Michigan Tech 10, UAH 4

If you’d told me at 2:00 p.m. today that UAH would score two power-play goals and four overall, I’d have felt pretty good about the boys’ chances of winning.  Instead, the Michigan Tech Huskies (12-14-6, 10-8-4 WCHA) potted seven second-period goals, which set the UAH school record for most goals allowed in a period.  In all, the teams combined for a modern D-I record 14 goals, with ten of them going to the Huskies (tying the UAH season high for goals allowed) while the boys in Blue and White (1-28-1, 1-18-1 WCHA) scored just four, also a season high.

Let’s just not discuss the goals allowed.  It’s better that way.

The UAH goals were scored by:

  1. Regan Soquila (Maple Ridge, B.C., 2nd goal), who took a feed from Jack Prince (Leicester, England, 3rd assist) low in the slot that gave him an open net for a hot wrister just :44 after the Huskies’ first marker.  Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alta., 2nd assist) also picked up an assist.
  2. Prince (4th goal), who picked up a feed from Steven Koshey (Trail, B.C., 6th assist) behind the net, skating just along the top of the crease while waiting for Pheonix Copley (19 sv, 8-8-5) to open up; when he did, the Prince of Huntsville back-handed the puck along the ice and into the Tech net.
  3. Prince again (5th goal) on the power play early in the third, tipping a Brears (3rd assist) shot from the point set up by a feed from Koshey (7th assist).  The boys thought that Chad had scored this one, but it was credited to Jack on the video review.
  4. Brears (5th goal) scored a power-play goal on a rebound of a Prince (4th assist) shot.  Alex Allan (Calgary, Alta., 2nd assist) picked up the other assist.

But otherwise, it was a nightmare.  Matt Larose (Nanaimo, B.C., 0-14-1) picked up 35 saves on 42 shots on before leaving the ice in favor of Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Québec, 12 sv on 15 shots).  Larose was visibly upset as he left the ice, and that’s understandable.

This one was ugly.

Michigan Tech 4, UAH 1

Blake Pietila and Tanner Kero each scored two goals to lead the host Michigan Tech Huskies (11-14-6 overall, 9-8-4 WCHA) over UAH (1-27-1 overall, 1-17-1 WCHA) by a 4-1 score at the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Mich.

The Chargers’ lone goal came at 9:28 of the third period just as a Husky penalty expired.  A shot into the pads of MTU netminder Pheonix Copley (20 sv, 7-8-5) settled at the feet of senior winger Alex Allan (Calgary, Alb.), who skated right-to-left across the goal mouth to beat Copley to the left-wing post to net his team-leading fifth goal of the season.  Jack Prince (Leicester, England) and Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.) picked up the assists, their third and fifth, respectively.

Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, QC, 38 sv, 1-14-0) got the start in net for the Chargers, leaving for an apparent groin injury with 11:05 left in regulation.  Matt Larose (Nainaimo, B.C., 9 sv) came in to relieve his fellow freshman, allowing Pietila’s second marker.

In all, the Chargers killed four of their five power plays, including a checking-from-behind major on Chad Brears just 0:40 into the second period.

The Chargers face the Huskies at 4:07 p.m. Huntsville time on Saturday afternoon.

Northeastern 3, UAH 1

On the surface, this was one of those games where you’d say, “Oh well, we competed hard.”  That the boys worked hard is certainly true, but this is a night where you’d better not be saying it sarcastically or roll your eyes.  This game came down to puck luck and two excellent Husky goals.  Unfortunately, it was a one-goal game with an empty-netter tacked on at the end to seal off the doubt.

Even the Northeastern announcers noticed early on that the boys had jump.  You never heard “our guys are playing down to their level” or “we’re just not playing that hard” or “we’re letting them stay in this one”.  The boys really did make their marks all over this game.  The finishes just weren’t there.

Kyle Lysaght scored the Chargers’ lone goal with just 7:01 gone in the first.  Lysaght picked the puck up in the slot and pulled off a spin move to get the puck onto his forehand.  His rip left Chris Rawlings (24 SV) guessing and gave the boys the lead that they’d hold for more than a period.  Alex Allan and Lasse Uusivirta got the assists.

