for the Nanooks in the series.
The win pulled the Chargers (5-15-2 overall, 3-11-2 WCHA) back to four points behind Alaska (6-12-4, 4-10-4) for eighth place in the WCHA standings. Also tied for eighth was Alaska Anchorage, which lost to Bemidji State 5-1 late Saturday night.
UAH still has a ways to go to get back into playoff contention, but any win is a good win at this point as the Chargers have won only twice in the last 16 games. And it takes the sting of the frustrating 6-3 loss to the Nanooks on Friday.
Alaska came out with pressure to start the game, but the Chargers took control with two first-period goals.
The first came at the 3:09 mark, as Cody Marooney intercepted the puck at center ice, pushed it into Alaska territory and beat Nanook goaltender Davis Jones high and stick-side. It was Marooney’s fourth goal of the season, unassisted.
The second came on the power play at 6:59. Austin Vieth was called for cross-checking and Zach Frye was called for boarding Chad Brears (who was down for a couple of minutes and had to be escorted off the ice). Just after Vieth’s penalty expired, Kestner in the slot deflected a Kurt Gosselin bullet down the middle past Jones for a 2-0 Charger lead. Kestner’s third goal of the season was assisted by Gosselin and Cam Knight.
At that point, UAH had an 8-1 shots on goal advantage.
Alaska would get a couple of power play chances of their own, but their best chance at a goal was a gift from a UAH turnover during another Charger power play. John Mullally picked off the puck and took it on a breakaway. Larose came out to meet Mullally on the left side, leaving the net wide open, but Mullally fired it wide, and it remained 2-0 after the first period.
Both teams had chances to score in an up-and-down second period, but no goals were to be had.
Larose put the stops on a partial breakaway shot by Alec Hajdukovic to keep Alaska off the board, and made another body save on Marcus Basara in the first six minutes of the frame. The Nanooks had one goal waved off after the officials quickly whistled them for players in the crease.
At the other end, Jones was coming up big for UAF, particularly during a UAH power play late in the period to keep it a two-goal game after two.
Kestner struck again in the third to make it 3-0. Hans Gorowsky intercepted a pass at center ice, tipping it to Kestner, who drove it to the slot and beat Jones for his second goal of the game with 14:34 left.
The Nanooks made Larose work in the third, firing 14 shots on goal. Colton Sparrow finally broke the shutout when he beat Larose from the slot with 1:59 to go, ending Larose’s bid for this second shutout of the season and UAH’s first home shutout since 2003.
Larose finished with 28 saves for his third win of the season. Alaska outshot the Chargers 29-27.
UAH heads to Big Rapids, Mich., next weekend to take on Ferris State. The Chargers return home on Feb. 12 and 13 to face Minnesota State.