McHugh named to WCHA All-Rookie Team

Max McHugh

Max McHugh

Max McHugh, UAH’s freshman forward from Seattle, was named to the All-Rookie Team among the 2014-15 WCHA Awards announced Thursday.

McHugh is the Chargers’ leading scorer with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points, the most for a UAH player since the 2006-07. He had 10 goals and nine assists for 19 points in WCHA play this season, which was third among all rookies in the league and tied for 19th among freshmen in NCAA Division I.

McHugh has played in all 36 of UAH’s games this season, winning the WCHA Rookie of the Week Award twice. His 12 goals are tied for 12th among all players in the WCHA.

The league also announced its all-academic team, featuring 13 Chargers: Chad Brears (Jr., F, Cold Lake, Alberta, 2013-14 WCHA Outstanding Scholar-Athlete of the Year); Brandon Carlson (So., D, Huntington Beach, Calif.); Alex Carpenter (Jr., F, Portage, Mich.); Brent Fletcher (So., F, New Westminster, British Columbia); Matt Larose (So., G, Nanaimo, British Columbia); Frank Misuraca (Jr., D, Clinton Township, Mich.); Craig Pierce (Sr., F, Roswell, Ga.); Jack Prince (Jr., F, Leicester, England); Doug Reid (Sr., F, Innisfil, Ontario); Ben Reinhardt (Sr., D, Arnprior, Ontario); Regan Soquila (So., F, Maple Ridge, British Columbia); Jeff Vanderlugt (Sr., F, Richmond Hill, Ontario); Anderson White (Jr., D, Caledon, Ontario).

2014-15 WCHA Awards

Player of the Year – Tanner Kero, Sr., F, Michigan Tech
Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year – Tanner Kero, Sr., F, Michigan Tech
Defensive Player of the Year – Colton Parayko, Jr., D, Alaska
Rookie of the Year – Michael Bitzer, Fr., G, Bemidji State
Scoring Champion – Tanner Kero, Sr., F, Michigan Tech
Goaltending Champion – Stephon Williams, Jr., G, Minnesota State
Coach of the Year – Mike Hastings, Minnesota State

2014-15 All-WCHA First Team

Forwards: Tanner Kero, Sr., Michigan Tech; Matt Leitner, Sr., Minnesota State; Tyler Morley, Jr., Alaska
Defensemen: Colton Parayko, Jr., Alaska; Zach Palmquist, Sr., Minnesota State
Goaltender: Jamie Phillips, Jr., Michigan Tech

2014-15 All-WCHA Second Team

Forwards: Bryce Gervais, Jr., Minnesota State; Alex Petan, Jr., Michigan Tech; Malcolm Gould, Jr., Michigan Tech
Defensemen: Matt Prapavessis, Sr., Bemidji State; Casey Nelson, So., Minnesota State
Goaltender: Stephon Williams, Jr., Minnesota State

2014-15 All-WCHA Third Team

Forwards: Blake Pietila, Sr., Michigan Tech; Marcus Basara, So. Alaska; Brendan Harms, So., Bemidji State and Blake Tatchell, Sr., Alaska Anchorage (tied)
Defensemen: Shane Hanna, So., Michigan Tech; Brock Maschmeyer, So., Northern Michigan
Goaltender: CJ Motte, Sr., Ferris State

2014-15 WCHA All-Rookie Team

Forwards: Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green; C.J. Franklin, Minnesota State; Max McHugh, Alabama Huntsville
Defensemen: Mark Friedman, Bowling Green; Nolan Valleau, Bowling Green
Goaltender: Michael Bitzer, Bemidji State

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.

Hoof Beats: Final home games for seniors

2014-15 seniors

The 2014-15 seniors. Top to bottom: Jeff Vanderlugt, Graeme Strukoff, Craig Pierce, Doug Reid, Ben Reinhardt, Alex Carpenter. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Saturday night will be final time coming off the Propst Arena ice for six senior Chargers. They will be honored before the final home game of the season against Alaska.

The 2014-15 seniors are:

Alex Carpenter (Portage, Mich.): Alex transferred to UAH after two years at Western Michigan last season and sat it out because of NCAA transfer rules. He became a regular in the lineup, with three goals and four assists in 30 games.

Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.): Craig became an alternate captain this season. In 101 career games with the Chargers, he has nine goals and five assists. He is 3-1-4 this season in 22 games.

Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.): Captain of the Chargers the last two years. Doug has played in 120 career games at UAH, scoring four goals and dishing 12 assists.

