Hoof Beats: Three ways to get in

Unfortunately, the Chargers could not yet punch their ticket into the WCHA playoffs over the weekend due to the disappointing losses to Alaska in the final home series of the season. However, UAH still has three ways to clinch a playoff spot in the regular season’s final week.

Here is the bottom part of the WCHA standings. Two teams will be the seventh and eighth seeds in the WCHA playoffs, while the last-place team will be out (remember that Alaska is ineligible, meaning ninth place gets in this season). For more on playoff possibilities and predictions for the whole league, visit Geof’s WCHA Playoff Prediction Blog.

Team W L T Pts.
8. Alabama-Huntsville 7 18 1 15
8. Lake Superior State 7 18 1 15
10. Alaska-Anchorage 5 19 2 12


The Chargers need ONE of the following to happen this weekend:

1. Get a point at Bowling Green. UAH needs only a win or tie at No. 13 Bowling Green to earn a playoff berth. Getting that in front of BG’s Bleacher Creatures won’t be easy as the Falcons are 8-5-1 at home this season, and they beat the Chargers 5-0 and 4-1 in Huntsville back in October. Bowling Green is also smarting after losing to Alaska-Anchorage 6-1 on Saturday, which dropped the Falcons into the Pairwise bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid, so don’t look for a respite from BG even though it has locked down the third seed in the WCHA tournament. But if this was possible last season…

2. Alaska-Anchorage loses or ties. The same Alaska Nanooks who swept the Chargers over the weekend are now our strongest allies. Alaska-Anchorage must sweep their in-state rivals in Anchorage this week to stay alive (and to win the Governor’s Cup) and hope UAH gets swept to outright pass the Chargers, who have the tie-breaker over Anchorage with their sweep of the Seawolves in Huntsville on Jan. 2-3. The Seawolves stunned the Nanooks in Fairbanks back in mid-January with a pair of one-goal victories, but then lost nine in a row to plummet to the bottom of the WCHA standings before their win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

3. Lake Superior State is swept by Ferris State. UAH and Lake Superior State are tied with identical conference records (7-18-1, 15 points), and the Chargers have the tiebreaker over the Lakers with their 2-1-1 record against them this season. That means if UAH is swept by Bowling Green and Alaska-Anchorage sweeps Alaska, the Chargers would need Lake Superior to get swept and stay at 15 points to use that tiebreaker and get into the playoffs. If the Lakers get any ties or wins in this situation, UAH would be out.

Best get that point at Bowling Green and end all uncertainty.

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Guerriero nominated for Richter Award: UAH’s Carmine Guerriero is one of 28 nominees for the 2015 Mike Richter Award, given to the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I. The award is presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Guerriero has a .926 save percentage, which is fourth best in the WCHA and 18th best in the country. The sophomore from Montreal, Quebec has a 2.58 goals against average and has made at least 30 saves in 15 games this season, including a 54-save performance at Minnesota State on October 24.

Five finalists will be announced on March 18, with the winner being presented at the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four in Boston.

Year-end banquet date announced: The annual end-of-year UAH hockey banquet will take place at Spragins Hall on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.

The price of a ticket to the event is $25 per person, with the opportunity to sponsor a player’s dinner at the banquet for $25 as well. There will be several silent auction items at the event as well as the chance to sit with your favorite player at dinner.

Payments will be accepted at the door upon arrival. You can RSVP online, or if you have any other questions, please email UAH director of hockey operations Nick Laurila at nick.laurila@uah.edu.

Alaska nips UAH in OT to sweep final home series

Colton Parayko’s goal 15 seconds into overtime gave Alaska a 4-3 win on Saturday, completing a two-game sweep over the Chargers and delaying UAH’s playoff clinching a little while longer.

UAH (8-22-4 overall, 7-18-1 WCHA) still has not clinched a WCHA playoff berth going into the final week of the regular season. The Chargers either need a win or tie at Bowling Green or Alaska-Anchorage to either lose or tie against Alaska.

Alaska, ineligible for the postseason, improved to 17-13-2 overall and 12-12-2 in the WCHA.

Before the game, UAH’s five seniors —  Craig Pierce, Ben Reinhardt, Doug Reid, Graeme Strukoff, and Jeff Vanderlugt — were honored for the contributions to the program. All five seniors started, and it didn’t take long to make an impact.

