UAH came into this season planning to “turn the corner” — as in turning the ties and one-goal losses into victories, using the experience of the last three years to achieve it.
It’s just the opener and there’s a long way to go, but the Chargers showed they mean business Friday night in Big Rapids, beating No. 20 Ferris State 2-1 in the WCHA’s and men’s college hockey’s first official game of the season.
UAH (1-0-0) won its season opener for the first time since 2009, when the Chargers stunned No. 5 Notre Dame in South Bend. It was also the first time UAH beat a ranked opponent in 39 attempts, dating back to a 2-1 win at No. 11 Denver in 2012.
Matt Larose made 37 saves in net for the Chargers, who, particularly in the third period, had to weather a talented Ferris State (0-1-0) offense featuring WCHA preseason player of the year Gerald Mayhew.
Mayhew was kept off the scoresheet, although he had six shots on goal.
UAH’s offensive star, Max McHugh, got UAH on the board early with the first goal of the season at the 5:21 mark. McHugh went to his knees in front of the net to beat Ferris State goaltender Darren Smith and give UAH a 1-0 lead. Josh Kestner and Brennan Saulnier got the assists.
FSU tied the game at the 9:00 mark, as Mitch Maloney had a shot deflect off the skate of UAH defenseman Cam Knight past Larose.
Ferris State had chances to take the lead early in the second after back-to-back penalties on Kestner and Cody Marooney.
But it was the Chargers who would take the lead again at the 9:19 mark of the second, as Hans Gorowsky, on a breakaway from a pass by Kurt Gosselin, backhanded the puck past Smith.
Larose and Smith traded big saves for the rest of the middle period. Smith denied Kestner with his glove, and Larose used his shoulder and glove to stop FSU’s Chad MacDonald, who was all alone in the left circle. After two periods, UAH had a 2-1 lead with both teams having 18 shots on goal.
If the third-period strategy was to get more pucks on Larose, then it was successful. The Bulldogs fired 20 shots on net in a wild period, but Larose made all the critical stops, including one on a wide-open Corey Mackin with under a minute to go.
Game two of the series is at 2:07 p.m. Central Time and can be seen on WCHA.tv.