Ben Reinhardt (Arnprior, Ont.): A defenseman who led the team in blocks last season, Ben returned to the lineup from injury last weekend. In 97 career games at UAH, he has eight assists.

Graeme Strukoff (Chilliwack, B.C.): Graeme has played 114 games at defenseman for UAH, scoring four goals and 14 assists for 18 points.

Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hill, Ont.): Jeff has the most career points on this year’s Charger squad with 32, scoring 19 goals and 13 assists in 101 games. He led the Chargers in goals with seven in the 2012-13 season.

Westy back in Huntsville: Lance West, assistant coach for Alaska, has now coached against his alma mater in two series. Both of those were in Fairbanks, so this weekend’s series will be the first time he’s been on a coaches bench at the VBC since he was an assistant for UAH under Doug Ross from 2000-07.

West is in his fifth season as a Nanooks assistant coach. He is 15th on the Chargers’ all-time varsity scoring list with 113 points on 45 goals and 68 assists, playing from 1991-95.

Mini shuttles will be given away to the first 500 fans at Saturday's game.

Mini shuttles will be given away to the first 500 fans at Saturday’s game.

This week’s promotions: On Friday night, the first 500 fans will receive a set of UAH hockey trading cards. The first 500 fans to Saturday’s game receive a free mini-shuttle courtesy of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. both nights.

Kids 12 and under get free admission to both games courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.

Blue Line Club luncheon: For the last time this season, come meet and greet with the coaches at the Blue Line Club luncheon. Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson and UAH head coach Mike Corbett will speak this Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall.

Terranova’s is catering. Tickets are $8 at the door, and free for Blue Line Club members.

UAH 3, NMU 2

While UAH realizes that its best offense comes from point shots that get tipped or have rebounds hoovered up into dirty goals, all of its goals this weekend were one-shot goals.  Junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) picked up his second goal of the weekend, and junior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alberta) and freshman defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) also fired pucks in from 50+ feet away, powering UAH to a 3-2 win over WCHA rival Northern Michigan.

The sweep — the Chargers’ second consecutive home sweep, one that pushed them to five wins in their last seven home contests — pushed the Chargers to 7-16-3 (6-12-0 WCHA) on the season and kept them ensconced in position to pick up the 7th seed in the 2015 WCHA playoffs.  The loss dropped the Wildcats to 9-8-5 (6-8-4 WCHA) and left them deadlocked in fourth place in the standings with Ferris State, who was swept by Mankato.  The Wildcats and Bulldogs are three points clear of Bemidji State (also swept) in 6th and just four ahead of those pesky Chargers.  (Now how much did that sweep in Bemidji hurt?)

Misuraca started the scoring early for the home squad, taking a pass back to the point from freshman forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia).  “That was the same [kind of goal] as Bowling Green last year,” senior forward and team captain Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.) said of Misuraca’s goal.  The marker was Misuraca’s sixth of the season, which leads all UAH defensemen in goal scoring and puts him second on the team.

Sophomore defenseman Barrett Kaib (Pittsburgh, Pa.) picked up the equalizing goal, his second on the season.  Sophomore forward Casey Purpur (Grand Forks, N.D.) picked up his first point on the season with the assist.

Northern Michigan’s effort to level the game were successful for only 3:28.  A cross-checking minor by sophomore defenseman Brock Maschmeyer (Bruederheim, Alb.) at 14:26 followed by a roughing minor by sophomore forward Dominik Shine (Pinckney, Mich.) at 15:03 gave the Chargers a long two-man advantage.

While UAH couldn’t score with two extra men on a four-corners style attack designed to open space and draw defenders below the goal line and away from the powerful point shots that the Chargers love, the puck did get to the right place five seconds after Maschmeyer returned to the ice:

Brears ripped one from a few feet inside the blue line and pretty much straight down the middle, and apparently Wildcat junior goaltender Mathias Dahlström (Smedjebacken, Sweden) never saw it.  Brears’s 3rd gino of the season was assisted by freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Faribault, Minn.) [10th] and senior forward Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hill, Ont.) [6th].

Parker’s assist has him leading the team and ties him for first in overall defenseman points with Misuraca.  No Charger has had double-digits in assists since 2010-11, when five Chargers did so (Matt Baxter [13], Justin Cseter [12], Jamie Easton [12], Keenan Desmet [10], Tom Durnie [10]).  If you’re really curious, the last Chargers to get 15 were Andrew Coburn (15 in 09-10). Brandon Roshko (15 in 08-09, 17 in 07-08).  The last 20-assist Chargers were David Nimmo (22) and Shaun Arvai (20) in 2006-07.

