UAH beats Lake Superior 3-1 to win crucial road series

UAH coach Mike Corbett said two weeks ago after the Chargers’ dreadful series at Michigan Tech that the team’s response would determine whether they would make the WCHA playoffs.

Nothing was clinched this weekend, but the response the Chargers had in Sault Ste. Marie was a step in the right direction.

UAH defeated Lake Superior State 3-1 on Saturday, taking three points on the road from the Lakers and sole possession of eighth place (and seventh playoff seed) in the WCHA.

Carmine Guerriero made 25 saves, and Max McHugh scored the game-winner in the third period for the Chargers (8-18-4 overall, 7-14-1 WCHA), whose 15 points moved two clear of Lake Superior (7-23-2 overall, 6-17-1 WCHA) and five over Alaska-Anchorage (which was swept by Michigan Tech). UAH remained three points behind seventh-place Ferris State, which beat Bowling Green in overtime.

Unlike Friday when only one penalty was called all game, Saturday was penalty-filled, with lots of holding, tripping, roughing after the whistle, and general chippiness. Seventeen penalties were called total, with nine against UAH.

It started with Josh Kestner’s high sticking call at 5:41, then Graeme Strukoff was called for holding at 11:58. The Chargers were able to kill those penalties easily, but the big one came at 15:14, when Jeff Vanderlugt tripped and cross-checked LSSU’s Stephen Perfetto.

During the four-minute power play, UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero made some key stops, keeping the game scoreless until a Lake Superior holding penalty on Garret Clemment ended the Lakers’ advantage.

UAH’s best scoring chance in the first period came with Brent Fletcher all alone in front of LSSU goaltender Gordon Defiel, who made the stop.

The Chargers started the second period with a power play extended by a tripping call on Lake Superior’s Aidan Wright. However, Perfetto found Gus Correale, who wristed a short-handed goal past Guerriero to give the Lakers a 1-0 lead just 43 seconds in the frame. It was Correale who scored Lake Superior’s lone goal Friday night.

But Doug Reid would do the same. The senior captain, who tied the game at 1-1 on Friday, did it again Saturday, beating Defiel with 5:05 left in the second. It was Reid’s second goal of the season, assisted by a nice pass by Jack Prince.

In the third, UAH would be the team to finally break through on the power play. The Chargers were already feeling the groove in the offensive zone and getting some shots on Defiel, and just nine seconds after LSSU’s Jayson Angus was called for holding, McHugh knocked in a rebound to give UAH the 2-1 lead with 11:32 to go.

McHugh was assisted by Prince’s second helper on the night, and Brandon Parker’s team-leading 12th assist of the season.

McHugh’s interference call gave the Lakers a chance to tie it, but despite a flurry where Guerriero had to make a couple of saves, the penalty was killed. LSSU finished 0-for-7 with the advantage for the game.

Defiel was pulled to give Lake Superior the extra attacker with two minutes left and continued to put on the pressure. But at the end, Brent Fletcher’s long clear found the empty net for the final 3-1 victory score.

UAH now comes home for two weeks with the goal of locking down its first WCHA playoff berth. Ferris State comes to Huntsville on Feb. 20 and 21, followed by Alaska on Feb. 27 and 28.

UAH and LSSU draw 1-1, remain tied in standings

UAH and Lake Superior State are two teams with the same number of wins and the same number of WCHA points, and about the same productivity on offense (which hasn’t been much this season). So Friday night’s 1-1 tie might come as no surprise, as the fact that the clubs remained tied in the WCHA standings.

Doug Reid scored the lone goal for the Chargers (7-18-4 overall, 6-14-1 WCHA), who remained tied with the Lakers (7-22-2 overall, 6-16-1 WCHA) with the last two WCHA playoff spots, in eighth place. Both are three points ahead of last-place Alaska-Anchorage, which lost to Michigan Tech, 5-1. UAH has two games in hand.

The teams face off again Saturday night at 6 p.m. Central Time in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, with another chance to move ahead of the other and enhance their playoff chances.

If the Chargers were rusty following the off week, it showed in the first 10 minutes. Missed passes and turnovers in the defensive zone led to a few opportunities for the Lakers to score the first goal of the game, but Carmine Guerriero made the stops. He made eight saves in those first 10 minutes.

But as the period progressed, the Chargers started to gain puck possession. They started to test Laker freshman goaltender Gordon Defiel, but Defiel showed why he has been the key to their success this season.

With each team winning a half of the first period, the shots on goal after one was tied at 9-9. However, neither team would find the net.

