Finally back: UAH hosts Ferris State in first home series

Ferris State at UAH
WHERE: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
WHEN: Friday, 7:07 p.m.; Saturday, 7:07 p.m. (subscription)
LISTEN: Penalty Box Radio

The Chargers will play on the Propst Arena ice for the first time in 314 days on Friday. A lot has happened since UAH’s 4-1 loss to Bowling Green on February 29, 2020. Now the Chargers finally get their chance to show the home supporters who helped resurrect the program their gratitude and their fight.

“The guys are really excited right now,” UAH head coach Lance West said. “With everything that happened this summer and all the effort people have put in to give us the opportunity to play this year and continue our program, the guys and the whole program are excited to show the fans the difference, the culture, and the work ethic the guys have and what we’re trying to build here.”

Of course, the number of fans at the VBC will be limited. Arena capacity will be at 30 percent because of policies in place during to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UAH (0-5-1 overall, 0-2-0 WCHA) is still looking for its first victory of the season after being swept at Michigan Tech last week. The Chargers couldn’t get into a groove during a 4-0 loss in the first game. They played better in the second game, but allowed two goals early and didn’t fully come back in a 2-1 defeat.

Noah Finstrom got the lone goal for the Chargers over the weekend, and even that was a stroke of luck as the puck went off a Husky skate and in.

West said the focus for the offense has been getting back to their scoring habits.

“We’re going to have to manufacture goals,” West said. “Finish it at the net, battling at the net, funneling pucks to the net, and playing what we call ‘downhill.’ The focus this week is playing more downhill, where we have to be attacking the net, hard on shots, deflections, rebounds, creating those scrums and winning some of those battles.”

David Fessenden played in goal for both games. After a rough series opener, he allowed two goals in the first five minutes of Sunday’s game but hunkered down to stop the next 24 shots.

“(Fessenden) has been able to establish himself as our top guy right now,” West said. “He’s played extremely well and given us a chance to win pretty much every game and that’s all we can ask of him. Sunday was a big game for him because we gave up two early, and a lot of times with a young team that can go in the wrong direction. But our team and he responded well. He made the big saves down the stretch and didn’t let it affect him. He’s been huge, because I think he’s given his team some confidence.”

The Chargers will need to be ready for a Ferris State team that is just as hungry for a win as they are. The Bulldogs are 0-6 overall and 0-2 in the WCHA, the only other winless team in the league. UAH was to play a non-conference game at Ferris State in December, but that was cancelled due to COVID-related issues.

Last week, the Bulldogs lost at home to sixth-ranked Bowling Green by scores of 6-1 and 4-2.

“The thing I know about Ferris is I think they’re extremely well coached team,” West said, referring to Bob Daniels, who is in his 29th season as Ferris State’s head coach. “I have much respect for Coach Daniels as anybody in college hockey. I don’t put anything into the record. They’re looking for their first win but I know how good of a team they are and how well coached they are.”

Ferris State has allowed an average of five goals per game. The Bulldogs are anticipating the return of freshman goaltender Logan Stein, who was a backup for the gold medal-winning Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

Offensively, the Bulldogs have scored 16 goals in six games, led by Ethan Stewart and Mitch Deelstra, each with three.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Thursday, January 7
Bemidji State at #7 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.

Friday, January 8
Ferris State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at #7 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at #4 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 7:07 p.m.*

Saturday, January 9
Ferris State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at #4 Minnesota State, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.*

*Non-conference game