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.
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 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
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.
On Friday night, the Chargers showed a good crowd what they can do when things go right. On Saturday night, they showed what they can do when things go wrong. Both nights, they left entertained.
Connor Merkley’s goal with 0.9 seconds remaining completed a rally from a two-goal deficit as the Chargers tied Alaska Anchorage 3-3 on Saturday at the Von Braun Center. UAA won the second WCHA point in a shootout.
UAH (3-6-1 overall, 2-1-1 WCHA), after dominating in Friday’s 5-1 win in the series opener, got two goals by Josh Kestner and 31 saves by Jordan Uhelski.
But Alaska Anchorage (1-7-2, 1-2-1) had built its lead on three unanswered power play goals in the second period, two on a major penalty.
Still, the Chargers found a way to at least get a point in front of another good crowd for homecoming and military appreciation weekend, thanks to the freshman Merkley’s critical goal, his first at UAH.
“We were fighting the whole third period to get back into the game,” Merkley said. “We had a lot of good opportunities. We knew if we just stuck to it, we’d get a bounce.
“We had a couple of good keeps by the D-man and ran a normal play that had been working. It had just popped loose to me free in front of the net and I hammered it home.”
The announced attendance of 3,072 was excellent for a college football Saturday.
“The fans want wins, and so do we,” Kestner said. “The more times we win, the more fans we get. Coming out Friday night with a 5-1 win made our reputation pretty high. It was a bigger crowd than I thought tonight, but it was a great feeling. I love playing in front of my hometown. It was fun to play and I imagine it was fun to watch as well.”
“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,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “Anybody who stayed to the end both nights was not let down. Hopefully we’ll build on it.”
Just like Friday night, the Chargers came out strong, dictating the action for the first 10 minutes.
On UAH’s first power play, Kestner fired a one-timer from the left circle to beat Olivier Mantha for the first goal of the game. It was Kestner’s fifth goal of the season, with Cam Knight’s pass to Kestner being his fourth assist. Tyler Poulsen also got his third assist of the year.
“I liked our start again,” Corbett said. “We did build on it (Friday’s win) and we were able to get a power play goal. Once again we were outshooting them pretty handily.
“We had a couple of game objectives as a team,” Kestner said. “One of those was to get the first goal, so to cross that off the list was nice.”
The second half of the first period, however, saw the Seawolves try to fight back as the Chargers made some sloppy turnovers. Jordan Uhelski was there to make saves and covers, including a point-blank stop on Austin Azurdia that almost tied the game.
The second period saw plenty of chances on both sides. But then late in the period, things went south for UAH fast.
Anchorage tied the game up at the 14:03 mark on the power play. Following a Tyler Poulsen tripping call, Nicolas Erb-Ekholm scored from the high slot.
With 2:53 left in the frame, a scrum in the corner of the UAH zone after the whistle, and Brennan Saulnier got a roughing major and a game misconduct. There were also offsetting penalties on UAH’s Richard Buri and UAA’s Corey Renwick.
Anchorage capitalized twice on the major power play. Austin Azurdia gave UAA the lead with 2:03 to go in the period, and Tad Kozun made it 3-1 Seawolves with 7.5 seconds left.
“We’re talking a lot about what you can control right now, and you can’t control the referees,” Corbett said. “As young players, they get consumed by something that they can’t control, and it showed in our penalty kill. We were standing right next to the guy that scored the goal in the back door twice. We weren’t dialed in, and that’s what led to their 3-1 lead after two.”
UAH weathered the rest of the power play to start the second, and then got started on a rally.
On the power play, Poulsen’s shot from the right circle rebounded to near the goal line, and Kestner took the puck with Mantha out of position and easily scored his second goal of the game with 15:24 to go.
“I had a nice dish to Poulsen, who I thought was going to bury it but it ended up landing right on my stick,” Kestner said. “So it was nice to get another one on the board.
