Nov 182017
 

Christian Rajic scored three goals, earning UAH’s first hat trick by a freshman since 2002, to lead the Chargers to a 5-3 victory over Lake Superior State on Saturday at the Von Braun Center.

UAH (4-7-1 overall, 3-2-1 WCHA) also got a 41-save performance from goaltender Jordan Uhelski, matching a season high, to get a split with LSSU (3-8-3 overall, 2-4-2 WCHA). The Chargers are 3-1-1 in their last five games.

BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY

Rajic has UAH’s first hat trick since Kurt Gosselin did it against Ferris State last season, and the first by a Charger freshman since Jared Ross against Bemidji State on March 9, 2002.

 

The Chargers needed all of that from Rajic and Uhelski as the Lakers kept threatening to dismantle two three-goal leads. They fired 44 shots on Uhelski, including 21 in the third period.

UAH scored the first goal of the game halfway through the first. On the Chargers’ first power play, Kurt Gosselin blasted a Brennan Saulnier pass at the 10:32 mark for his third goal of the season. Connor James also got an assist.

With 5:08 left to go, UAH made it 2-0. Tyler Poulsen made a drop pass to Brandon Salerno, and his shot was tipped by Christian Rajic past Laker goaltender Nick Kossoff.

Poulsen got another assist on a feed to Saulnier with 1:54 to go in the first. Saulnier beat Kossoff from the right circle for his team-leading seventh goal of the season and a 3-0 Charger lead.

Lake Superior prevented a clean sheet for UAH in the first with a power play goal in the last minute. Brayden Gelsinger beat Jordan Uhelski from the right side to cut UAH’s lead to 3-1 at the first intermission.

Lake Superior drew within one when Josh Nenadal found the net from the doorstep on Uhelski’s left at 7:19 of the second.

Christian Rajic

Christian Rajic had UAH’s first hat trick by a freshman since Jared Ross did it in 2002. Click for gallery. (Photo by Todd Thompson/Rivercat Photography)

Then Rajic made some history.

Halfway through the game, Rajic put in a rebound on a Madison Dunn shot and a scramble to put UAH up 4-2 at the 8:09 mark.

Just 1:45 later, from near the boards on the left side of the offensive zone, Rajic scored his third goal of the game and the Chargers led by three again.

Rajic now has six goals in his freshman campaign.

The Lakers pulled Kossoff at that point after he allowed five goals on 23 shots. Freshman Mareks Mitens took over in net.

Max Humitz cut UAH’s lead to 5-3 at the 11:11 mark of the second, and that was the score at second intermission.

After all that scoring in the first two periods, there were no goals in the third, but not for lack of effort, particularly by the Lakers. They fired 21 shots on goal against Uhelski to only UAH’s five on Mitens.

Mitens ended up stopping all 11 shots he faced.

UAH finishes its homestand with a two-game series against Ferris State next Friday and Saturday. Both games at the Von Braun Center start at 7 p.m.

Three stars of the game:
1. Christian Rajic (UAH), hat trick
2. Tyler Poulsen (UAH), 2 assists
3. Connor James (UAH), 2 assists

Nov 172017
 

Right now, it just seems Lake Superior State has the Chargers’ number.

The Chargers saw its three-game unbeaten streak end Friday night with a 3-1 loss to the Lakers at the Von Braun Center.

UAH (3-7-1 overall, 2-2-1 WCHA) has now lost the last five meetings with Lake Superior State (3-7-3 overall, 2-3-2 WCHA).

BOX SCORE

LSSU goaltender Nick Kossoff was a big reason for the Lakers’ victory. He stopped 26 of 27 UAH shots, making big stops to prevent the Chargers from completing a rally.

UAH could only get a Madison Dunn goal late in the second period, and its power play could not convert on seven opportunities.

 

Game two of the series at Propst Arena is Saturday at 7:07 p.m.

The struggling UAH penalty kill struggled some more in giving the Lakers the early lead. Following a Josh Kestner boarding penalty, LSSU had numbers and allowed Diego Cuglietta to score at the 5:18 mark of the game.

It was the fourth straight goal allowed via the power play for UAH going to last Saturday’s 3-3 tie with Alaska Anchorage.

The Chargers tried to answer on their first man advantage, and made some nifty passes, but could not find the net. They had four shots on net, including three by Kestner, who was denied by Kossoff going post to post.

The Lakers extended their lead during 4-on-4 hockey after coincidental minor penalties to UAH’s Christian Rajic and LSSU’s Brayden Gelsinger. Jake Hand put in a rebound with 1:27 left in the first for a 2-0 score.

