Northern Michigan blasts UAH 7-1 in playoff opener

Northern Michigan scored four goals in the first 8:50 and cruised to a 7-1 win over UAH in game one of the WCHA quarterfinals Friday in Marquette, Mich.

UAH (11-22-2) will need to regroup and start fresh Saturday to avoid elimination in the best-of-3 series. But the Chargers will need to find some offense after being outshot 39-14.


They will have to do it without senior forward Brennan Saulnier, who got his fourth game misconduct of the season for verbal abuse of officials in the second period. By NCAA rule, he will sit out Saturday, and perhaps more games if the WCHA suspends him further and UAH extends the series.

Northern Michigan, ranked 19th in the USCHO poll and the second seed of the WCHA playoffs, improved to 22-12-3.

The first nine minutes was nightmarish for the Chargers, and the game was decided then.

UAH had the first power play at the 1:34 mark, but gave up a shorthanded goal at 1:59 when Troy Loggins had a steal and scored on a give-and-go with Adam Rockwood.

This appeared to throw the Chargers out of whack, and the game quickly got away from them.

It became 2-0 NMU when Demico Hannoun took a feed and beat Charger goaltender Jordan Uhelski from the low left circle, just 4:47 in.

It became 3-0 NMU when Robbie Payne had an easy empty net just 48 seconds later.

It became 4-0 NMU when Denver Pierce took a Philip Beaulieu backhanded pass to another open goal at the 8:50 mark.

An angry Uhelski, making only four saves on eight shots, was pulled for freshman Mark Sinclair.

Sinclair was solid in relief. He made 28 saves on 31 shots, including 15 of 16 in the second period.

Late in the second, Brennan Saulnier collided with Pierce, and both were slow to get up. Saulnier was assessed an interference penalty.

NMU answered on the power play with 2:41 left in the second, and it was Pierce scoring with a quick snipe from the slot to make it 5-0 Wildcats.

Saulnier got a cross-checking penalty with 2:32 remaining in the period. He took exception with the officials, and some words got him another misconduct penalty, and then a game misconduct and ejected.

In a very chippy third period, Philip Beaulieu made it 6-0 with 13:09 left. Then Payne scored his second of the game 29 seconds later to make it 7-0.

UAH finally got on the board on the power play with 1:02 to go, as Brandon Parker blasts one from inside the blue line for his first goal of the season and the Chargers’ first ever in a WCHA playoff game.

Madison Dunn and Josh Kestner got the assists.

Preview: UAH at #19 Northern Michigan, WCHA quarterfinals

Where: Berry Events Center, Marquette, Mich.
When: Game 1, Friday, 6:07 p.m. CST; Game 2, Saturday, 6:07 p.m. CST; Game 3 (if necessary), Sunday, 6:07 p.m. CST.
Listen: (NMU)
Team stats: UAH | Northern Michigan

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner closes in on Bowling Green State goalie with the puck. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Charger update: UAH (11-21-2 overall, 10-16-2 WCHA) secured a spot in the WCHA playoffs with a 3-2 win over Bowling Green last Friday at the Von Braun Center. Austin Beaulieu’s goal with 1:18 remaining in regulation was the game-winner.

The Chargers lost 3-0 in the regular-season finale, and finished seventh in the WCHA standings.

Josh Kestner scored his 21st goal of the season, tied for most in the WCHA, in the third period on Friday, with Tyler Poulsen earning his team-leading 15th assist. Captain Max McHugh tallied his second goal, giving him four points in eight games since his return from injury.

Jordan Uhelski continues to make big saves for the Chargers. He stopped 30 shots on Friday and 28 on Saturday against Bowling Green. His .915 save percentage in conference play is fourth in the WCHA.

The Chargers return to the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 2015, when they were also a seventh seed. UAH was swept in two games, one in triple overtime, without scoring that season.

However, UAH went 2-2 against Northern Michigan during the regular season, which gives the Chargers some confidence going into this best-of-3 quarterfinal series in Marquette.

Players to watch:
Josh Kestner (Sr., F, 21 goals-7 assists-28 points in 34 games played)
Tyler Poulsen (Jr., F, 9-15-24 in 32 GP)
Christian Rajic (Fr., F, 9-6-15 in 34 GP)
Kurt Gosselin (Jr., D, 5-10-15 in 34 GP)
Brennan Saulnier (Sr., F, 8-7-15 in 28 GP)
Jordan Uhelski (Sr., G, 2.92 goals against average, .911 save percentage in 29 starts)

About the Wildcats: Northern Michigan (21-12-3 overall, 19-7-2 WCHA) finished second in the WCHA, much higher than their predicted seventh place in the preseason polls. The Wildcats have been strong in the second half, winning 10 of their last 12 games.