The penalty situation is something that many Charger fans have decried of late, but the ones taken tonight were “good penalties”.  Graeme Strukoff took two penalties that likely saved Husky goals, while Uusivirta took a hooking penalty near the net that certainly slowed things a bit.  Certainly Coach Kleninendorst would prefer that the guys not put themselves into the position of needing to cancel the advantage with two minutes in the penalty box, but at least the penalties were serviceable.

Gregg Gruehl was a revelation for the Chargers in net.  After stopping 20-of-21 on Saturday night in St. Lawrence, he earned Kleinendorst’s confidence and showed up big, stopping 31-of-33—including all 14 in the third, when the Northeastern announcers kept praising his work.  The two goals he allowed were difficult saves: a tip-in from his stick side that went between his mask and glove, and a point-blank shot through the five hole on the power play.  A third marker on his card was disallowed when a Husky was found to be in his crease, impeding Gruehl’s progress going from right to left.

Gruehl now sports a .944 SV% and a 1.82 GAA.  Will he start to eat into Johnny Griggs’s minutes?

The boys played with good pace and intensity for most of the game.  Coach Kleinendorst talks about the process and how that will drive wins.  If you watched both last night’s game and tonight’s, you’ll see how that process has driven progress, but at 0-9-1, the boys aren’t seeing the results they want.

The Chargers next travel to the Soo to play Lake State on Friday night and Saturday night.  That’s a tough week on the boys, who will fly out of Boston on Monday morning, practice and go to classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then leave out that night for the long bus trip to the UP.  The end of this road string is in sight!  After a weekend series at Omaha right after Thanksgiving, the Chargers return to Huntsville for a couple of weekends.



Documentary proof that you can fill the VBC for a UAH game. (Photo Credit: Nicholas C. Franklin.)

The top story of this game is the attendance. The second story is the actual game. Let’s talk about the game second.

I think that we all may be a little tired about haranguing you about coming to last night’s game.  But y’all came.  Boy, howdy.  If you read what I wrote or what Mark McCarter wrote and decided, “Yeah, I should go and support that,” then thank you.  If you came because a friend told you to come, thank them for the invitation.  If you were there because you were cajoled to be there, were you not entertained?

What I’d really love to see is a follow-up tonight of about 2,000-2,500 people.  That’s not a number that we normally get on Saturday nights during college football season: we’re usually around 1400-1500.  But I really get the sense that a lot of people enjoyed the magic last night, and my hope is that they’ll have enjoyed it enough to pay $8 for a GA ticket 10+ times a year.

Photo Credit: Nicholas C. Franklin.

What follows below is the bones of what I wrote for USCHO.  Normally I take that and re-write it a good bit, but since I’m writing this three hours before puck drop on Saturday, I’m working with what I have.  However, I’m getting you photos from Nick Franklin to go in the mix, so hopefully that works for you!

Chase Grant didn’t show any rust from having missed most of the 2011-12 for Minnesota State. The junior forward doubled his career power-play goal on Friday night, scoring three goals and assisting on the Mavericks’ fourth as they pulled away from the homestanding Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, winning by a 4-1 margin.

Alex Allan grinds down low. (Photo Credit: Nicholas C. Franklin.)

Grant led off scoring during a penalty-filled first for the Chargers, which saw three minor penalties and a major + misconduct to Alex Allan for checking from behind. UAH coach Kurt Kleinendorst said, “The first period was nothing but penalty kill, and that’s just putting yourself in a tough spot.”

The Chargers ended up killing Allan’s penalty, which rolled over into the second period, but the next Charger penalty saw Grant strike again. “Those two guys were really good in the exhibition game against Lethbridge,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said. “With their other winger, Bryce Gervais, they’re really got a lot of chemistry. And if you go back, they played juniors together in Fargo. We’ve decided to put them together at the beginning of the year, and they’ve really had chemistry.”

The boys celebrate Craig Pierce’s goal. Craig noted post game that he scored in the first game last year off of an assist from Graeme Strukoff as well. (Photo Credit: Nicholas C. Franklin.)

Photo Credit: UAH Sports Information

The Chargers struck back, with sophomore Craig Pierce finding a seam to score a power-play goal at 15:32 to bring it to 2-1. “Doug Reid dumped it in, and he and I just started cycling the puck, waiting for something to open up,” Pierce said. “Reid finally rolled it up and passed it to [Graeme] Strukoff, who shot it in. I was out front looking for a tip, and it went off of my stick and in.”