The Lakers would strike first, though. After a flurry around the UAH, Gus Correale gets a tip in past Guerriero to take a 1-0 lead at the 4:13 mark of the second period.

The Chargers would strike next, and what a strike it was. Reid, the senior captain, finally got this first goal of the season, snapping a blast from the left circle, beating Defiel high and tying the game at 1-1 at 7:46. Brent Fletcher got his fifth assist of the season, and Anderson White, typically a defenseman who started in left wing, earned his first.

Lake State kept Guerriero busy in the final minutes of the second, forcing him to make glove saves and scramble to cover the puck.

The game’s pace slowed in the third period. Guerriero and Defiel were called upon to make some big saves to keep the game tied, but neither team really commandeered control of the game.

In overtime, LSSU’s Bryce Schmitt had a partial break that was broken up by UAH’s Frank Misuraca, which was the best chance either club saw at an overtime winner.

UAH outshot LSSU 28-26, another example of just how close the two teams are. Guerriero finished with 25 saves, while Defiel had 27 in a battle of star goaltenders for clubs building for the future.

Notes: Only one penalty was called the whole game — an elbowing call on UAH’s Cody Marooney at the 4:32 mark of the first. … UAH is 2-1-2 all-time at Lake Superior State. … It was only the second time this season the Chargers outshot their opponent. The other time was Nov. 15 in Huntsville, also against Lake Superior State (30-25).

UNO 2, UAH 1

The announcers on NCHC.tv for #12 Nebraska-Omaha (11-4-2, 6-3-1 NCHC) regularly lamented that the homestanding Mavericks were “letting the Chargers stay in this game”, a remark that kinda irked me on Twitter:

 

But the only way that UAH (3-14-2, 2-10-0 WCHA) are only going to garner national respect when they win these kinds of games.  Unfortunately for the Chargers, keeping an even shots-on-goal differential (31 for UNO, 25 for UAH) didn’t translate into a lot of Grade A chances.  As such, the lone UAH goal came off of the stick of senior forward Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hill, Ont.) with just :11 remaining in regulation, cutting UNO’s final margin to 2-1 and denying sophomore goaltender Kirk Thompson (Surrey, B.C.), who made 24 saves to pull up to move to 2-1-0 on the season.

The Chargers outshot the Mavs 10-9 in the first period, but it was a late power-play goal at 18:56 that put the home squad up 1-0 heading into intermission.  :17 into sophomore forward Matt Salhany‘s (Warwick, R.I.) hooking penalty, Maverick junior defenseman Brian Cooper (Anchorage, Alaska) potted a goal on the nation’s #1 special teams unit.  Cooper’s fourth goal of the season was assisted by freshman forward Tyler Vesel (Rochester, Minn.) and freshman forward Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids, Minn.).

The second period was fairly quiet — as was the whole game, really.  UNO had a speed advantage, but time and again, the recovering UAH defensemen would push the forecheckers wide and deflect shots and passes into the corner.  This is evident in the stats for UAH sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.), who made 29 saves in an effort that dropped him to 3-8-1 on the season.

UNO sophomore forward Justin Parizek (Lakeville, Minn.) scored his eighth goal of the season just :13 after freshman defenseman Brandon Parker‘s (Faribault, Minn.) slashing penalty ended, as the Mavs had the Chargers scrambling to return to their standard set.  Vesel notched his second assist of the night on the game-winner.

While UAH kept working to the end, the only reward was Vanderlugt’s goal, which was assisted by freshman defenseman Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.).

There were plenty of things to like tonight:

  • The SOG differential was far more even than I expected, given UNO’s talent level.  That was a very workmanlike effort for the Chargers.
  • Mike Corbett definitely has his shutdown line in senior forward Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.), senior forward Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.), and sophomore forward Brent Fletcher (New Westminster, British Columbia).  I think that Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson is still complaining about the Bulldog Line’s harassment of his top line; UNO coach Dean Blais probably feels the same way.  There were a couple of shifts tonight where Pierce was an absolute wild man, seemingly every where at once and using his body to full effect.  Make no mistake: those guys really, really give a crap.
  • Carmine looked very good in net — the game-winner was a slapshot glove/short side that ricocheted in off of the post.  Will he start tomorrow night?  My guess would be that sophomore goaltender Matt Larose (Nanaimo, British Columbia) will get the nod to keep him fresh.  UAH plays all five weekends in January, and since it’s reasonable to think that Carmine starts at least seven of those games, you need to keep Larose in the groove.
  • Penalties!  The boys only committed four penalties for eight PIM!  That’s half of the usual total!  Sadly the blazing hot streak of the PK units seems over, but we’ll take the result.
  • There was just a lot of energy all night long, and let’s be honest — it’s the weekend before Christmas.  The boys went to Alaska right after finals.  They couldn’t really go too far afield before going to Nebraska on Thursday.  They want to see their families just as much as any of the rest of us do.  These pre-Christmas games are really, really hard to play, and you have to respect that the boys came out with jump all night long.

