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Chargers working to build on success after home wins

The Chargers had a taste of victory at home. They look to keep it going, although now they will have to wait a little.

The Chargers were scheduled to play Bemidji State in Minnesota this weekend, but the series was postponed to March 5-6, presumably for COVID-related reasons. UAH hosts Northern Michigan on January 22 and 23 for its next action.

UAH is on a high after sweeping Ferris State by scores of 5-4 and 2-0 at the Von Braun Center for its first two wins of the season last weekend. It was the Chargers’ first sweep in two years.

“It’s a great feeling for the guys,” UAH associated head coach Karlis Zirnis said of last week’s success. “It was good to see the crowd and the energy in the building. We came out with two wins, getting a little bit of momentum going our way and a little bit of belief in the locker room that sticking through a process and trying to get better every day. It’s a lot easier for the coach to come in and preach that when there’s results.”

Tyrone Bronte had two goals and an assist in the series, earning him WCHA rookie of the week honors for the second time. The freshman leads the Chargers with seven points (three goals and four assists) through eight games.

“He’s got a very good skill set,” Zirnis said. “He’s got speed, he’s got some good puck-handling skills, he’s got a good hockey IQ. What elevates him even more is his competitiveness every day. If it’s his shot, his speed, his faceoffs as a centerman, he’s trying to improve every day. Playing on the first line, he gets a lot of minutes. He carries a lot on power play and carries a lot on the penalty kill, too.”

Dayne Finnson also had three points, including the game-winning goal in Friday’s overtime victory. Finnson was named WCHA defenseman of the week for the second time this season as well.

Another defenseman, Drew Lennon, also had a goal and two assists Friday night for his first three points of the season, underscoring the Chargers’ belief that the blueliners can also contribute to the offense.

“It was great for us to see (Lennon) stepping out,” Zirnis said. “He comes in and works every day but doesn’t say a whole lot. Very mature kid.

“It’s great for us to see our defensemen contribute to our offense. We encourage our defensemen to join the rush. It’s a process that we’ve got to keep teaching and keep preaching every day.”

Goaltender David Fessenden had the biggest impact in Saturday’s win, stopping all 42 shots for this first college shutout.

“Saturday night, we didn’t play very well as a team, but our goalie came out and stood on his head and carried us through the game and found a way to win,” Zirnis said. “The confidence of David Fessenden should be ‘Rocket City high’ as we call it.”

An aspect of UAH’s play that has improved immensely has been the power play. The Chargers are ranked fourth in NCAA Division I at 29.6 percent efficiency through eight games.

“With the power play, you can get complicated, and sometimes when you get more complicated, it gets more confusing for the guys,” Zirnis said. “The units themselves have gelled pretty well, just keeping it really simple. Deliver the puck to the net when it’s there, and if it’s not there, then they make that pass. Don’t overthink it. I always say, in hockey, the simplest play is the most effective play.”

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Friday, January 15
#5 Minnesota State at #19 Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #8 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.*

Saturday, January 16
#5 Minnesota State at #19 Lake Superior State, 4:07 p.m.
Trine at Ferris State, 3:07 p.m.*
Northern Michigan at #8 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.*

*Non-conference game.