It’s no secret that UAH will be underdog going into the WCHA quarterfinal series at Northern Michigan.
If the regular season was any indication, however, an upset is not out of the question.
“We like our matchup,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “This is a team we’ve played 2-2, so we feel good about that. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper, but you know we can feel confident going into that weekend, knowing that this is a team we’ve beaten in the past.”
UAH and NMU played series in both Marquette and Huntsville this season, and both were splits. Each team had a one-goal win and a two-goal win, underscoring how close the matchups have been.
In Marquette back in December, UAH had a 1-0 lead before losing 3-1, but rebounded the next night with a 3-2 victory.
“We were able to get a win out here and keep the game close here, but we are going to have to be able to get more shots on goal,” Corbett said.
Northern Michigan has a corps of dangerous scorers. Robbie Payne leads the Wildcats with 20 goals, and two others have 17, Troy Loggins and Darien Craighead. Centering on Loggins’ line is Adam Rockwood, who has 30 assists this season.
“The toughest thing is that they have good depth up front with Payne, Loggins, and Rockwood,” Corbett said. “They’ve got some guys who can definitely score up front. The biggest thing is being able to try to contain those guys. In the playoffs, your top players have got to be your top players. They’ve been banking on those guys all year and they’ve been coming through. We’ve got to be able to force their secondary guys to be able to score for them. That’s the biggest challenge for us.”
UAH will need big contributions from its top players as well, and that means Josh Kestner (21 goals) and Tyler Poulsen (nine goals and 15 assists).
“Their goaltender (Atte Tolvanen) has been an all-league goaltender and we’re going to have to be able to get to him,” Corbett said.
Kestner is one of six seniors who played in the Chargers’ last playoff series in 2015. In addition, Richard Buri, Cody Champagne, Max McHugh, Brandon Parker, and Brennan Saulnier were all freshmen who got playoff experience at Michigan Tech. UAH lost 1-0 in triple overtime and 3-0 in that series.
“(The seniors) have been on the stage,” Corbett said. “We had the three overtime game with Michigan Tech and I think they understand what it take to be able to play in the playoffs. Everything is magnified and everything’s going to be a little bit tighter and mistakes are magnified.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how dialed in we are at practicing certain things that we need to be able to work on. Their leadership is going to be important because they were the only group that played in the playoffs on our team.”
The Chargers will leave Wednesday night for Marquette by bus. They will stop for practice along the way. It’s a long trip (22 hours), and once again the Chargers will have to manage the fatigue.
“We’be been fatigued since our road trip,” Corbett said, referring to the stretch of 12 straight road games and three-week trip through Bemidji and Alaska around New Year’s. “It’s been tough for us to be able to put together back to back consistent efforts.
“We’re taking a 22-hour bus ride up to Northern Michigan and now we’ve got to be able to once again manage those levels of fatigue. The good thing is we get to take a few extra players and make sure that we’re putting the freshest guys on the ice we can.”
Jeffers committed for next season
By Asher Kitchings
UAH recently received another commitment for the 2018-2019 season. Jack Jeffers, a 6-foot-0, 180-pound forward from Oakville, Ontario, who is currently playing for the Markham Royals of the OJHL, will be joining forwards Tyr Thompson, Ben Allen, and Bauer Neudecker, and defensemen Drew Lennon, in the incoming recruiting class.
Jeffers was a teammate of current Charger Christian Rajic last season, and has really put everything together this year. He’s got four years of junior hockey under his belt, exceptional speed, and offensive instincts, which should allow him to acclimate to the college game quicker than most. More of a playmaker than a pure goal-scorer, Jeffers has put up 78 points in 53 games this season — well over a point per game.
As someone who was on NHL Central Scouting’s radar during his draft year, Jeffers is a welcome addition to this already strong crop of legitimate D-I recruits.
For a preview of this kid’s skillset, check out this short clip of a goal he scored in 2016 CJHL Top Prospects Game:
— Markham Royals (@MarkhamRoyals) February 13, 2018