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Charger offense perks up, but falls short at NMU

The Chargers got more shots. The Chargers got more goals. But it wasn’t enough for the Chargers to get their first win.

UAH lost to Northern Michigan 5-3 on Friday in Marquette, Mich., dropping the Chargers to 0-7 on the season and 0-3 in WCHA play.

The shots on goal were 32 for each team. For UAH, it was more than double the 15.8 per-game average through its first six games.

NMU, ranked No. 20, improved to 5-1-1 overall and 3-0-0 in the WCHA.

Game two of the series is Saturday at 5 p.m. Central Time.

It didn’t take long for the Chargers to finally get their first lead of the season. Josh Latta centered the puck from the left circle to Jack Jeffers, who buried his second goal of the season just 19 seconds in.

Latta leads the Chargers with four assists.

Rylan Yaremko tied the game for NMU at the 8:08 mark, but UAH got the lead right back just 22 seconds later. Connor Wood was the recipient of a turnover and snapped the puck over goaltender John Hawthorne.

Right then UAH already had its first multi-goal game of the season.

But the Chargers coughed up the lead in the first 2:02 of the second period.

NMU tied the game 2-2 during an abbreviated power play as Griffin Loughran deflected a Philip Beaulieu blast up the middle 57 seconds in.

Then the Wildcats went up 3-2 as Andre Ghantous beat Mark Sinclair from the right circle.

NMU finished a three-goal second period with a Darien Craighead tally with 3:21 remaining.

Being down two to start the third was trouble enough, but UAH also had to kill a major power play after Dayne Finnson checked Drew Newhouse from behind as the second period expired.

The Chargers killed the penalty, with some help from NMU’s Michael Van Unen, who kneed Wood.

UAH then got to work on trimming its deficit. With 13:31 remaining, Daneel Lategan scored his first collegiate goal with a slapper from the right circle to cut NMU’s lead to 4-3.

The Chargers showed some fight in the third, outshooting the Wildcats 15-9 in the period. UAH popped some shots on Hawthorne (29 saves) during two third-period plays.

But UAH didn’t convert, and Philip Beaulieu sealed the NMU victory with :57 remaining with a empty-net goal from near his own goal line.

Sinclair finished with 27 saves.

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Preview: Chargers head to NMU for first WCHA road series

WHERE: Berry Events Center, Marquette, Mich.
WHEN: Friday, 6:07 p.m.; Saturday, 5:07 p.m. (CDT)
WATCH: FloHockey.tv (subscription)

The Chargers head north this weekend in search of their first win of the season, taking on Northern Michigan in the first road WCHA series.

UAH has found some success against Northern Michigan in recent years. Last season, the Chargers took a 2-point tie at home. In 2017-18, UAH went 3-4 against the Wildcats. Two of those wins came in Marquette, including one victory in the WCHA quarterfinals.

UAH (0-6-0 overall, 0-2-0 WCHA) lost 5-1 and 4-1 to No. 2-ranked Minnesota State last weekend in the Chargers’ first series at home. The second game was tied 1-1 with 10 minutes to go, but the Mavericks scored two quick goals to pull away.

Despite being outshot 88-30 for the series, the Chargers got a strong effort from goaltender Mark Sinclair. The junior played both games and made 79 saves, including 45 in the first game, one short of his career high.

UAH continued to struggle offensively, now with only five goals on the season. Jack Jeffers and Sean Rappleyea had the tallies for the Chargers against Minnesota State. Jeffers and freshman Josh Latta lead UAH with three points.

Northern Michigan (4-1-1, 2-0-0) is off to a strong start, getting a sweep at Ferris State (4-3 and 6-4) last week to start WCHA play and enter the USCHO.com poll at No. 20. The Wildcats also posted a tie and win at Boston University to weeks ago.

Two sophomore forwards have been tearing it up for NMU. Vincent de May and Griffin Loughran each have six goals already. Loughran scored four goals, including a hat trick on Saturday, against Ferris State to earn WCHA forward of the week honors.

Northern Michigan has split time in net between sophomore Nolan Kent and freshman John Hawthorne. Hawthorne has put up the better numbers in his three starts, with a 2.27 goals against average and .921 save percentage.

Series preview by the Marquette Mining Journal

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Thursday, October 31
Omaha at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Friday, November 1
* UAH at #20 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
* Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
* #18 Bowling Green at #2 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
* Bemidji State at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
Omaha at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Saturday, November 2
* UAH at #20 Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
* Ferris State at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
* #18 Bowling Green at #2 Minnesota State, 6:07 p.m.
* Bemidji State at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at #14 North Dakota, 7:07 p.m.

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Mavs’ 3rd-period burst finishes sweep of Chargers

A little closer this time, but the Chargers still have work to do to catch up with Minnesota State.

