Chargers clinch WCHA playoff berth

UAH qualified for the WCHA playoffs for the first time when Alaska-Anchorage lost to Alaska 1-0 late Friday night.

The Chargers, who lost to Bowling Green 7-2 on Friday, will be playing their first postseason hockey since the 2010 CHA Tournament.

UAH, which is tied with Lake Superior State with 15 points in the WCHA standings, holds the No. 7 seed in the eight-team field. The Chargers can retain the seed if they beat Bowling Green, if Lake Superior State loses to Ferris State, or if both UAH and Lake Superior State both tie on the regular season’s final day Saturday night. Otherwise, UAH will be No. 8 and Lake Superior State will be No. 7.

Lake Superior State also clinched a playoff berth, and Alaska-Anchorage is eliminated.

The best-of-3 first round series of the WCHA playoffs begin next Friday night at the rinks of the top four seeds. UAH will go to either Minnesota State, currently the top seed, or Michigan Tech depending on Saturday’s results.

Bowling Green cruises past Chargers, 7-2

UAH still got its spot in the WCHA playoffs with help later in the night, but there is no reason to celebrate after the Chargers’ performance against Bowling Green.

UAH (8-23-4 overall, 7-19-1 WCHA) was blown out 7-2 by the 13th-ranked Falcons in Ohio for its fifth straight loss. The Chargers allowed the second-most goals in a game this season and was outshot 37-19.

Matt Larose, who came into the game in relief, makes a stop on Bowling Green's Mitchell McLain. (Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)

Matt Larose, who came into the game in relief, makes a stop on Bowling Green’s Mitchell McLain. (Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)

Max McHugh scored two goals for the second straight game for the Chargers, both coming on a third-period power play well after the game was at hand. He now has 12 on the season.

The Chargers clinched a playoff spot when Alaska-Anchorage lost to Alaska 1-0 late Friday night. Tied with Lake Superior State with 15 points, UAH is still the No. 7 seed, which they can retain with a win over Bowling Green, a LSSU loss to Ferris State, or if both UAH and LSSU tie their games in the regular season’s final day Saturday. Otherwise, UAH will be the No. 8 seed.

Bowling Green (20-10-5 overall, 16-8-3 WCHA), which is locked into the third seed for the WCHA playoffs, needed the victory to stay on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and they had the game under control from start to finish.

The Chargers were on their heels right from the opening face-off. The Falcons flurried around the net, and Mark Cooper fired a rebound shot through traffic from the right circle to score just 55 seconds into the game.

It took a few minutes for UAH to compose themselves offensively, and the Chargers were able to get in a few scoring chances. Josh Kestner was denied on a breakaway by Bowling Green goaltender Tommy Burke, who followed up and covered on Matt Salhany’s rebound shot.

The Falcons extended the lead to 2-0 on the power play. Kestner was called on a questionable trip, and Bowling Green fired away. The puck trickled trough Carmine Guerriero’s pads off the stick of Cooper, who notched his second goal of the game with 7:46 left in the first.

UAH had a power play chance continue into the start of the second, but right after it expired, Dan DeSalvo got the puck right out of the penalty box, breaking away and beating Guerriero as Bowling Green took a 3-0 lead at 1:09.

Over three minutes later, the Falcons crashed the net shorthanded, and Brandon Carlson covered the puck in the crease. That led to a Bowling Green penalty shot, which Brandon Hawkins coverted to make it 4-0.

Brent Fletcher has the puck while pursued by BG's Mark Friedman. (Photo by Todd Pavlack, BGSUHockey.com)

Brent Fletcher has the puck while pursued by BG’s Mark Friedman. (Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)

That ended the night for Guerriero, who was replaced by Matt Larose after making 19 saves and allowed four goals.

Sean Walker scored Bowling Green’s fifth goal on a rush down the left side, getting around Frank Misuraca and beating Matt Larose at 2:25 of the third.

Hawkins scored his second goal of the game, and Pierre-Luc Mercier added another in a span of 49 seconds, and it was 7-0 within the first five minutes of the final frame.

Bowling Green’s Adam Berkle hip-checked Brennan Saulnier, who fell into the boards with 7:09 remaining. Saulnier was slow to get up, but was able to skate off the ice on his own power.