The two teams tangle at 5:07 p.m. Central to finish UAH’s 2014 slate.  Michael will take care of you on Sunday night.  Y’all have a great time with friends and family in the last week-plus of the year, no matter how you choose to celebrate it!  UAH hockey is better for your support and interest.

UAH 5, LSSU 2: It’s Been a Long Time

Hey, UAH won at home tonight!

The last Division I home win was back in January 2011 over our least favorite rodents, Bemidji State, a game where Matt Baxter (Toronto, Ont.) scored two of UAH’s three power-play goals and an unassisted, shorthanded goal by (That Damn) Matt Read wasn’t enough to bring the Beavers level.  It may seem a little painful to think about all what I’ll write next, but I think that it’s important.  Why?  This is another turning point.  This is the way up.  This is our road back to .500.

So the last time UAH won a D-I home game:

So let’s talk about why they won.

“Our PK was 10 for 10, and our power play was 3-for-3,” junior forward Jack Prince (Leicester, England) said.  It’s not often that you can say that your special teams are 100%, and tonight it was for us.  When your special teams are 100%, that’s usually going to be a good result, and for us, tonight, it was.”

Prince’s power-play goal put the nail in the coffin in a 5-2 defeat of WCHA foe Lake Superior State University.  The Lakers fall to 2-10-0 (2-6-0 WCHA) on the season, while the Chargers improve to 2-8-2 (1-5-0).

There were significant changes to the lineup.  Senior defenseman Graeme Strukoff (Chiliwack, B.C.) was in and senior defenseman Ben Reinhardt (Arnprior, Ont.) was out.  Junior defenseman Anderson White (Caledon, Ont.) was in so that sophomore defenseman Brandon Carlson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) could play forward.  Sophomore forward Regan Soquila (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and junior forward Alex Carpenter (Portage, Mich.) left the forward rotation for Carlson and senior forward Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hill, Ont.) respectively.

But the most important lineup move was one that didn’t make a change, as sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.) again started in net for the Chargers.  His 23-save effort was enough to move him to 2-4-1 on the season.

For UAH coach Mike Corbett, playing Guerriero both nights was an instinct.  “He was the best player on the ice.  Matt Larose didn’t lose his spot.  [Guerriero]’s playing so well that we just had to give him the extra game.”  Throughout their tenure as a tandem, neither Guerriero nor Larose had started both nights of a weekend, though each had come to relieve the other for the bulk of a start before playing their full game.  The change surprised many, including both Michael and me.

When I spoke with Guerriero late last season, I asked him what he’d be working on over the summer.  I hadn’t even finished the question when he responded with one word: “Conditioning.”  It always felt to me that Corbett felt uneasy about playing either goaltender both nights regardless of the success from the Friday game.  Witness the Air Force weekend: after a solid night on Friday, Carmine gave way to Matt on Saturday, who stopped 36-of-39.  Even after stopping 61 shots in a game last season, Guerriero knew that he’d have to come back stronger for his sophomore campaign.

“I worked hard this summer with my goalie coach, and I think that it paid off, honestly,” Guerriero said.  He was effusive in his praise for his teammates — despite enduring 10 power plays, UAH allowed just 25 shots on goal.  “I was just there in case they needed me.”  When asked if he missed the extra work, he said, “That’s okay.  I like it.  It’s what I’m there for.”

Senior captain Doug Reid (Innisfil, Ont.) was elated after the win.  “It feels great, and it’s been a long time coming,” he said of his first Division I home win.  “We knew that we had to come in and compete.  We really out-worked them, and we got the result that we wanted.”

Reid praised his teammates’ work on the PK.  “We play a very disciplined game when killing penalties.  We know that we’re a defensive team, so our focus is to just get to the puck and get it out.”

The Chargers got goals from five different skaters.  Sophomore forward Cody Marooney (Eden Prairie, Minn.) got the first goal of the night with a shorthanded marker that came most of the way through a bench minor served by Prince for too many men on the ice.  Marooney forced a turnover with pressure and sliced right through the Laker defense and past freshman netminder Gordon Defiel (Stillwater, Minn.), who had just 25 saves on the night.

