Two quick power play goals in the second period were the difference in UAH’s 5-2 loss Sunday to Northern Michigan in the deciding third game of the WCHA quarterfinal series.
The Chargers, who were trying to become the first seventh seed to upset the second seed in the current WCHA playoff format, finish the season at 12-23-2. The 12 victories were the most by UAH since the 2009-10 season.
The 19th-ranked Wildcats (23-13-3) move on to the WCHA semifinals, where they will host third seed Bowling Green next weekend.
Northern Michigan scored the first goal for the third time in the series. Denver Pierce, who scored twice in game one, drove into the UAH zone on the right side and beat Jordan Uhelski high and glove side just 2:45 in.
The Chargers did not panic, and was able to generate some scoring chances themselves. They tied the game 1-1 at the 10:54 mark, when Tyler Poulsen skated around a Wildcat defenseman, tapped it to a trailing Josh Kestner, who deposited the puck past Atte Tolvanen’s right for his third goal of the series.
It was Kestner’s 24th goal of the season, tying the UAH modern Division I record held by Bruce Mulherin from the 2004-05 season.
For Poulsen, it was his 17th assist of the year, the most by a Charger since Brandon Roshko had that many in the 2007-08 campaign.
UAH took the lead at 2-1 right off the bat in the second period, when Max McHugh tipped in a Kurt Gosselin blast on the power play seconds only 53 seconds in. It was McHugh’s third goal of the year.
Mitchel Slattery tied the game at 2-2 with 6:41 left in the 2nd, and then the Wildcats took the lead after a questionable call.
Cam Knight made contact to the head with the elbow on NMU’s Robbie Payne. It didn’t look egregious by any stretch, but Knight was called for a five-minute major and a game misconduct anyway.
The officials have little if any room for discretion, according to the NCAA rulebook (45.1): “Any contact directly with the player’s head and neck area must be penalized with a major penalty and a game misconduct or disqualification.”
NMU quickly scored twice on the major power play to take a 4-2 lead. First a one-timer by Troy Loggins, then Pierce on a rebound. The Chargers called time out to regroup.
Two minutes of the power play were cut by a Payne tripping penalty, and UAH was able to kill the rest of the penalty, but the damage was already done.
The Chargers managed only two shots on goal in the third period, albeit not for lack of attempts. They had one final stand in the final minute when Pierce was called for slashing and UAH had pulled Uhelski for the extra attacker with under a minute to go.
However, Loggins was able to mount a breakaway toward the empty net. Kestner hauled him down, which immediately gives the empty net goal to Loggins for the final 5-2 score.
Uhelski finished with 28 saves.
It marked the final games in Charger uniforms for Richard Buri, Cody Champagne, Kestner, McHugh, Brandon Parker (who tied the UAH record with his 139th game played), Poulsen, Brennan Saulnier, and Uhelski.
Saulnier returned to the lineup after sitting out game two for getting his fourth game misconduct of the season in game one.