Berkle got a five-minute interference penalty, and the bench got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving UAH a major power play with two minutes of two-man advantage. McHugh got a goal on each power play as UAH avoided the shutout. Chad Brears got assists on both goals, and Brandon Parker got his 14th helper on McHugh’s second goal.

Burke stopped 17 of 19 shots. Larose finished with 11 saves on 14 shots in the final 35-plus minutes.

The Falcons have outscored the Chargers 16-3 in three meetings this season.

Editor’s note: Recap updated with UAH clinching a playoff spot following Alaska-Anchorage’s loss. 

Series Preview: at Bowling Green, March 6-7

CATCHING THE GAMES
Times: 6:07 p.m. CT Friday
6:07 p.m. CT Saturday
Watch it: WCHA.tv (subscription)
Hear it: BGRSO
Stats: BGSUFalcons.com
Twitter: @weloveuahhockey, @uahhockey, @BGSUHockeySite@BGFalconHockey,

The Chargers finish the regular season at No. 13 Bowling Green looking to lock down their first WCHA playoff berth. Puck drop in Ohio is Friday and Saturday at 6:07 p.m. Central Time.

UAH needs just one more point to clinch a spot in the WCHA playoffs, which begin next week. Otherwise, the Chargers will need either Alaska-Anchorage to not win or Lake Superior State to lose twice.

All-time series: The Falcons command the all-time series at 12-3-1, including a 5-1-1 record against UAH in Bowling Green. BG has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, with UAH’s lone win coming last season.

Back in October, Bowling Green won both games in Huntsville by scores of 5-0 and 4-1.

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner has four goals in his freshman campaign. (Photo by Chris Brightwell)

Charger recap: UAH (8-22-4 overall, 7-18-1 WCHA) lost its last two home games of the season against Alaska.

On Friday, Josh Kestner scored twice to give UAH a 2-0 lead, but the Nanooks tallied four unanswered goals — three in the third period — and won 4-2. Carmine Guerriero made 37 saves as UAH was outshot 41-15.

On Saturday’s Senior Night, UAH would get on the board first again just 20 seconds in as captain Doug Reid scored. Alaska scored twice to take the lead before Max McHugh put the Chargers back in front at 3-2 with a pair of goals. The Nanooks then stole the game, tying it with 6.3 seconds left in regulation and winning it just 15 seconds into overtime, 4-3. Guerriero stopped another 37 shots.

Guerriero’s save percentage is now at .926, fourth in the WCHA and 18th in NCAA Division I. His goals against average is 2.58.

McHugh’s goal total stands at 10, becoming the first Charger with double-digit goals since Matt Sweazey scored 12 goals in the 2008-09 season. The freshman leads UAH with 21 points.

Other top scorers for UAH are Jack Prince (5-9-14), Chad Brears (3-10-13), Jeff Vanderlugt (6-7-13), and Brandon Parker, who has a team-leading 12 assists. Frank Misuraca is tied with Vanderlugt for second on the team in goals with six.

UAH Tale of the tape
(WCHA rank)
BGSU
8-22-4
7-18-1 WCHA (8th)
Record 19-10-5
15-8-3 WCHA (3rd)
1.74 (9th) Goals/game 2.97 (3rd)
3.18 (8th) Goals allowed/game 2.41 (5th)
15.9 (2nd) Pen. minutes/game 12.8 (6th)
15.9% (5th) Power play 15.2% (7th)
82.3% (8th) Penalty kill 90.1% (1st)

About the Falcons: Bowling Green (19-10-5 overall, 15-8-3 WCHA) is the only team in the WCHA that has locked up its seeding. The 13th-ranked Falcons will be hosting a first-round series next week as the No. 3 seed, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to play for against the Chargers.

Bowling Green has lost four of its last five games, including 6-1 loss on Saturday at Alaska-Anchorage that dropped the Falcons to 14th in the Pairwise rankings, which are the primary tool for determining the teams for the NCAA Tournament. This puts BG on the bubble, and they can’t lose points to an eight-win UAH squad and expect to get an at-large berth.