The second period was fairly slow, with just 13 shots on goal (8 UAH, 5 NMU).  However, there was a penalty shot, as sophomore forward Matt Salhany (Warwick, R.I.) was slowed up on a breakaway attempt.  He did not convert the opportunity.  In the modern era, the Chargers have been awarded five penalty shots and have converted twice: Kevin Morrison on Oct. 8, 2006 at Air Force and Dwayne Blais at home against Iona on Nov. 4, 2000.  The last Charger to attempt a penalty shot was Cseter at Omaha on January 28, 2011.

[The Chargers have caused five penalty shots in the same time frame, allowing two goals.  Mark Byrne stopped his, and Blake McNicol and Cam Talbot were each 1/2.]

But there would be some excitement for the Wildcat faithful in the lower bowl late in the period.

Junior forward Darren Nowick‘s (Long Beach, Calif.) goal was his sixth of the season, and the assist was freshman forward Zach Diamantoni‘s (Boca Raton, Fla.) fourth.  Maschmeyer (5th) got the secondary assist.

“That’s what we work on a lot in practice,” Reid said.  “That one, he had an open shot at the net, and he just hammered it.  He’s a big boy, and he put a lot behind it.  It was a nice shot!”  Straight off the draw, freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.) pulled it back to Buri, a hulking force standing a few feet inside the blue line.  With everyone collapsed to the circle, Buri had a clean look at the glove side of the net and let fly.

From there, the Chargers just held on, with Dahlström out for the final 1:34 of the game.  The Chargers iced it several times in that setting, and Reid was pushed too wide to put one in the empty net.  But this team knows how to hold on now, and it’s not just four consecutive home wins: it’s four consecutive home wins with the other team’s net empty at the end of the game: 1:34 last night, 1:09 the night before, 1:18 on Jan. 3rd (6×4 for :27), and 2:10 on Jan. 4th (6×4 for :45).

The win pushed the 2015 senior class — Reid, Vanderlugt, forward and assistant captain Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.), defenseman Graeme Strukoff (Chilliwack, B.C.), and defenseman Ben Reinhardt — to seven Division I wins in their final season, two more than their first three seasons combined.  “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” said Pierce, who played in his 100th game as a Charger on Saturday night.  “We’ve been real good at home in 2015 at home.  We didn’t like how we played last weekend at Bemidji, so we’re happy to come back here and get four points in the WCHA.”

The Chargers are off of NCAA play next weekend as they host the US National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team in 2:00 p.m. Central contests on Saturday and Sunday.  UAH will then travel to Houghton, Mich. to face Michigan Tech before a weekend off and their third and final trip to the UP of the year to face Lake Superior in the Soo.  That matchup could be key in determining which WCHA squad gets an early tee time in March.  More on the probabilities of teams making the WCHA playoffs coming this week on wchaplayoffs.com.

Michigan Tech 5, UAH 2

The UAH Chargers (3-11-2, 2-8-0 WCHA) were perfect again on the penalty kill, stopping the Michigan Tech Huskies (12-2-0, 10-2-0 WCHA) on all five opportunities.  Unfortunately, the Chargers couldn’t reprise last night’s perfect special teams performance, falling to the #6/5 team in the country by a 5-2 score, the final marker being an empty-netter.

The Huskies went up early when senior forward and co-captain Tanner Kero (Hancock, Michigan) scored fifth goal of the season unassisted as he and his teammates crashed the net minded by sophomore goaltender Matt Larose (Nanaimo, B.C.).  The Huskies kept up the pressure for the remainder of the period, outshooting the home squad 14-3.  The Chargers’ penalty killers were stout in defense of their net when sophomore defenseman Brandon Carlson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) went off for holding at 14:54.

The Chargers’ power play proved unable to the task early in the second, with two consecutive minor power plays coming off of a high-sticking minor on senior forward David Johnstone (Grande Ledge, Mich.) at 7:06 and hooking by Chris Leibinger (Saginaw, Mich.) at 9:06.  The Chargers again struggled with the pace, being outshot 12-5 in the middle frame.

Carlson atoned for his earlier sins late in the 2nd, ripping in a shot off of the faceoff past Tech junior goalie Jamie Phillips (Caledonia, Ont.).  Carlson’s goal was his third on the season, and he was assisted by freshman forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia), who marked his sixth assist on the year.

Unfortunately for UAH, the momentum was short-lived.  Carlson went to the box for tripping just :19 after his goal (and oddly 19:50 after his first-period infraction), but his teammates again picked up the pace, limiting grade A chances for the Huskies.