UAH had a Division I-era record crowd of 5106, which greeted WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod and other league representatives at the game. “I thought that the atmosphere in the building was outstanding,” Hastings said. “To me that showed quite a bit. They scored a goal to make it 2-1 and this place started hopping.” Pierce said, “[The crowd was] unbelievable. We appreciate the support from everybody, and we hope that it keeps coming.”

Grant powered a response to Pierce’s goal with an early power-play marker in the third. Grant then broke up a Charger power-play, poking the puck out into neutral ice, chasing it down, and feeding Leitner for a short-handed goal to take the Mavericks to the final score.

Kleinendorst was disappointed in the finish. “We just weren’t able to go out and finish the job. We had a bad line change on the third goal, and that’s all it took.”

The two teams face off at 7:00 p.m. at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville for the concluding match of the weekend series.

For full size versions of any of the images in this post, click the image.  All photos are Copyright 2012 Nicholas C. Franklin.  Please contact me with any requests for commercial use.

UAH 12, UAT 1

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Less than a year after retired UASystem chancellor Mack Portera relegated the program to club status after February 2012, and ten months to the day that UAH President Dr. Robert Altenkirch extended the varsity life of the program for the forseeable future, it just so happened that a team from Big Bad UAT would come to Huntsville to try and beat up on Little Sister UAH.

While the Chargers and Crimson Tide have tangled a little of late—men’s basketball has held their own in exhibition games each of the last two seasons, after which the Chargers would progress to the Division II Elite Eight—this was Huntsville’s chance to shine brightly, with UA’s Frozen Tide club team coming to play the varsity Chargers. It was the one-sided contest that everyone expected it to be; I’d joked for a good three weeks that it would be Alabama (+6.5) on the road, just to see if football fans noticed. Saturday night’s game would prove to be a 12-1 stampede of the sort that Nick Saban would appreciate.

With Kurt Kleinendorst still in his first month as UAH’s head coach, everyone was excited to see what would transpire. K2‘s charges scored early and often. Nashville’s Sebastian Geoffrion lit the lamp with just :30 gone with a back-hand shot between Sean Vinson’s pads. Atlanta’s Kyle Lysaght followed his linemate’s lead, scoring the first of his five goals just 2:17 later.

“I saw a lot of things that I liked,” Kleinendorst said. “We’ve only been together a little while, and we did some good things. We did some things that we’re going to have to find a way to do better. … It’s a win. We’ll take it, but I don’t want to get carried away with it.”

The Chargers kept building momentum, with goals from Lysaght and Curtis deBruyn (Calgary, Alb.) followed by shorthanded goals from Nashville’s Brice Geoffrion and Lysaght. From there, the Chargers cruised to victory. Freshman Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alb.) scored twice, freshman Steve Koshey (Trail, BC) scored once, and junior Alex Allan (Calgary, Alb.) scored late in the second after knocking a guy through the corner door in the first period. The three stars of the game were deBruyn (1-3–4), Justin Cseter (Menomonie, Wis.) (0-4–4) and Lysaght (5-0–5).

Neither Charger netminder saw much work in the game. Freshman Gregg Gruehl (Dublin, Ohio) got the win, seeing only three shots on goal in two period, all in the second. Junior CJ Groh (Cincinnati, Ohio) saw one shot on goal in his 20:00 of action.

Alabama coach Mike Quenneville (UAH ’90) was clearly excited about the opportunity that playing the Chargers presents to his team. “We preach stuff every day, and when we get an opportunity to play a team that does everything so right, and have got the speed, it’s going to make us a better hockey team.”

Alabama scored midway through the second period, as 5’4″ Huntsville native Mark Wysock, an aerospace engineering student in Tuscaloosa found open space in the slot to push in a tumbling rebound for a power-play goal.

Kleinendorst seemed happy with his team’s effort. “For the most part, the guys went out and executed the plan that we’ve put in place up to this point. This is not about winning. This is about the process. When you play the game the right way, when you work your way through the process, winning is a by-product of that.”

The teams play the second game of the series at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and Quenneville is ready to see his team face the challenge. “[The Alabama players] are going to get faster, they’re going to be smarter, they’re going to move the puck quicker. We’re definitely going to get better for this experience.”