The captain Reid shot one from the left circle, hit the post and past Alaska goaltender Sean Cahill just 20 seconds in to give UAH a 1-0 lead. It was Reid’s third goal of the season, assisted by Jeff Vanderlugt.

Alaska would capitalize on power plays to take the lead. The Nanooks’ leading scorer, Tyler Morley, backhanded a rebound past Carmine Guerriero after a Ben Reinhardt tripping penalty to tie the game at 1-1 with 8:02 left in the first.

Brennan Saulnier’s elbowing call with 3:38 left in the first put UAH shorthanded again, and it took Colton Parayko just 12 seconds to rip one through traffic give Alaska a 2-1 lead.

The Chargers quickly equalized the game thanks to their own leading scorer. Max McHugh notched his ninth goal of his freshman campaign with a shot from the top of the circle just 49 seconds after Parayko’s tally. Frank Misuraca got the assist.

The first period would end at a 2-2 tie, but Alaska continued its shots dominance from Friday with a 17-7 advantage.

McHugh struck again at 6:37 of the second, deflecting a Frank Misuraca spot from the right point, sneaking the puck past Cahill’s right as UAH retook the lead at 3-2. With his 10th goal, McHugh became the first Charger with double-digit goals since Matt Sweazey had 12 in the 2008-09 season. Misuraca and Reinhardt got the assists.

Alaska re-tied the game at 3-3 just before the second intermission. Trevor Campbell’s shot through traffic found its way past Guerriero with 6.3 seconds left in the second period.

The third period went by quickly with no goals and no penalties. Then came overtime, and Parayko’s blast from the right point.

Alaska outshot the Chargers 41-19. Carmine Guerriero stopped 37 shots for UAH, while Cahill made 16 saves.

UAH will finish the regular season next weekend at Bowling Green.

Series Preview: vs. Alaska, Feb. 27-28

Times: 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: Ticketmaster: Friday | Saturday
Complete ticket information
Promotions: Kids 12 & under get free admission
Fri.: UAH trading cards to first 500
Sat.: Mini shuttles to first 500
Online video: WCHA.tv (subscription)
Live stats: UAHChargers.com
Twitter: @weloveuahhockey, @uahhockey, @Alaska_Hockey

Three points. That’s the magic number for the Chargers as they host Alaska this weekend as a WCHA playoff berth is in sight. Puck drop is at 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights in the Chargers’ final home games of the season.

A minimum of a win and a tie puts UAH in the WCHA playoffs for the first time. Consequently, a loss and a tie for Alaska-Anchorage against Bowling Green also does the trick, or any combination of points for UAH and points against UAA totaling three.

Friday night, the first 500 fans receive a set of UAH hockey trading cards. Saturday night is Senior Night, and the first 500 fans receive a free mini space shuttle courtesy of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Kids 12 and under get in free to both games, courtesy Huntsville International Airport.

All-time series: The Chargers are 6-16-1 all-time against the Nanooks, and 3-4-1 in Huntsville. Alaska has won the last eight meetings, with UAH’s last victory coming on Jan. 11, 1992 — when Alaska forfeited a 8-3 win for using an ineligible player. The Chargers last “true” win came the day before, 6-1, at the Von Braun Center.

The two teams met in Fairbanks earlier this season, with the Nanooks taking both games: 2-1 in overtime and 4-0.

Jeff Vanderlugt

Jeff Vanderlugt scored his sixth goal of the season against Ferris State. (Photo by Chris Brightwell)

Charger recap: UAH (8-20-4 overall, 7-16-1 WCHA) lost a pair of one-goal games at home to Ferris State.

On Friday, Ferris State dominated the first period with two goals. Code Champagne’s goal early in the third period gave UAH life, but the Chargers ultimately fell 2-1 in front of a sparse crowd thanks to snow and ice in Huntsville.

The attendance was better Saturday as the snow melted, and so was UAH’s start, as Jeff Vanderlugt put the Chargers on the board first. But the Bulldogs answered with three straight goals and held on for a 3-2 win. Alex Carpenter had the other goal for UAH.

UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero had 32 saves on Friday night and 26 on Saturday. His season save percentage of .928 is second in the WCHA, and he has a 2.46 goals against average this season.

Max McHugh continues to lead the Chargers in scoring with 19 points, which is tied for third among freshmen in the WCHA, and in goals with eight.