“Our special teams had struggled for the past 20 reps or so. Now that we got one on the board, it definitely got everyone’s momentum and hype up.”
Then at the buzzer, during a 6-on-4 advantage with a power play and Uhelski pulled for the extra attacker, Merkley from the slot found the net for his first collegiate goal. Video replay confirmed the puck crossed the line at 0.9 seconds left, causing the crowd to erupt again as the game was tied at 3-3.
“We got back to controlling what we could control,” Corbett said. “We killed the last two minutes of that five-minute power play, then OK: We gotta go at ’em. And they just kind of sat back. We get a power play, we score on that power play.
“Just be resilient. We knew we were going to have to fight through adversity. This was adversity we created by ourselves and we fought through it. I’m proud of the kids, because maybe in years past, we don’t do that.”
“It was great to see that we could come in between the second and third, rally the troops, and throughout our leadership,” Merkley said. “We just stayed composed and we knew that if we stuck to the game plan and fought hard, we could battle the adversity and come back. That’s a great thing to see out of the team moving forward.”
UAH had a power play chance in overtime but could not score. The extra period ended resulting as an official 3-3 tie.
No scoring occurred during the 3-on-3 overtime period. Jeremiah Luedtke scored in the first round of the shootout to earn the extra point for the Seawolves, and Kestner could not answer it.
Uhelski finished with 31 saves on the night, and Mantha had 35.
The Chargers continue their six-game home stand with Lake Superior State next Friday and Saturday.
UAH (3-6-0 overall, 2-1-0 WCHA), which had won only two games at home last season, got two goals from Brennan Saulnier as the Chargers had 40 shots on goal against the Seawolves (1-7-1, 1-2-0).
“That’s as complete a game that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said UAH head coach Mike Corbett, now in his fifth season. “It was nice to see. Power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5 … we dominated the first half of the game. We were able to get our shot totals and put some by their goalie.”
The first period was all Chargers, who dominated puck possession and were making plays that got the crowd into it. UAH had 24 shot attempts, and 19 were on net. UAA only had 10 attempts with four on goal.
Saulnier was seemingly everywhere, and he got UAH on the board early at 2:18 on the power play. He found a spot from the slot to beat UAA goaltener Olivier Mantha for his fifth goal of the season. He was assisted by Austin Beaulieu and Kurt Gosselin.
Mantha, a senior who known for his ability to keep the Seawolves in any game, was a big reason the Chargers’ lead wasn’t larger.
Saulnier struck again in the second, with a wrister from the left circle for a 2-0 UAH lead with 15:08 left. At six goals, Saulnier matches his season high in just nine games.
“For myself, our power play has really been clicking,” Saulnier said. “I’ve been finding the open areas and getting my shots off.
It was also the first time the Chargers scored the first goal of the game this season.
“It was nice to get the first one tonight and I felt like we were just rolling after that,” Saulnier said.
“That first goal was a big one for him, because he shows the poise,” Corbett said. “He outwaits the goalie and then he scores the goal.
“Our best players have to be the best players and he was one of them tonight.”
The Seawolves answered at 7:06 when UAA’s leading scorer Austin Azurdia fired a shot past Jordan Uhelski high from close range.
But any momentum the Seawolves may have gained did not last long. UAH regained its two-goal advantage at 10:30. Cam Knight’s doorstep shot led to a scramble in the UAA net. Beaulieu got a shot in, then Christian Rajic put in a rebound for a 3-1 lead. It was Rajic’s third goal of the season.
“We eliminated the big mistake tonight,” Corbett said. “Even when we made a mistake and they scored their goal, we were able to come right back with our third goal.”
UAH took a 4-1 lead when John Teets made a beautiful centering pass to Levi Wunder, who fired it from the slot for his first collegiate goal.
In the third period, Anchorage came out stronger and made Uhelski work a bit more. But he was up to the task, making saves and recovering rebounds. He finished with 16 saves on UAA’s 17 shots on goal.