UAH came out of the second period with more aggressiveness, but it didn’t result in any scoring right away. Much of that had to do with Kossoff, who made some big saves, including a close-range shot by Christian Rajic and another robbery of Kestner during a major power play late in the period.

The Chargers outshot the Lakers 17-6 in the second period.

UAH finally got its first goal with 53 seconds remaining in the second, but not without a little controversy. Tyler Poulsen put a shot on net, but then made impact with Kossoff. The rebound went to Madison Dunn, who buried his second goal of the season to cut LSSU’s lead to 2-1.

The Lakers wanted goaltender interference called on Poulsen, but after a couple of minutes of video review the goal was confirmed.

The Chargers kept plugging in the third period, but Kossoff was still there. He made another big save early on Levi Wunder, who was all alone in front.

Fortunately the UAH penalty kill was perfect the rest of the way. UAH survived a two-man advantage for Lake State as the minutes started to dwindle, staying one goal behind with five minutes to go.

UAH had one final shot after Aiden Wright went off for tripping with 1:25 left. However, after Uhelski was pulled for an extra attacker, Max Humitz scored on the empty net with 8.6 seconds remaining to seal the Laker win.

Charger goaltender Jordan Uhelski made 19 saves on 21 Laker shots.

 

Nov 162017
 

Where: Propst Arena, Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
When: Friday, 7:07 p.m.; Saturday, 7:07 p.m.
Watch: Tickets | WCHA.tv
Team stats: UAH | Lake Superior State

Christian Rajic

Christian Rajic had a goal and an assist vs. UAA last week. The freshman has 3 goals and 3 assists so far. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

Charger update: UAH (3-6-1 overall, 2-1-1 WCHA) took four of six points against Alaska Anchorage in its first home series of the season last week.

The Chargers dominated the first game 5-1, with Brennan Saulnier scoring two goals. They rallied from two goals down in the third period to tie the second game 3-3, with Connor Merkley getting the equalizer with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation. UAA won the extra point in the WCHA standings in a shootout.

Josh Kestner scored twice in the second game. He and Saulnier have six goals, tied for the team lead and fourth in the WCHA overall leaders.

Cam Knight had three assists in the series, giving him a team-leading six for the year. Kurt Gosselin had a helper to give him seven points, tying him for fifth in the WCHA in defenseman scoring.

In goal, Jordan Uhelski made 16 saves on Friday and 31 on Saturday, raising his save percentage to .901.

UAH went 4-for-10 on the power play for the series.

Charger leaders:
Josh Kestner (Sr., F, 6 goals-3 assists-9 points in 10 games played)
Brennan Saulnier (Sr., F, 6-2-8 in 10 GP)
Kurt Gosselin (Jr., D, 2-5-7 in 10 GP)
Tyler Poulsen (Jr., F, 3-4-7 in 9 GP)
Cam Knight (Jr., D, 0-6-6 in 10 GP)
Jordan Uhelski (Sr., G, 2.99 goals against average, .901 save percentage in 8 starts)

UAH Tale of the tape

(WCHA rank)

Lake Superior State
3-6-1 Overall record 2-7-3
2-1-1 WCHA record 1-3-2
2.50 (T-6th) Goals/game 2.17 (8th)
3.20 (8th) Goals allowed/game 3.67 (10th)
15.3 (2nd) Pen. minutes/game 11.9 (8th)
20.4% (4th) Power play 26.1% (2nd)
72.2% (9th) Penalty kill 79.3% (5th)

About the Lakers: Lake Superior State (2-7-3 overall, 1-3-2 WCHA) comes to Huntsville after a tie (with shootout loss) and a loss at Bowling Green last weekend.

The Lakers have already played in four overtime games this season, going 1-0-3. One of those ties was at then-No. 1 Denver, with goaltender Nick Kossoff needing to make 63 saves.

Kossoff, a junior, and freshman Mareks Mitens have split the goaltending duties with six starts apiece.

Senior forward J.T. Henke is tied with Minnesota State’s C.J. Seuss for the WCHA’s overall scoring lead with 15 points. He leads the league in assists with 12.

Players to watch:
J.T. Henke (Sr., F, 3-12-15 in 12 GP)
Max Humitz (So., F, 5-3-8 in 12 GP)
Anthony Nellis (Jr., F, 5-2-7 in 12 GP)
Brayden Gelsinger (So. F, 3-5-8 in 10 GP)

Series notes: Lake Superior State leads the all-time series over UAH 10-6-2. The Lakers won all four meetings against the Chargers last season. LSSU has a 7-1-0 advantage in Huntsville.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Nov. 17
* Lake Superior State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
* Bowling Green at #5 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
* Michigan Tech at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
* #20 Northern Michigan at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
Ferris State at Michigan State, 6:05 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18
* Lake Superior State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
* Bowling Green at #5 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
* Michigan Tech at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
* #20 Northern Michigan at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
Michigan State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.