Last weekend, NMU split a home-and-home series with arch rival Michigan Tech, winning 2-1 at home and losing 3-2 on the road.

NMU boasts three dangerous goal scorers that will need to be contained for the Chargers to advance. Robbie Payne (20 goals), Troy Loggins (17 goals), Darien Craighead (17 goals) combined for five goals and 11 points in the four games against UAH this season.

And that doesn’t include the Wildcats’ leading scorer, Adam Rockwood, who has 30 assists (fourth in Division I) and 38 points this season. Rockwood had a goal and four assists against the Chargers.

The Wildcats will have all-WCHA goaltender Atte Tolvanen between the pipes. He did not dress against UAH in the series in Marquette, but has started every game since returning from injury on Dec. 15. Tolvanen allowed six goals on 29 shots in the two games in Huntsville.

Players to watch:
Adam Rockwood (Jr., F, 8-30-38 in 36 GP)
Robbie Payne (Sr., F, 20-9-29 in 36 GP)
Troy Loggins (Jr.,, F, 17-20-37 in 36 GP)
Darien Craighead (So., F, 17-14-31 in 35 GP)
Philip Beaulieu (So., D, 9-22-31 in 36 GP)
Atte Tolvanen (Jr., G, 2.41 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 shutouts in 28 starts)

UAH Tale of the tape
(per game averages)
Northern Michigan
11-21-2 Overall record 21-12-3
10-16-2 WCHA record 19-7-2
2.46 (7th) Goals/game 3.04 (3rd)
3.07 (T-7th) Goals allowed/game 2.29 (4th)
15.2 (4th) Penalty minutes 13.1 (9th)
16.9% (6th) Power play 21.6% (2nd)
80.1% (7th) Penalty kill 83.2% (4th)
WCHA rank in parentheses, conference games only


Series notes: Northern Michigan leads the all-time series 13-6-3, including an 8-3-1 mark in Marquette. UAH has won four of the last six meetings overall, and three of the last four at NMU. This season, both series in Huntsville and Marquette were splits.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. All WCHA playoff games can be seen on

Friday, March 2 (Game 1)
UAH at #19 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Ferris State at #17 Bowling Green, 7:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at #3 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Saturday, March 3 (Game 2)
UAH at #19 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Ferris State at #17 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at #3 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Sunday, March 4 (Game 3 if necessary)
UAH at #19 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Bemidji State, 5:07 p.m.
Ferris State at #17 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Alaska at #3 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Experience with NMU gives UAH confidence heading into playoffs

UAH bench

The UAH bench celebrates the 4-2 win over NMU on Feb. 4. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

It’s no secret that UAH will be underdog going into the WCHA quarterfinal series at Northern Michigan.

If the regular season was any indication, however, an upset is not out of the question.

“We like our matchup,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “This is a team we’ve played 2-2, so we feel good about that. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper, but you know we can feel confident going into that weekend, knowing that this is a team we’ve beaten in the past.”

UAH and NMU played series in both Marquette and Huntsville this season, and both were splits. Each team had a one-goal win and a two-goal win, underscoring how close the matchups have been.

In Marquette back in December, UAH had a 1-0 lead before losing 3-1, but rebounded the next night with a 3-2 victory.

“We were able to get a win out here and keep the game close here, but we are going to have to be able to get more shots on goal,” Corbett said.

Northern Michigan has a corps of dangerous scorers. Robbie Payne leads the Wildcats with 20 goals, and two others have 17, Troy Loggins and Darien Craighead. Centering on Loggins’ line is Adam Rockwood, who has 30 assists this season.

“The toughest thing is that they have good depth up front with Payne, Loggins, and Rockwood,” Corbett said. “They’ve got some guys who can definitely score up front. The biggest thing is being able to try to contain those guys. In the playoffs, your top players have got to be your top players. They’ve been banking on those guys all year and they’ve been coming through. We’ve got to be able to force their secondary guys to be able to score for them. That’s the biggest challenge for us.”

UAH will need big contributions from its top players as well, and that means Josh Kestner (21 goals) and Tyler Poulsen (nine goals and 15 assists).

“Their goaltender (Atte Tolvanen) has been an all-league goaltender and we’re going to have to be able to get to him,” Corbett said.

Kestner is one of six seniors who played in the Chargers’ last playoff series in 2015. In addition, Richard Buri, Cody Champagne, Max McHugh, Brandon Parker, and Brennan Saulnier were all freshmen who got playoff experience at Michigan Tech. UAH lost 1-0 in triple overtime and 3-0 in that series.