UAH found itself in a tie with the second-ranked Mavericks halfway in the third period. But two quick goals was the difference in MSU’s 4-1 win on Saturday.

BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY

The Chargers (0-6 overall, 0-2 WCHA) kept it tight thanks again to Mark Sinclair, who made 34 saves in addition to the 45 he had in Friday’s 5-1 loss. It was the first series of back-to-back starts this season for Sinclair, who is working off a preseason knee injury.

“I think I played all right,” Sinclair said. “There’s a couple I’d like to have back for sure, but tonight was a little bit better of an effort overall. We may have had quite a few shots, but a lot of them were from the outside, so our defense did a really good job.

“You have to go with your top guy against the top team in the league,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “And that’s what we’re building for. Mark’s the guy that we’ve got to be able to rely on in big games like this.”

The game was scoreless through the first period, and despite being outshot 14-5, it was the first shutout period UAH had posted all season.

The Mavericks (5-0-1, 2-0-0) also had plenty of chances in the second period as UAH gave them a handful of power plays. But it was on a 4-on-4 that Minnesota State drew first blood.

Charlie Gerard, who had two goals on Friday, snuck one past Sinclair on a back-hander with 2:43 left in the second.

UAH tied the game at 2:27 of the third. Adrian Danchenko retrieved his own dump in near the left corner of the MSU end, and sent it in front to Sean Rappleyea. Rappleyea’s shot from the high slot found its way past Jaxson Stauber for this first goal of the season and just the second of the senior’s UAH career.

“We don’t get a lot of shots, we’ve got to bury the ones we get, and he buried the one that he got,” Corbett said. “Raps and that line didn’t necessarily get a ton of ice time but they’re out there to give us energy and they gave us a great boost.”

The Chargers also got a boost from a Homecoming crowd of 3,084.

“I think the crowd’s at a new level this year,” Sinclair said. “I think we got a pretty good boost from it. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of guys really enjoy it. They’re getting loud and it’s very encouraging for sure.”

Minnesota State regained the lead on a Reggie Lutz goal with 8:31 remaining in the third.

“The kid made a heck of a play popping the puck in the air on the second goal,” Corbett said. “But we’ve got to get the puck out. It’s those little lapses.

“We relax for a second, and they’re the type of team that preys on those mistakes.”

Nathan Smith followed up 42 seconds later picking up a loose puck in the slot and putting MSU up 3-1.

Parker Tuomie finished the game with an empty-net goal with 40.7 seconds left.

“Tonight’s kind of a tough one because we’re so close,” Sinclair said. “Close doesn’t really count right now, but I think we’re making good strides. Hopefully next weekend we can turn it around.”

“I thought our 60 minutes tonight was better than our 60 minutes last night,” Corbett said.

The Chargers head on the road to Northern Michigan next weekend.

“There’s no rest for us to be able to play another top team in our league,” Corbett said. “Our guys have to gain confidence. Little successes build into big successes.

“We don’t talk about moral victories and all that stuff, but these guys have to look at some of the things that are really good. We’re 1-1 with 10 minutes left in the game, and these are the games that we’ve got to learn how to win.”

UAH is now winless in the last 32 meetings with Minnesota State (0-28-4) dating back to 2002.

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Preview: UAH comes home to challenge against No. 2

WHERE: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
WHEN: Friday, 7:07 p.m.; Saturday, 7:07 p.m.
WATCH: FloHockey.tv (subscription)
TICKETS

The Chargers open the home schedule and WCHA action this weekend against a nemesis.

Minnesota State (3-0-1), No. 2 in the latest USCHO.com and USA Today polls, will be the highest-ranked Division I team to ever visit Huntsville.

The Mavericks, who are favored to take the WCHA title again this season, have been the hardest nuts to crack for the Chargers. UAH hasn’t beaten MSU in the six seasons since joining the WCHA. The Chargers’ last win in the series came in 2002.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “We played them in the playoffs at the end of last year, so we know exactly what we’re getting into with them. But it’s a good challenge, a challenge we have to embrace. I’m excited to see how we’re going to be up to that challenge.”

Meanwhile, UAH (0-4-0) has had a rough start out of the gate, scoring only three goals in four road games. Coach Mike Corbett says his young team is learning how tough Division I hockey can be.

“We are playing nine freshman on most nights,” Corbett said. “As I have told this group before, D-I hockey is a men’s league and our young guys now have a good understanding of what it takes to compete night in and night out at this level.

“We have improved every game even though the scores may not show it.  We need to fight out way to the net front to get second chance opportunities. Lots of shots missing the net and young mistakes have hurt us, especially at the end of shifts.”

“I like this team a lot. There will be a learning curve but our young guys are all players that will help us continue to win games. We have to stay on them and keep pushing for improvement and good habits within their game.”

Jack Jeffers and Josh Latta each have two assists in the early going. In goal, time has been split between junior Mark Sinclair and freshman David Fessenden, each with two starts.