The Falcons have many offensive threats, with 10 players with double-digit assists this season. Freshman Brandon Hawkins is the point leader with 24, with 12 goals and 12 assists. Sophomore Kevin Dufour has 13 goals on the season — including three against UAH back in October — followed by Ben Murphy’s 11. Dufour’s linemates, sophomores Matt Pohlkamp and Pierre-Luc Mercier, along with freshman defenseman and Philadephia Flyers prospect Mark Friedman, top the Falcons with 15 assists each.

Junior goaltender Tommy Burke has had the most playing time this season, playing in 51 percent of the Falcons’ minutes, posting a 2.27 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in 17 starts. Freshman Chris Nell has been solid as well, with a 2.32 goals against and .917 save percentage.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Minnesota State** 20-3-3 43
Michigan Tech** 19-5-2 40
Bowling Green** 15-8-3 33
Bemidji State* 11-10-5 27
Alaska^ 12-12-2 26
Northern Michigan* 11-11-4 26
Ferris State* 11-14-1 23
Alabama-Huntsville 7-18-1 15
Lake Superior State 7-18-1 15
Alaska-Anchorage 5-19-2 12
** Clinched home ice in first round
* Clinched playoff berth
^ Ineligible for postseason play

Around the WCHA: Minnesota State looks to win the MacNaughton Cup as the WCHA regular season champion for the first time. The 2nd-ranked Mavericks need only one point at Bemidji State to do it.

No. 4 Michigan Tech will need to sweep rival Northern Michigan in a home-and-home and hopes Minnesota State loses twice to snatch the Cup for themselves.

As stated before, Charger fans will pay attention to two other series.

In the Governor’s Cup, Alaska-Anchorage hosts Alaska needing two wins and a bit of help to get into the WCHA playoffs. UAH clinches a playoff berth if Alaska-Anchorage loses or ties either game.

Lake Superior State hosts Ferris State also needing a single point to clinch a playoff spot. If UAH gets swept and Alaska-Anchorage sweeps Alaska, the Chargers will need the Lakers to lose both games to still make the playoffs.

Here’s the schedule for league teams this week. All times are Central. All games can be seen online on WCHA TV.

Friday, March 6

UAH at #13 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #4 Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:37 p.m.
#2 Minnesota State at Bemidji State, 7:37 p.m.
Alaska at Alaska-Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Saturday, March 7

UAH at #13 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
#4 Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
#2 Minnesota State at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at Alaska-Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Hoof Beats: Three ways to get in

Unfortunately, the Chargers could not yet punch their ticket into the WCHA playoffs over the weekend due to the disappointing losses to Alaska in the final home series of the season. However, UAH still has three ways to clinch a playoff spot in the regular season’s final week.

Here is the bottom part of the WCHA standings. Two teams will be the seventh and eighth seeds in the WCHA playoffs, while the last-place team will be out (remember that Alaska is ineligible, meaning ninth place gets in this season). For more on playoff possibilities and predictions for the whole league, visit Geof’s WCHA Playoff Prediction Blog.

Team W L T Pts.
8. Alabama-Huntsville 7 18 1 15
8. Lake Superior State 7 18 1 15
10. Alaska-Anchorage 5 19 2 12

 

The Chargers need ONE of the following to happen this weekend:

1. Get a point at Bowling Green. UAH needs only a win or tie at No. 13 Bowling Green to earn a playoff berth. Getting that in front of BG’s Bleacher Creatures won’t be easy as the Falcons are 8-5-1 at home this season, and they beat the Chargers 5-0 and 4-1 in Huntsville back in October. Bowling Green is also smarting after losing to Alaska-Anchorage 6-1 on Saturday, which dropped the Falcons into the Pairwise bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid, so don’t look for a respite from BG even though it has locked down the third seed in the WCHA tournament. But if this was possible last season…

2. Alaska-Anchorage loses or ties. The same Alaska Nanooks who swept the Chargers over the weekend are now our strongest allies. Alaska-Anchorage must sweep their in-state rivals in Anchorage this week to stay alive (and to win the Governor’s Cup) and hope UAH gets swept to outright pass the Chargers, who have the tie-breaker over Anchorage with their sweep of the Seawolves in Huntsville on Jan. 2-3. The Seawolves stunned the Nanooks in Fairbanks back in mid-January with a pair of one-goal victories, but then lost nine in a row to plummet to the bottom of the WCHA standings before their win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

3. Lake Superior State is swept by Ferris State. UAH and Lake Superior State are tied with identical conference records (7-18-1, 15 points), and the Chargers have the tiebreaker over the Lakers with their 2-1-1 record against them this season. That means if UAH is swept by Bowling Green and Alaska-Anchorage sweeps Alaska, the Chargers would need Lake Superior to get swept and stay at 15 points to use that tiebreaker and get into the playoffs. If the Lakers get any ties or wins in this situation, UAH would be out.

