A little closer this time, but the Chargers still have work to do to catch up with Minnesota State.
UAH found itself in a tie with the second-ranked Mavericks halfway in the third period. But two quick goals was the difference in MSU’s 4-1 win on Saturday.
The Chargers (0-6 overall, 0-2 WCHA) kept it tight thanks again to Mark Sinclair, who made 34 saves in addition to the 45 he had in Friday’s 5-1 loss. It was the first series of back-to-back starts this season for Sinclair, who is working off a preseason knee injury.
“I think I played all right,” Sinclair said. “There’s a couple I’d like to have back for sure, but tonight was a little bit better of an effort overall. We may have had quite a few shots, but a lot of them were from the outside, so our defense did a really good job.
“You have to go with your top guy against the top team in the league,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “And that’s what we’re building for. Mark’s the guy that we’ve got to be able to rely on in big games like this.”
The game was scoreless through the first period, and despite being outshot 14-5, it was the first shutout period UAH had posted all season.
The Mavericks (5-0-1, 2-0-0) also had plenty of chances in the second period as UAH gave them a handful of power plays. But it was on a 4-on-4 that Minnesota State drew first blood.
Charlie Gerard, who had two goals on Friday, snuck one past Sinclair on a back-hander with 2:43 left in the second.
UAH tied the game at 2:27 of the third. Adrian Danchenko retrieved his own dump in near the left corner of the MSU end, and sent it in front to Sean Rappleyea. Rappleyea’s shot from the high slot found its way past Jaxson Stauber for this first goal of the season and just the second of the senior’s UAH career.
“We don’t get a lot of shots, we’ve got to bury the ones we get, and he buried the one that he got,” Corbett said. “Raps and that line didn’t necessarily get a ton of ice time but they’re out there to give us energy and they gave us a great boost.”
The Chargers also got a boost from a Homecoming crowd of 3,084.
“I think the crowd’s at a new level this year,” Sinclair said. “I think we got a pretty good boost from it. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of guys really enjoy it. They’re getting loud and it’s very encouraging for sure.”
Minnesota State regained the lead on a Reggie Lutz goal with 8:31 remaining in the third.
“The kid made a heck of a play popping the puck in the air on the second goal,” Corbett said. “But we’ve got to get the puck out. It’s those little lapses.
“We relax for a second, and they’re the type of team that preys on those mistakes.”
Nathan Smith followed up 42 seconds later picking up a loose puck in the slot and putting MSU up 3-1.
Parker Tuomie finished the game with an empty-net goal with 40.7 seconds left.
“Tonight’s kind of a tough one because we’re so close,” Sinclair said. “Close doesn’t really count right now, but I think we’re making good strides. Hopefully next weekend we can turn it around.”
“I thought our 60 minutes tonight was better than our 60 minutes last night,” Corbett said.
The Chargers head on the road to Northern Michigan next weekend.
“There’s no rest for us to be able to play another top team in our league,” Corbett said. “Our guys have to gain confidence. Little successes build into big successes.
“We don’t talk about moral victories and all that stuff, but these guys have to look at some of the things that are really good. We’re 1-1 with 10 minutes left in the game, and these are the games that we’ve got to learn how to win.”
UAH is now winless in the last 32 meetings with Minnesota State (0-28-4) dating back to 2002.