Other top scorers for UAH are Jack Prince (5-9-14), Chad Brears (3-10-13), Jeff Vanderlugt (6-6-12), and Brandon Parker. Frank Misuraca is tied with Vanderlugt for second on the team in goals with six.

UAH Tale of the tape
(WCHA rank)
7-16-1 WCHA (8th)
Record 15-13-2
10-12-2 WCHA (7th)
1.69 (9th) Goals/game 2.67 (5th)
3.12 (8th) Goals allowed/game 2.47 (6th)
15.8 (2nd) Pen. minutes/game 14.5 (3rd)
16.3% (5th) Power play 16.4% (4th)
83.0% (8th) Penalty kill 83.6% (7th)

About the Nanooks: Alaska (15-13-2 overall, 10-12-2 WCHA) are ineligible for the WCHA playoffs because of an NCAA postseason ban announced earlier this season, but the Nanooks are enjoying the spoiler role.

Last weekend, UAF hosted top ranked and WCHA leader Minnesota State and earned a 1-1 tie and a 3-1 victory. The Nanooks are undefeated in their last four games.

However, those four games were in Fairbanks, where they are 10-5-1 this season. The Nanooks are 3-8-1 on the road, although one of those wins — their last road win on Dec. 5 — was at Minnesota State.

Junior center Tyler Morley is the engine behind the Nanooks’ offense. He leads the team in goals (13), assists (19), and points (32), and he had three goals against the Mavericks last weekend. Sophomore right wing Marcus Basara is Alaska’s other double-digit goal scorer with 10, and junior defenseman and St. Louis Blues prospect Colton Parayko has 16 assists.

Senior goaltender Sean Cahill has been back in action after missing 13 games due to injury. He has allowed only one goal in each of his last four starts, and he has a 2.06 goals against average and a .923 save percentage for the season. Sophomore Davis Jones, who shut out the Chargers in the second game in Fairbanks while Cahill was out, is the backup.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Minnesota State** 19-3-2 40
Michigan Tech** 19-4-1 39
Bowling Green* 14-7-3 31
Bemidji State* 10-10-4 24
Northern Michigan* 10-10-4 24
Ferris State* 11-13-0 22
Alaska^ 10-12-2 22
Alabama-Huntsville 7-16-1 15
Lake Superior State 6-17-1 13
Alaska-Anchorage 4-18-2 10
** Clinched home ice in first round
* Clinched playoff berth
^ Ineligible for postseason play

Around the WCHA: Alaska’s three-point weekend against Minnesota State tightened the race for the MacNaughton Cup, which could be decided this weekend in a huge showdown in Mankato.

No. 2 Minnesota State leads No. 3 Michigan Tech by one point as the two top teams in the WCHA square off. Two wins by the Mavericks will clinch them their first regular-season league title.

No. 11 Bowling Green needs one win to clinch home ice in the first round as they head to Alaska-Anchorge. Bemidji State and Ferris State tussle in Big Rapids looking to host in the first round, while Northern Michigan has the same aspirations while hosting Lake Superior State.

Here’s the schedule for league teams this week. All times are Central. All games can be seen online on WCHA TV.

Friday, February 27

Alaska at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
#3 Michigan Tech at #2 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
#11 Bowling Green at Alaska-Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Saturday, February 28

Alaska at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
#3 Michigan Tech at #2 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
#11 Bowling Green at Alaska-Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Nanooks shut down Chargers 4-0 to complete sweep

After a heartbreaking loss on Friday, the Chargers did not have much for the Alaska Nanooks on Saturday night. And it didn’t help that their much improved penalty kill cooled off at the wrong time.

Alaska rolled to a 4-0 victory over UAH (3-13-2 overall, 2-10 WCHA) to complete a two-game sweep. The Nanooks (10-8 overall, 5-7 WCHA) used three power play goals and a 41-14 shots advantage to take the game from start to finish.

UAH, which lost 2-1 in overtime on Friday night, dug a hole for itself in the first period with two goals 1:47 apart.

First, after a Cody Marooney tripping penalty, Nolan Huysmans put in a rebound past Matt Larose on the ensuing power play to give Alaska a 1-0 lead. The goal at the 6:01 mark broke a streak of 17 straight penalties killed by the Chargers.

Then at 7:48, Tyler Morley notched his sixth goal of the season, beating Larose with a backhander and giving the Nanooks a 2-0 advantage through one period.

