UAH returns to Lake State for WCHA quarterfinals

UAH (3-16-1) vs. Lake Superior State (15-6-3)
WCHA Quarterfinals (best-of-3)
WHERE: Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
WHEN: Game 1, Friday, 6:07 p.m.; Game 2, Saturday, 4:07 p.m.; Game 3 (if necessary), Sunday, 4:07 p.m.
WATCH: (subscription)
TEAM STATS: UAH | Lake Superior State

The Chargers have seen a lot of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan this season.

In early December, they played Lake Superior State there in a non-conference series. Last month, UAH went back for a WCHA series with the Lakers.

This weekend, the Chargers head to the Soo for a third time this season, this time for the postseason. UAH and Lake State face off in the best-of-3 WCHA quarterfinals starting Friday night.

If the series goes three, the Chargers will have played as many games at Taffy Abel Arena as they have at Von Braun Center this season (seven).

UAH comes in as the seventh seed with a seven-game losing streak. The Lakers shot up the standings to snag the second seed by winning nine of their last 12 games and getting at least one point in 11 of their last 12.

The Chargers have played the Lakers tough, though, despite an 0-3-1 head-to-head record, all at Lake State.

The first matchup on December 5 saw UAH rally with goals from Adrian Danchenko and Tyrone Bronte to force a 2-2 draw. The Charger fell behind 2-0 again the next day, but scores from Brian Scoville and Frank Vitucci were not enough in a 3-2 loss.

To open the conference series in February, Bennett Stockdale put UAH up 1-0 in the second period, but the Lakers scored twice in the third, including the game-winner with nine seconds left, steal a victory. Quinn Green gave the Chargers the early lead in the second game, but Lake Superior scored four unanswered goals for the sweep.

In all four games, neither team had a solid shots on goal advantage except for the third game, in which LSSU outshot UAH 28-10 but needed that last-minute goal to win.

So an upset is not out of the question, but the Chargers, who have been shut out in three of their last four games, will have to get out of their scoring slump against one of the best goaltenders in the country. Mareks Mitens ranks eighth in Division I in goals against average (1.86) and sixth in save percentage (.934). UAH scored three goals against Mitens in his two complete games between the pipes.

Bronte continues to lead the Chargers in scoring as a freshman with 13 points, and he was named to the WCHA all-rookie team on Wednesday. He leads the conference among freshmen in points per game (0.65).

UAH will need yet another strong goaltending performance of its own. David Fessenden still has solid numbers with a .920 save percentage and 2.62 goals against in 14 starts. He stopped 31 of 33 shots in his last outing at Bemidji State on Saturday.

Lake Superior State’s offense is about average among WCHA teams, scoring 2.7 goals per game, but the Lakers have some dangerous strikers. Juniors Ashton Calder and Pete Veillete lead the team with 12 and 11 goals, respectively. Calder has a goal and Veillete has three assists against UAH this season.

The winners of the four quarterfinal series will meet next weekend at the rink of the highest remining seed for single-elimination semifinals and the WCHA championship game.

WCHA quarterfinal series. All times Central.

#7 UAH at #2 Lake Superior State
Game 1: Friday, 6:07 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 4:07 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 4:07 p.m.

#8 Ferris State at #1 Minnesota State
Game 1: Friday, 6:07 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 4:07 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 4:07 p.m.

#6 Northern Michigan at #3 Bowling Green
Game 1: Friday, 6:07 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 4:07 p.m.

#5 Michigan Tech at #4 Bemidji State
Game 1: Friday, 7:07 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, 6:07 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 5:07 p.m.


UAH, Bemidji battle to end regular season

UAH (3-14-1, 3-9-0 WCHA) vs. Bemidji State (11-8-3, 6-5-1 WCHA)
WHERE: Sanford Center, Bemidji, Minn.
WHEN: Saturday, 4:07 p.m.; Sunday, 2:07 p.m.
WATCH: (subscription)

The UAH Chargers and Bemidji State Beavers have battled each other almost every year for almost 27 years, but this could be the last meeting between the longtime rivals for a while.

Next season, Bemidji State will be in the new CCHA. UAH’s future has yet to be determined.

The rivalry began with the 1994 NCAA Division II championship in Huntsville. The teams would meet four times in five years for the national title, each winning two championships. UAH and BSU would continue meeting as they moved into Division I, becoming members of College Hockey America in 1999 and staying through the men’s league’s end in 2010. The teams met four times while UAH was an independent, and then UAH joined Bemidji State in the WCHA in 2013.

The schools have played each other 92 times, with the Beavers holding a 55-32-5 advantage in the all-time series.

This weekend’s affair will not affect UAH’s seeding in the WCHA playoffs. Locked into seventh place, the Chargers will try to get some momentum into the postseason after being swept by Bowling Green last week and losing nine of their last 10.