“It’s tough when you don’t really get a lot of action during the game, you kind of lull a little bit,” Uhelski said. “Honestly, it’s just staying even keel the whole game, making sure I don’t get too high or too low, and when it was time to step up and do my part for the team, I was ready.
“It was just a battle in front. Obviously, I’m not the biggest guy, so I’ve got to be looking around, I’ve got to be moving, I’ve got to be really active as far as locating that puck and jumping on it. But my ‘D’ made it really easy for me because anytime there was a scrum they were clearing the guys out, and I just cover the puck.”
“We tried to play a little more cautious and sometimes that can be our Achilles’ heel when you let off and let them back in the game,” Saulnier said. “U-Haul played really well in that third period for us. He was our best player in the third period.”
Madison Dunn put in an empty-netter with 1:52 to go for the final 5-1 score and another eruption from the crowd, which was larger than any crowd last season.
“The crowd was amazing tonight. It was electric in there,” Saulnier said. “It was like having an extra guy on the ice all night. We fed off that.
“I really like our team this year. We work hard, got a good group, and I think we showed it tonight that we’re going to contend in the WCHA.”
Game two of the series is Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. at the VBC as homecoming an Military Appreciation Weekend continues.
Three stars of the game:
1. Brennan Saulnier, UAH (2 goals)
2. Austin Beaulieu, UAH (2 assists)
3. Connor Wood, UAH (2 assists)
UAH came out firing and making ASU goaltender Joey Daccord work in the first period, something the Chargers didn’t do in their 3-2 loss on Friday. UAH had 14 shots on goal Saturday as opposed to just one on Friday.
However, the Chargers couldn’t convert any of those shots into goals. They had some good looks, including a Levi Wunder breakaway and a Brennan Saulnier shot that trickled in the crease before finally being cleared.
On the other end, the Sun Devils only managed two shots on goal despite having three power play opportunities.
While the first period was relatively quiet, the second period was anything but.
Kurt Gosselin got a boarding penalty at 5:06, and ASU converted on the power play with a Brinson Pasichnuk goal for a 1-0 lead. UAH has given up the first goal in all eight games this season.
But the Chargers quickly with a tic-tac-toe goal. Cam Knight sent it forward to Gosselin in the slot, who tapped it to Christian Rajic in the right circle, who beat Daccord to tie the game at 1-1. It was Rajic’s second goal of the season.
Things got rough after that. With 10:25 left in the second, Steen Pasichnuk was assessed a five-minute major penalty after boarding Gosselin. A fracas in the corner of the UAH end ensued after that, resulting in two roughing calls on both sides.
During UAH’s major power play, each team traded minor penalties, but the Chargers finally got a power play goal. Brennan Saulnier, out of the box following a high-sticking call, one-timed a Gosselin pass from the right side to give UAH a 2-1 lead with 5:28 left in the period. Connor James got the second assist for his first point of the season.
The goal ended a long drought on the power play for UAH, which had failed in its last 23 opportunities dating back four games to Oct. 21 at Michigan Tech.
The Sun Devils came out strong in the third period, and applied plenty of pressure on UAH goaltender Jordan Uhelski. ASU put 11 shots on net in the period, but Uhelski used the body and glove to stop them all.
ASU played the last minute with Daccord on the bench for the extra attacker and produced a last flurry, but Josh Kestner was able to fire in the clinching goal, his fourth of the year, from the neutral zone with 26 seconds left.
The win ends a 13-game losing streak for UAH against non-conference opponents.
Senior defenseman Brandon Parker was not in UAH’s lineup on Saturday, missing his first game since his freshman season. Parker had played in 105 consecutive games for the Chargers.
Next up, UAH hosts Alaska Anchorage at the Von Braun Center for a WCHA home-opening series. Puck drop is 7:07 on Friday and Saturday for Homecoming and Military Appreciation Weekend.