UAH had a chance to cut Alaska’s lead after Brennan Saulnier’s rush out of the penalty box was denied by goaltender Davis Jones, who had his third shutout of the season with 14 saves. But it was all Nanooks after that.

The critical juncture came at 6:36 of the second, when Saulnier made contact to the head on Alaska’s Kyle Froese, drawing a five-minute major and a game misconduct. It was Saulnier’s fifth major penalty of the season, and his second game misconduct call for contact to the head.

Alaska took advantage to extend its lead to three, as Josh Atkinson’s one-timer from the right circle found space behind the net.

The Nanooks rode the power plays and the momentum to a 17-3 shots on goal lead in the second period. Ten of those shots were on the power play.

More penalties kept the Chargers from mounting any sort of rally in the third period. Meanwhile, Alaska tallied a third power play goal by Marcus Basara at 8:46, giving the Nanooks a 4-0 lead.

Larose made 37 saves on 41 Alaska shots to spell Carmine Guerriero, who was peppered with 46 shots in Friday’s game. Larose has made 32 or more saves in all seven of his starts this season.

The Nanooks had a total of 87 shots on goal for the series.

The Chargers have lost five straight heading into a non-conference series next Saturday and Sunday at Nebraska-Omaha.

Chargers fall to Alaska in overtime, 2-1

Box score

In the end, you thank Carmine Guerriero for even making the situation possible. But in the end, it’s still a painful loss for the Chargers.

Tyler Munson’s goal with 3:37 left in overtime gave Alaska a 2-1 win over the Chargers on Friday night at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.

Alaska outshot UAH by a 46-17 margin. Guerriero stopped 44 of those shots, but couldn’t make a 45th as Munson, finding the puck all alone and crossing in front of Guerriero, was able to tuck it past him and he couldn’t poke it away.

Last season, the Nanooks won both games in Fairbanks against the Chargers by 6-1 scores, with similar advantages in shots on goal. This time, Guerriero was the difference, making all the critical saves — including two on an Alaska two-on-none break late — to keep UAH within sight of a fourth win of the season.

Alaska fired away early and often, putting 11 shots on goal to the Chargers’ three. Guerriero’s biggest save came with about six minutes left in the period, when the puck was all alone in the slot and Guerriero out of position. The ever-scary Tyler Morley, who was tied for third in the WCHA with 16 points coming into the night, pounced with a one-timer, but Guerriero got back to keep the game scoreless.

UAH’s best chance of the first came on a steal by Brennan Saulnier in the Alaska zone, but he was denied by defenseman Josh Atkinson backing up goaltender Davis Jones.

Alaska’s possession dominance continued into the second, as the Nanooks peppered Guerriero with the first seven shots on goal in the frame.

But it was actually the Chargers who struck first. Cody Champagne’s drive from just inside the blue line found Chad Brears in front of the Nanook net, then Max McHugh, who redirected it past Jones to give UAH a 1-0 lead with 10:52 left in the second. It was McHugh’s fourth goal of the season.

It would be UAH’s only shot on goal of the second for a while, and Alaska eventually found a way to find the net. Alec Hajdukovic, on a rush on the right side, beat Guerriero on a shot high and glove side to tie the game at 1-1 with 8:07 left in the second. Nolan Kaiser and Trevor Campbell got the assists.

Matt Salhany had a chance with a shorthanded break and Regan Soquila had a left wing drive, but Jones prevented the Chargers from retaking the lead.

So after two periods, Alaska had a 25-8 shots on goal advantage, but it was a tie game.

Even though Alaska would outshoot UAH 17-9 in the third, it seemed like a more balanced period.

With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Cody Marooney failed to beat Jones on a 2-on-1 with Matt Salhany — the best chance the Chargers have to steal the victory.

Then came the two-on-none Alaska breakaway. Guerriero stopped Brandon Morley’s first shot, then robbed Marcus Basara on the rebound with 3:23 left in regulation.

The Chargers and Nanooks face off again Saturday at 10 p.m. Central Time/7 p.m. Alaska.

Notes: Guerriero has made 30 or more saves for the ninth time in 11 starts. … The Chargers have lost seven straight in the all time series with Alaska. … UAH’s last overtime loss was Feb. 3, 2012, a 4-3 decision at Maine.