For the Mavericks, freshman Lucas Snowden has already made a mark with seven points (two goals and five assists) in four games. Senior Marc Michaelis is continuing to be a force with four goals. Goaltender Dryden McKay has allowed only six goals in four games.

“They’re an older, senior-laden group and have a very good offense,” Corbett said. “We have to match their intensity right off the bat.”

Promotions: Schedule magnets will be given away in Friday’s opener. Kids 12 and under can get free admission to both games at the Von Braun Center box office, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central. All WCHA conference games (*) can be seen on FloHockey.tv (online subscription).

Friday, October 25
* #2 Minnesota State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
* Michigan Tech at #17 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at #5 Notre Dame, 6 p.m.
Bemidji State at #16 North Dakota, 7:37 p.m.

Saturday, October 26
* #2 Minnesota State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 5:07 p.m.
* Michigan Tech at #17 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska at Alaska Anchorage, 8:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at #5 Notre Dame, 5 p.m.
Bemidji State at #16 North Dakota, 7:07 p.m.

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2019-20 preview: Younger, speedier Chargers eye growth spurt

Last season, there were plenty of freshman who got a taste of the college game. Now, even more rookies are here looking to turn things around in 2019-20.

The UAH hockey program took a step back in 2018-19 in terms of record (8-28-2) and is still looking for that jump up the WCHA standings. The Chargers finished eighth in the league last season and lost in the WCHA quarterfinals at Minnesota State.

UAH has 10 freshmen this season, more than the number of juniors and seniors combined (nine). Half of them earned 3.5-star ratings from recruiting site Neutral Zone, underlying the potential of this class.

“We’ve got a young group,” Corbett said. “Just the short time we’ve been able to get on the ice, they’ve made a very good impression on me and to the rest of our staff and the rest of our team.

“I like their speed, and we’ve also added a little bit of size. We’ve got some guys in the 6-0 to 6-2 range that can get up and down the rink. That’s going to be beneficial to us. There’s guys who have played a lot of junior hockey who can not only contribute in college hockey but also be leaders for our team.”

The Chargers hope to surprise some folks after being picked to finish ninth in the WCHA preseason coaches and media polls.

Here’s a look at the 2019-20 UAH Chargers.

Jack Jeffers (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Forwards

Scoring was a bit of a struggle for the Chargers last season, particularly in the early going. UAH mustered only nine goals in the first 10 games on the way to a 1.76 average.

UAH eventually found a catalyst in Hans Gorowsky, who scored 12 goals, but he’s now graduated. The top returning point scorers each had 14 points last season: Austin Beulieu, Christian Rajic, Jack Jeffers, and Bauer Neudecker.

“Those are the four guys that we’re depending upon, along with our freshman group, to jumpstart our offense,” Corbett said.

Beaulieu, a senior, had five goals and nine assists last season. He sees plenty of potential in this year’s Charger offense, especially if they finish the chances they had trouble with last season.

“Everyone’s had a good summer of training and working on their skills,” Beaulieu said. “The freshmen have adjusted well so far in practice, and I think as the games come, they’ll just get better with experience.

“For me, it’s more being around the net and trying to finish my chances as well.”

Austin Beaulieu and Bauer Neudecker (Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Jeffers and Neudecker, now sophomores, each had seven goals in their freshman campaigns.

“Jack’s probably as talented as anybody in the league,” Corbett said. “Now those guys all have a year or two under their belts and now we’re going to ask them to really step up and be threats. The biggest thing is in order to score you’ve got to be a threat first.”

Rajic, now a junior, was tied for the team lead with 11 assists last year.

Brandon Salerno is the only other senior forward, also chipping in five goals in 2018-19.

More returning juniors are Connor Merkley (three goals) and Connor Wood (two goals). Tyr Thompson and Ben Allen round out the returning sophomores.

UAH has five freshman forwards. Josh Latta scored 19 goals with Vernon of the BCHL, helping the Vipers reach the league finals.

The largest of the new class is Florida native Adrian Danchenko at 6-2, 185 pounds. He scored 15 goals for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the NAHL last season.

Liam Izyk (6-1, 180, 12 goals with Fort McMurray in the AJHL, Peyton Francis (6-1, 175, 24 goals for Carleton Place of the CCHL) and Daneel Lategan (6-1, 180, 20 goals for Langley of the BCHL) all bring added size to the front.

“We feel like we can pressure teams a little bit more now, and we’re excited about that,” Corbett said.

“They’re all really good contributors on their teams, and we just expect them to come in and be good freshmen and contribute. We need those guys to chip in five goals, seven assists, things like that to just up our scoring. They’be been around and they know how to contribute to a team’s success.”

Liam Izyk (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Defensemen

UAH will look to improve upon a scoring defense that was ranked ninth in the WCHA last season. The Chargers are hoping that added quickness will result in less laying back and more steals, facilitating a more aggressive offense.