The Huskies would pull back ahead 1:08 after the Chargers returned to full strength when junior defenseman Walker Hyland (Woodbury, Minn.) picked up the puck just above the dot in the right-wing circle and ripped it through a forest of bodies in front of Larose (0-5-1, 32 sv) to move the score to 2-1.  After that point, the Huskies would never trail again.

The Michiganders took it up a notch when the Kero-Petan-Gould line struck again.  The trio were each +3 on the evening, with each netting a goal.  It was junior forward and assistant captain Alex Petan‘s (Delta, B.C.) turn with just :38.5 in the 2nd, ripping a shot from the high slot that came to him because of the relentless pressure of his line.  Petan’s shot froze Larose, with the missile rising over his shoulder to the top shelf.

Petan would give the Chargers a chance to narrow the game 1:12 into the third when Petan was whistled for a hooking minor.  A tripping minor by Saulnier 1:25 later negated the advantage, however, and the Chargers would have to wait another 4:20 for some signs of life — other than sophomore forward Matt Salhany‘s (Warwick, R.I.) Brian-Rolston-like shorthanded dash into a slapshot from the right-wing dot.

The Chargers were pressing from around the 6:40 mark.  Senior defenseman Ben Reinhardt (Arnprior, Ont.) fed a D-to-D pass to freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Faribault, Minn.), who ripped a slapshot so hard that he broke his stick.  Instead of Parker retrieving a stick, junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) swapped into the game and skated to the top of the RW circle.  After Reinhardt kept the puck in, he moved it closer in to freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.), who saw Misuraca near the blue line with time and space.  Receiving the pass, Frank edged closer to the center of the ice, wound up, and fired through traffic and past Phillips (12-2-0, 13 sv).  Misuraca’s goal was his fourth of the year, and it was the fifth assist for McHugh and first for Reinhardt.  McHugh’s marker would push him to a team-leading eight points.

At that point, Phillips left the net for an equipment malfunction with his pads, giving sophomore goaltender Matt Wintjes (Holland Landing, Ont.) his first game action of the season.  Phillips returned quickly and would proceed to stop all five shots he saw for the remainder of the game.

Junior forward Malcolm Gould (North Vancouver, B.C.) gave the Huskies some breathing room, potting his fifth goal of the season at 6:57 of the third on an assist from Kero.  While the Huskies would give the Chargers some life a minute later when Johnstone took a slashing penalty, the blue and white would not raise their sticks in celebration.

The last gasp for the Chargers came with just 1:51 left in regulation when Petan took an interference penalty.  UAH coach Mike Corbett called timeout and pulled Larose for a sixth skater.  The Chargers held the puck in for a while, but senior forward Blake Hietala (Houghton, Mich.) made his hometown team happy, potting a short-handed, empty net goal at 18:56.  Matching minors to Leibinger and Carlson at 19:24 finished the scoresheet.

The series in a nutshell: a decided speed and skill advantage by the Huskies, who drew penalties from the Chargers when they were afraid of being beaten; strong penalty killing (12-for-12 on the weekend); and the boys hanging in while being outshot 34-14 and 37-15.  UAH had a litmus test this weekend: how would it fare against one of the top two teams in the league in their own building?  This wasn’t a weekend like the one earlier this season in Mankato, where the Mavericks out-shot UAH 57-18 and 41-9 on the way to a sweep.  Given that the Huskies played the Mavs last weekend to two one-goal games, 2-1 and 3-2, you can sorta hand-wave a transitive theory and show how the Chargers have grown as the season has gotten along.

As I left the arena, I chatted with some Tech fans who’d made it down for the games.  One of them said, “You’ll be in the playoffs if you keep playing like this.”  While the Chargers are tied for 7th in the league, they’ve played more league games (10) than any of the other three teams at four points (8, with Alaska down 3-1 to Northern as I finish this recap).  This makes it harder for UAH to keep pace.

The Chargers have played four of their six games against the cream of the WCHA, with a return trip to Houghton at the end of January.  BG is definitely up there as well, and the Chargers have to go on the road to face the Falcons to end the season in what very well could be a trip for a playoff seed.  UAH has to do well against old pal Lance West and his Alaska Nanooks both in two weeks and when the kids come from Fairbanks to Huntsville in late February.  The Chargers also host the Seawolves of Alaska-Anchorage in the first home series of 2015.  Two wins in the next four league tilts would buoy any playoff hopes.

The Chargers are off next weekend, as finals are this next week at the University.  They will next play Alaska in Fairbanks at 10:07 p.m. starts.  We’ll have coverage then, but it could be slow here this week while Michael and I take a bit of a breather.