The Beavers, ranked 17th in the latest poll, are playing for home ice in the quarterfinals. They are in sixth place but could finish as high as fourth.

A bunch of busy Beavers, Bemidji State is playing six games in 11 days to close the regular season. They split a home-and-home series with Minnesota State last weekend and split with Lake Superior in Bemidji on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Senior Zach Driscoll has put together another solid year between the pipes for Bemidji State, posting a 2.52 goals against average and a .919 save percentage, starting in all but one of BSU’s 22 games this season.

The Beavers have experienced forwards in seniors Ethan Somoza (11 goals) and Brendan Harris (16 points) and junior Alex Ierullo (19 points). Junior Owen Sillinger had nine goals but has missed BSU’s last seven games with an injury suffered against Northern Michigan on February 12.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Friday, March 5
#19 Michigan Tech at #4 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Saturday, March 6
UAH at #17 Bemidji State, 4:07 p.m.
Ferris State at #20 Lake Superior State, 2:07 p.m.
#19 Michigan Tech at #4 Minnesota State, 6:07 p.m.

Sunday, March 7
UAH at #17 Bemidji State, 2:07 p.m.


UAH faces Falcons in home-and-home

UAH (3-12-1, 3-7-0 WCHA) vs. Bowling Green (17-8-1, 6-5-1)
WHERE: Wednesday, Slater Family Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Ohio; Sunday, Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
WHEN: Wednesday, 6:07 p.m.; Sunday, 3:07 p.m. (subscription)
LISTEN: Penalty Box Radio (Sunday)

UAH has an actual home-and-home series. Only in this strange season could it happen.

The Chargers play Bowling Green this week, with the first game in Ohio on Wednesday night and the second game in Huntsville on Sunday afternoon. Because UAH is not very close to any other NCAA program, having a home-and-home series isn’t practical. Then again, this season, shortened and shaken-up by COVID-19, has been anything but practical.

Wednesday’s game at Bowling Green is the third and final stop on UAH’s long road trip. The Chargers headed to Ohio directly from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Northern Michigan and Lake Superior last week.

Sunday is likely UAH’s final home game of the season, and the final game at the Von Braun Center for seniors Connor Merkley and Connor Wood.

The Chargers are coming off a series at Lake Superior State that they would like to have back. They held a 1-0 lead in both games, with the Lakers rallying for a 2-1 win on Friday (scoring the game-winning goal with 9.2 seconds left in regulation) and a 4-1 win on Saturday.

Bowling Green is ranked 13th in this week’s poll and 14th in the USA Today/USA Hockey coaches poll. The Falcons had been in a rut in recent weeks, as their 6-2 win on Sunday snapped a five-game winless streak. They come into their final regular-season series in second place in the WCHA standings, nine points behind Minnesota State.

The Falcons have one of the top offenses in the WCHA, led by three senior forwards: Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruse (10 goals, 19 assists, 29 points), Cameron Wright (12-14-26), and Connor Ford (12-12-24).

Goaltending has also been strong for Bowling Green. Senior Eric Dop (2.24 goals against, .924 save percentage) has been the No. 1, starting the last four games and 17 overall, but sophomore Zack Rose has been posting good numbers as well (1.86, .914).

Bronte named league’s top rookie again: Tyrone Bronte earned his third WCHA rookie of the week award on Monday.

The freshman from Melbourne, Australia had three points in the Chargers’ four games last week. He scored a goal and an assist at Northern Michigan and had another assist at Lake Superior State.

Bronte’s 13 points leads the Chargers and is second in the WCHA for freshman. He leads the league and is 11th nationally among freshmen in points per game (0.81).

Bemidji series pushed a day: The Chargers’ final regular-season series at Bemidji State next weekend has been moved back a day. The games are now scheduled for Saturday, March 6 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, March 7 at 2 p.m.

The series was originally scheduled for January 15-16, but was postponed to March because of COVID-19 protocols.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Tuesday, February 23
#18 Lake Superior State at #20 Michigan Tech, 1:07 p.m.

Wednesday, February 24
UAH at #13 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.

Thursday, February 25
#19 Bemidji State at #3 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Friday, February 26
#18 Lake Superior State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #20 Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.

Saturday, February 27
#20 Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
#3 Minnesota State at #19 Bemidji State, 6:07 p.m.

Sunday, February 28
#13 Bowling Green at UAH, 3:07 p.m.

Tuesday, March 2
#18 Lake Superior State at #19 Bemidji State, 6:07 p.m.

Wednesday, March 3
#18 Lake Superior State at #19 Bemidji State, 4:07 p.m.

UAH to finish trip at Lake State

UAH (3-10-1, 3-5-0 WCHA) at Lake Superior State (10-4-3, 4-3-0 WCHA)
WHERE: Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
WHEN: Friday, 6:07 p.m.; Saturday, 4:07 p.m. (subscription)

The Chargers continue their tour of the Upper Peninsula this weekend with a return trip to Lake Superior State.