Freshman defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) scored fifteen seconds after serving a minor tripping penalty to push the Chargers to 2-0 5:22 into the second period.  Laker goals off of the sticks of senior forward and assistant captain Chris Ciotti (Oxford, Mich.) and sophomore forward Garret Clemment (Wausau, Wisc.) knotted the game up at two apiece with just 3:23 left in the second.

But a tripping penalty by sophomore forward Gus Correale (Prince George, B.C.) set up the Chargers’ power play with their first opportunity of the night after killing seven Laker power plays.  Freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.) made the Lakers pay for their sin a minute into the advantage, and the Chargers would retain a one-goal lead into the third.

The UAH offense would turn into overdrive in the final frame, peppering Defiel with ten shots, including a power-play marker by Vanderlugt in his first action in two weeks.  Prince would roof the puck to finish the Lakers off, laughing off an early miscue.  “I had a wide open net early and hit the post, and I knew then that it would be a long night.”

The Chargers travel to Ferris State next weekend for a tilt against the tough Bulldogs, who nearly doubled their season scoring output with fourteen goals this weekend against Alaska-Anchorage.  “I’m super excited,” Guerriero said.  “It’s a nice rink and very rowdy.  We just want to keep up this momentum that the boys have and pick up two W’s on the road.”

And then there’s Michigan Tech in two weeks, who are the likely #1 when the next round of polls come out, as they defeated Bemidji State tonight to move to 10-0-0 (thanks, boys) while the other unbeaten all lost this weekend.  “I’m excited for that as well,” Guerriero said.  “It’s a challenge, and we want the opportunity to show everyone what we’re capable of.”  The Huskies go to Mankato next weekend to face the Mavericks, and the Verizon Wireless Center is a tough place to play.  That said, the Huskies are rolling right now, and we could have the #1 team in town the day after Thanksgiving.

UAH 3, Air Force 3

It was the best of seconds, it was the worst of thirds.  It was the age of the Bulldog Line, it was the age of bad penalties and worse kills.  It was the epoch of belief that maybe we had turned the corner, it was the epoch of incredulity that we blew a three-goal lead.  It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  We had a road sweep before us, we had a blown three-goal lead before us.  We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the sin bin.  In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

It was a tie, but man, I never expected to be disappointed in a three-goal weekend against a non-conference opponent.  (Okay, WCHA brethren, we did our job for PWR help.)

UAH scored three goals in 5:08 in the second half of the second period, two off of the stick of senior forward Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.) to take their first three-goal lead against a Division I foe since a road game against Maine in February 2012.  In fact, that game also saw a hot line, with forwards Kyle Lysaght (Marietta, Ga.), Justin Cseter (Menomomie, Wisc.), and Mac Roy (Chiliwack, B.C.) each netting a goal and two assists.

Pierce’s goals came as the Bulldog Line brought the pressure to Falcon sophomore goaltender Chris Truehl (Stoughton, Wisc.), with Pierce streaking through the slot to pick up rebounds from sophomore forward Brent Fletcher (New Westminster, B.C.) and then senior forward and captain Doug Reid (Innisfail, Ont.) to finish a flurry of UAH scoring attempts.

Unfortunately for UAH, the Falcons must have read the script from that Maine game during the second intermission, as the Falcons equaled the Black Bears’ three-goal output in the final regulation frame.  After killing the first nine penalties of the weekend, UAH conceded three power play goals in four opportunities, the last two coming just 1:31 apart, to bring the game to level 5:48 in regulation.

Unlike last night, there were no late-game heroics.  But unlike that Maine result, the Chargers kept the puck out of their net in the overtime, and the boys in blue hop a plane ride home with three more points in the CHA standings (hey wait) but sadly without their first road sweep in five years (also against Air Force).

Mike Corbett is now 2-3-1 all-time against the Serratores.

There was a lot to like in this game.  Chief among them is sophomore goaltender Matt Larose (0-4-1, Nanaimo, B.C.), who was solid in net (36 sv).  Next comes the pressure from the aforementioned Bulldog Line, who played good transition hockey and really brought the pressure from the tops of the circles on in.  Third was the forechecking game, which wavered in the first part of the second period but was always at least passable the rest of the game — and often better than that.

In the end, what we’ll all remember from this one is that the boys had a three-goal lead and gacked it with four third-period penalties and a fifth from the second that carried 1:48 into the third.  Setting yourself up to kill nearly half the period in penalties is asking for disaster, and that’s exactly what the Chargers got in this one.  Simply put, the Chargers have to learn how to win games like that, and staying out of the box is high on the list of things that influence that, even if the refs are making bad calls.

We’ll see you next week at the VBC for games against Lake Superior State University.  Puck drop is 7:07 Central both nights.