Nov 132017
 
Josh Kestner, Connor Merkley, Tyler Poulsen

Josh Kestner, left, celebrates a goal with Connor Merkley and Tyler Poulsen on Saturday. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

Well, that was fun.

UAH’s homecoming, home-opening series against Alaska Anchorage drew a combined attendance of 6,200 at the Von Braun Center. It was the largest two-game crowd for UAH since January 17-18, 2014, which coincidentally was also against UAA and also military appreciation weekend.

In that 2014 series, the first game ended in a 1-1 tie and UAA won the second game handily 4-1. The tie was the best result the Chargers had at the VBC in all of the 2013-14 season.

Since joining the WCHA in 2013, UAH has been struggling to find its home-ice advantage. Part of that is natural as the program has been trying to rebuild the team almost entirely from scratch following its near-death experience. But even as the team has improved on its record every year, the Chargers have had trouble not just winning at home but playing consistently well enough for the home fans.

Last season, UAH won nine games, but only two were at home. In 2015-16, UAH was 4-10-4 at home.

Head coach Mike Corbett said during Friday’s Blue Line Club luncheon that the problem was the Chargers would tighten up and try to play perfect in front of the crowd (or, perhaps more specifically, “their girlfriends”), which would lead to the wrong play and a wrong result.

That’s why this past weekend against Alaska Anchorage was so encouraging as the Chargers continue their six-game home stand this weekend against Lake Superior State.

On Friday, the Chargers were dominant, posting a 5-1 victory. The Chargers showcased their speed and stayed on their game plan. Even when it didn’t result in a goal, players such as Brennan Saulnier, who scored twice in the game, Tyler Poulsen, Josh Kestner, and Kurt Gosselin were causing the crowd to audibly ooh and ahh with their agile skating and puck work, getting around defenders and setting up solid scoring chances for themselves and their teammates.

The announced attendance of 3,128 was larger than any home game last season.

It was entertaining.

Jordan Uhelski and Cam Knight

Jordan Uhelski makes a save while Cam Knight defends during Saturday’s game. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

Saturday’s game started the same way, but problems came late in the second period. A fracas broke out in the UAH end, resulting in numerous penalties on both sides but a big one on Saulnier, who got a five-minute major for roughing and a game misconduct. The Seawolves pounced with two power play goals and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

Recent history would have suggested that UAH would not have responded well to that adversity. But this time, the Chargers got back on their game plan, stayed composed in the third period, and let their play do the talking.

UAH capitalized on two power-play chances and tied the game. Kestner scored early in the third period (his second goal of the game), and Connor Merkley gets his first collegiate goal at the buzzer (for added effect). The crowd went wild twice: On the goal itself, and again after video replay confirmed it.

The game would officially result in a 3-3 tie. Even though Anchorage got the extra WCHA point in the shootout, memories were made for yet another 3,000-plus group in attendance, which is great for a college football Saturday.

It was entertaining.

Will Sterrett was in Huntsville on Saturday as he attempts to visit every WCHA rink for a game this season, including Fairbanks and Anchorage. You can follow his odyssey with the hashtag #ChasingMacNaughton. He’ll get to see UAH and UAA meet again in Anchorage on January 12.

Sterrett has already seen some amazing games already on his journey, and Saturday’s crazy finish was no different. During the delirium of the buzzer-beating, game-tying goal, he tweeted: “I am legit in tears right now.

But more importantly:

Corbett said as much following Saturday’s game: “Homecoming weekend, a lot of fans, a lot of kids and their parents coming to a game for the first time — I don’t think anybody was let down. Anybody who stayed to the end both nights was not let down. Hopefully we’ll build on it.”

The Chargers still have issues to figure out as the season progresses, especially with a monster 12-game road swing following this home stand. But if this weekend was any indication, we’ve got a fun team to watch this season, win or lose.

The Chargers host Lake Superior State this Friday and Saturday, then Ferris State next week. Then they don’t return home until Jan. 26-27 against rival Bemidji State, the first of four home series over the last five weeks of the regular season. They’ll need that last home stand for the playoff push, which should make for some more entertaining hockey.

So come on down to the Von Braun Center this weekend. You might be surprised at the fun you’ll have.

Promotions this week: Free general admission for kids 12 and under, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport. On Friday, the first 500 fans receive the next set of UAH hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Blue Line Club lunch: The first Blue Line Club luncheon is Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus. Lawlers Barbecue will be catering an it is free to Blue Line Club members. Lake Superior State coach Damon Whitten and UAH coach Mike Corbett will be on hand to talk about this weekend’s series.