UAH is coming off an up-and-down series at Northern Michigan, grinding out a 3-1 win on Tuesday before being grounded in an 8-2 loss on Wednesday.

The Lakers, winners in their last three games, are ranked 20th in this week’s poll. They won at Michigan Tech 3-1 on Tuesday after an impressive sweep at Bowling Green last weekend.

UAH and LSSU currently sit fifth and sixth in the WCHA standings. The Lakers have 11 points in seven league games while the Chargers have eight points in eight games.

The Chargers and Lakers met in Sault Ste. Marie in a non-conferernce series back on December 5-6. The teams tied 2-2 before Lake State took the finale, 3-2.

LSSU is led by junior Ashton Calder, who has 18 points in 17 games, with an even split of nine goals and nine assists. Pete Veillette has been hot as of late, with five of his 13 points and three of his seven goals coming in his last four games.

The Lakers have two senior defensemen who have double-digit points. William Riedell has 12 points with nine assists. Lukas Kaelble had three of his team-leading 10 assists against the Chargers in December.

Mareks Mitens is the Lakers’ No. 1 between the pipes, sporting a 1.79 goals against average and .939 save percentage with a shutout. He stopped 23 of 25 UAH shots in the tie in the first meeting.

Next week, UAH has a home-and-home series with Bowling Green. The Chargers visit Ohio on Wednesday and host the Falcons next Sunday.

WCHA postseason format unveiled: All eight participating WCHA teams will play in the conference’s final postseason.

The top four teams will host a best-of-3 quarterfinal series on March 12-14. The highest remaining seed will host single-game semifinals on March 19 and the championship game on March 20.

The winner of the tournament will get the WCHA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

This week in the WCHA: All time Central.

Friday, February 19
UAH at #20 Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
Minnesota State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.*

Saturday, February 20
UAH at #20 Lake Superior State, 4:07 p.m.
Bowling Green at Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Michigan Tech, 5:07 p.m.
Minnesota State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.

Sunday, February 21
Bowling Green at Norhtern Michigan, 3:07 p.m.

Tuesday, February 23
Lake Superior State at Michigan Tech, 1:07 p.m.

*Non-conference game.


Busy week starts at Northern Michigan

UAH (2-9-1, 2-4-0 WCHA) at Northern Michigan (7-11-0, 5-3-0 WCHA)
WHERE: Berry Events Center, Marquette, Mich.
WHEN: Tuesday, 3:37 p.m.; Wednesday, 6:07 p.m. (subscription)

The Chargers’ stamina will be tested this week.

Not long after a tough series against one of the nation’s top teams, the Chargers head north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to play four WCHA games in five days.

UAH’s first stop is Northern Michigan for games Tuesday afternoon (a multi-faceted rarity in itself) and Wednesday night. The series was originally scheduled for January 22 and 23 in Huntsville but COVID-19 issues with the Chargers forced a postponement.

With the Chargers already scheduled to play at Lake Superior State this Friday and Saturday and no weekend dates available at the VBC, the WCHA shifted the series to NMU instead.

UAH is coming off a rough weekend at home against No. 3 Minnesota State, losing 4-1 and 5-0. The Chargers played hard, but like most everyone else in the WCHA, are currently no match for the talent and experience of the Mavericks.

The Chargers will try to fare better against a Northern Michigan team that is finding its groove. After a surprising 2-10-0 start, the Wildcats have won five of their last six — all conference games — to shoot up to third place in the WCHA standings.

Last weekend, NMU swept a series at Bemidji State, which was on a roll of its own, by scores of 5-1 and 3-2 in overtime.

The Wildcats have kicked up their offense a notch, scoring 26 goals in their six-game run. The top line of Griffin Loughran (3 goals, 7 points), Joseph Nardi (6 goals, 12 points), and Andre Ghantous (14 points) has been especially lethal in that span, although Loughran missed last week’s series due to injury. AJ Vanderbeck leads the squad with 10 goals, with five coming in the last six games.

The Wildcats’ top goalie, Nolan Kent, has missed the last three games and is out for the rest of the season. In his place has been freshman Rico DiMatteo, the fourth goaltender NMU has played this season, and NMU has won all three.

For the Chargers, top goalie David Fessenden made 29 saves against Minnesota State on Thursday before getting hurt and leaving early in the third period. He did not dress in Friday’s series finale. Derek Krall, who made 31 saves Friday, will likely start if Fessenden can’t go.

It’s been a while since the Chargers have played four games in five days. The last times occurred during their trips to Alaska from 1989-91, where they would play two games in either Anchorage or Fairbanks, take a day off to travel to the other place and then play two more.