Best get that point at Bowling Green and end all uncertainty.

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Guerriero nominated for Richter Award: UAH’s Carmine Guerriero is one of 28 nominees for the 2015 Mike Richter Award, given to the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I. The award is presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Guerriero has a .926 save percentage, which is fourth best in the WCHA and 18th best in the country. The sophomore from Montreal, Quebec has a 2.58 goals against average and has made at least 30 saves in 15 games this season, including a 54-save performance at Minnesota State on October 24.

Five finalists will be announced on March 18, with the winner being presented at the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four in Boston.

Year-end banquet date announced: The annual end-of-year UAH hockey banquet will take place at Spragins Hall on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.

The price of a ticket to the event is $25 per person, with the opportunity to sponsor a player’s dinner at the banquet for $25 as well. There will be several silent auction items at the event as well as the chance to sit with your favorite player at dinner.

Payments will be accepted at the door upon arrival. You can RSVP online, or if you have any other questions, please email UAH director of hockey operations Nick Laurila at nick.laurila@uah.edu.

Alaska nips UAH in OT to sweep final home series

Colton Parayko’s goal 15 seconds into overtime gave Alaska a 4-3 win on Saturday, completing a two-game sweep over the Chargers and delaying UAH’s playoff clinching a little while longer.

UAH (8-22-4 overall, 7-18-1 WCHA) still has not clinched a WCHA playoff berth going into the final week of the regular season. The Chargers either need a win or tie at Bowling Green or Alaska-Anchorage to either lose or tie against Alaska.

Alaska, ineligible for the postseason, improved to 17-13-2 overall and 12-12-2 in the WCHA.

Before the game, UAH’s five seniors —  Craig Pierce, Ben Reinhardt, Doug Reid, Graeme Strukoff, and Jeff Vanderlugt — were honored for the contributions to the program. All five seniors started, and it didn’t take long to make an impact.

The captain Reid shot one from the left circle, hit the post and past Alaska goaltender Sean Cahill just 20 seconds in to give UAH a 1-0 lead. It was Reid’s third goal of the season, assisted by Jeff Vanderlugt.

Alaska would capitalize on power plays to take the lead. The Nanooks’ leading scorer, Tyler Morley, backhanded a rebound past Carmine Guerriero after a Ben Reinhardt tripping penalty to tie the game at 1-1 with 8:02 left in the first.

Brennan Saulnier’s elbowing call with 3:38 left in the first put UAH shorthanded again, and it took Colton Parayko just 12 seconds to rip one through traffic give Alaska a 2-1 lead.

The Chargers quickly equalized the game thanks to their own leading scorer. Max McHugh notched his ninth goal of his freshman campaign with a shot from the top of the circle just 49 seconds after Parayko’s tally. Frank Misuraca got the assist.

The first period would end at a 2-2 tie, but Alaska continued its shots dominance from Friday with a 17-7 advantage.

McHugh struck again at 6:37 of the second, deflecting a Frank Misuraca spot from the right point, sneaking the puck past Cahill’s right as UAH retook the lead at 3-2. With his 10th goal, McHugh became the first Charger with double-digit goals since Matt Sweazey had 12 in the 2008-09 season. Misuraca and Reinhardt got the assists.

Alaska re-tied the game at 3-3 just before the second intermission. Trevor Campbell’s shot through traffic found its way past Guerriero with 6.3 seconds left in the second period.

The third period went by quickly with no goals and no penalties. Then came overtime, and Parayko’s blast from the right point.

Alaska outshot the Chargers 41-19. Carmine Guerriero stopped 37 shots for UAH, while Cahill made 16 saves.

UAH will finish the regular season next weekend at Bowling Green.