“(The seniors) have been on the stage,” Corbett said. “We had the three overtime game with Michigan Tech and I think they understand what it take to be able to play in the playoffs. Everything is magnified and everything’s going to be a little bit tighter and mistakes are magnified.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how dialed in we are at practicing certain things that we need to be able to work on. Their leadership is going to be important because they were the only group that played in the playoffs on our team.”

The Chargers will leave Wednesday night for Marquette by bus. They will stop for practice along the way. It’s a long trip (22 hours), and once again the Chargers will have to manage the fatigue.

“We’be been fatigued since our road trip,” Corbett said, referring to the stretch of 12 straight road games and three-week trip through Bemidji and Alaska around New Year’s. “It’s been tough for us to be able to put together back to back consistent efforts.

“We’re taking a 22-hour bus ride up to Northern Michigan and now we’ve got to be able to once again manage those levels of fatigue. The good thing is we get to take a few extra players and make sure that we’re putting the freshest guys on the ice we can.”

Jeffers committed for next season
By Asher Kitchings

UAH recently received another commitment for the 2018-2019 season. Jack Jeffers, a 6-foot-0, 180-pound forward from Oakville, Ontario, who is currently playing for the Markham Royals of the OJHL, will be joining forwards Tyr Thompson, Ben Allen, and Bauer Neudecker, and defensemen Drew Lennon, in the incoming recruiting class.

Jeffers was a teammate of current Charger Christian Rajic last season, and has really put everything together this year. He’s got four years of junior hockey under his belt, exceptional speed, and offensive instincts, which should allow him to acclimate to the college game quicker than most. More of a playmaker than a pure goal-scorer, Jeffers has put up 78 points in 53 games this season — well over a point per game.

As someone who was on NHL Central Scouting’s radar during his draft year, Jeffers is a welcome addition to this already strong crop of legitimate D-I recruits.

For a preview of this kid’s skillset, check out this short clip of a goal he scored in 2016 CJHL Top Prospects Game:

WCHA quarterfinals set: UAH goes to NMU

The Chargers will be the seventh seed in the WCHA playoffs, and will travel to second-seeded Northern Michigan for the best-of-3 quarterfinals.

The series begins Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Michigan. Game 2 is Saturday, and game 3, if necessary, is Sunday. All games are scheduled to start at 6:07 p.m. Central Time.

The Chargers and Wildcats split their four meetings this season. In Marquette on Dec. 1-2, NMU won 3-1 and UAH won 3-2, and in Huntsville on Feb. 3-4, NMU won 4-3 and UAH won 4-2.

UAH is in the WCHA playoffs for the second time since joining the conference five years ago, and the first time since 2015. That year, UAH, also the seventh seed, went to Michigan Tech and was swept by scores of 1-0 (in triple overtime, the longest game in UAH history) and 3-0.

The other WCHA quarterfinal pairings are: #8 Alaska at #1 Minnesota State; #6 Ferris State at #3 Bowling Green; #5 Michigan Tech at #4 Bemidji State.

The best-of-3 semifinals will be held Feb. 9-11 and the WCHA Championship Game will be Feb. 17 at the highest remaining seeds.

Chargers shut out by Falcons in home finale

The Chargers could not ride Friday’s playoff-clinching victory into success on Senior Night on Saturday.

Fifteenth-ranked Bowling Green shut down the Chargers 3-0 on Saturday in the regular-season finale at the Von Braun Center, splitting the series.


UAH (11-21-2 overall, 10-16-2 WCHA), which secured its spot in the WCHA playoffs Friday with a 3-2 win, will find out its seeding and quarterfinals destination late tonight when the rest of the conference slate plays out.

The Chargers came into Saturday as the sixth seed, but they will need help to stay there. UAH could fall to either seventh or eighth depending on what happens between Ferris State and Lake Superior State, and Alaska and Alaska Anchorage.

The result was a sour sendoff to UAH’s seniors, who played their game inside Propst Arena.

Bowling Green (20-10-6 overall, 17-6-5 WCHA) had already locked down the third seed, and they could host the Chargers if UAH holds on to the sixth seed.

The Falcons scored a pair of goals in the first period. Connor Ford tallied the first goal at 9:49, and Brett D’Andrea put one past Uhelski from the slot at 15:35.

Bowling Green took a 3-0 lead just 55 seconds into the second period, as Mitch McLain put the puck through Uhelski’s five-hole on the power play.

UAH’s best chance came with a 2-man advantage after back-to-back penalties by the Falcons. But the Chargers, who were able to tie Friday’s game in this situation in the third period, would come up empty this time.

Ryan Bednard stopped all 23 UAH shots for his second shutout of the season.

Uhelski finished with 28 saves.