UAH begins ’21 and WCHA play at Michigan Tech

UAH at Michigan Tech
WHERE: John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, Houghton, Mich.
WHEN (CST): Saturday, 3:07 p.m.; Sunday, 1:07 p.m. (subscription)

It’s a new year and a new start for the Chargers, who face Michigan Tech in Houghton this weekend to begin conference play in the WCHA’s final season.

UAH (0-3-1) enters 2021 with a new commitment to the program, and a search for a new league to play in after this season. In the meantime, the Chargers are searching for their first win after a handful of close contests.

They’ll be playing a Michigan Tech squad (4-3-1) that’s won three games in a row. Most recently, the Huskies swept a home-and-home series against their most fierce rival, Northern Michigan, on December 18-19.

The Chargers haven’t played since December 6, when they lost at Lake Superior State 3-2 to finish a non-conference series. UAH and LSSU tied 2-2 in the first game.

The Chargers could face their former goaltender in Mark Sinclair. The senior transferred to Michigan Tech over the summer after UAH temporarily canceled the program. Sinclair played in 65 games over three years at UAH, posting a career .903 save percentage and three shutouts.

The last time the Chargers were in Houghton, in 2018, Sinclair had a 39-save shutout against the Huskies to open the series with a 1-0 UAH victory.

But Sinclair hasn’t played during the Huskies’ three-game winning streak. He got a 21-save shutout in a scoreless tie at Lake Superior State to start the season, but has played in only two games since.

Instead, sophomore Blake Pietila has gotten the hot hand, and has started in five of Tech’s last six games. He has a 1.43 goals against average and .955 save percentage.

In the UAH net, David Fessenden has been strong in two starts with a 1.14 goals against average and .957 save percentage. He stopped 25 of 27 shots in his last outing, the 2-2 tie at Lake Superior.

Freshman Tyrone Bronte leads the Chargers in scoring with four points. Bauer Neudecker and Tyr Thompson each have two goals.

Junior forward Trenton Bliss has eight points in eight games for the Huskies. He’s tied with Brian Halonen for the team lead in goals with three. Colin Swoyer, who has taken the last two WCHA defenseman of the week honors, has five assists.

Next weekend, the Chargers have their home opening series against Ferris State.

Series notes vs. Michigan Tech:
Michigan Tech leads 17-3-2, starting in the 2013-14 season.
Last 10 meetings: MTU leads 6-3-1.
Last series: Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2020 in Huntsville. MTU won 4-1, UAH won 3-1.
Last series at MTU: Dec. 14-15, 2018. UAH won 1-0, MTU won 2-1 in OT.

Chargers pick up defenseman: Alaska Anchorage freshman defenseman Josh Martin has transferred to UAH, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Martin is one of nine players who have left UAA after the school opted out of playing this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Seawolves program may not play again unless it can raise $3 million by mid-February. Because of the pandemic, players can transfer and be immediately eligible instead of sitting out a season.

Martin played the last three seasons with the Lone Star Brahmas of the NAHL. Last year, he had 15 points in 49 games as an alternate captain. Martin played with current Charger Drew Lennon during his first season with Lone Star.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Saturday, January 2
UAH at Michigan Tech, 3:07 p.m.
#7 Bowling Green at Ferris State, 2:07 p.m.
#5 Minnesota State at Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at #19 Lake Superior State, 4:07 p.m.*

Sunday, January 3
UAH at Michigan Tech, 1:07 p.m.
#7 Bowling Green at Ferris State, 2:07 p.m.
#5 Minnesota State at Northern Michigan, 3:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at #19 Lake Superior State, 2:07 p.m.*

*Non-conference game.