“Just getting pucks quick, breaking out and being aggressive on the forecheck,” sophomore defenseman Drew Lennon said. “We’re really going to try and play faster this year.”

Senior Connor James is the only returning defenseman who saw regular action last year. He scored four goals and blocked 37 shots.

“Connor is a slick little defenseman,” Corbett said. “We’re going to count on him to add some offense, and I think he can really pick up his game.”

Two defensemen played all 38 games as freshman last season: Lennon and Bailey Newton.

“Lennon gained a ton of experience in all situations for us,” Corbett said. “Bailey Newton is a tough guy, more of a rugged-type defenseman. He’s a hard kid to play against.”

Lennon blocked 54 shots last season to lead all returning Chargers.

“With juniors, you play around 60 games a season, but that doesn’t really compare to what it’s like at the college level,” Lennon said. “It’s just so much faster. There’s less time and space. You have to be ready, physically and mentally, every night.”

Newton was easily the most penalized Charger last season with 93 minutes in the box. His lone goal of the year lifted UAH to a 1-0 win at Michigan Tech.

Dayne Finnson logged 32 games as a freshman last year, meaning the returning sophomore group already has seen plenty of action at the college level.

“We’re a pretty experienced group on the back end,” Lennon said.

Other returning defensemen are senior Sean Rappleyea and junior Teddy Rotenberger.

Three freshman blueliners join the Chargers: Lucas Bahn of Hendersonville, Tenn., who had 17 assists with West Kelowna of the BCHL; Tanner Hickey, who scored 11 goals for Spruce Grove of the AJHL; and Max Coyle, who had 15 assists for Prince George of the BCHL.

“We have a good freshman group that’ll be ready to play and make a contribution, like the group last year did,” Lennon said.

Sophomore Jay Powell of Nashville becomes the first player from UAH’s new club hockey team to join the varsity squad.

Mark Sinclair (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Goaltending

Mark Sinclair is coming off a breakout sophomore season. He played in 28 games, starting 26, posting a 2.89 goals against average and a .915 save percentage (fifth-best in the WCHA). He had two shutouts, the first Charger multi-shutout year since Scott Munroe had three in the 2004-05 season.

“My freshman year, I didn’t play too much,” Sinclair said. “I just watched Jordan Uhelski, and that helped out a lot, too. Having the opportunity to watch the game and see how quick it is. After that, I just tried to have a good summer and came back ready to play, getting more of a workload and be prepared for that.

“I had a little bit of an injury at the end of last year, so I did a lot of recovery stuff this summer. So far in training camp, it’s been working with our goalie coach and getting back on the ice, trying to keep it basic and continue working on the same things I was working on last year and the previous summer.”

“Mark’s going to be big,” Corbett said. “Mark got a lot of solid minutes for us. With potentially three freshman, three sophomores and a senior on our back line, he’s going to be very important. It’s great when you have a guy back there you can trust.”

Two freshman goaltenders are joining Sinclair.

David Fessenden is big at 6-6 and 230 pounds. The Parker, Colo., native had a 2.74 goals against average and a .915 save percentage with the Northeast Generals of the NAHL.

George McBey just announced his commitment on September 3. McBey, who was committed to Division III Augsburg, had a 3.79 GAA and .908 save percentage in the NAHL last season, mostly with the Brookings Blizzard.

The season

The Chargers open the season on Saturday with a two-game set with UMass Lowell. Next week, UAH heads to Omaha to face the NCHC Mavericks.

“I like our matchups,” Corbett said. “I like our energy coming out of the gate and I think we’re going to be a heck of a lot more prepared. We’re going to be more prepared than in years past.

“We’re getting double the ice time and we’re utilizing that to the best of our ability. The good part is our guys came in in pretty darn good shape, so we’re excited about that.”

UAH hosts WCHA favorite Minnesota State on Oct. 25-26 to open the home and conference schedule. The last non-conference series is at North Dakota on Jan. 3-4.

The question is how well this young team can handle the new style they want to play during UAH’s typically-rigorous WCHA schedule.

“Are they going to handle that physically? We’ll see,” Corbett said. “We’ll see after we start grinding through some of the season, but right now we’re going to be able to skate with anyone.”

Beaulieu, Lennon, and Sinclair feel positive about the makeup of the team.

“For team, we obviously can continue to get better, improve our record, and make the playoffs again,” Beaulieu said. “Once you get into the playoffs, you never know what can happen.”

“With the whole realignment thing, we’ll just try and prove everyone wrong,” Lennon said. “That’s a big motivation for us.”

“We feel pretty good,” Sinclair said. “The guys look great. Everyone’s snapping the puck around and moving their feet. I think we have pretty high expectations and we’re hoping to have a breakout year as a team.”

Photos by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography