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.

UAH 3, UAA 2

UAH (4-14-3, 3-10-0 WCHA) took an early lead on the strength of two first-period goals by freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.), followed by a marker from sophomore forward Cody Marooney (Eden Prairie, Minn.) just 2:03 into the second frame.  From there, the Chargers held on for a 3-2 victory over Alaska-Anchorage (5-8-4, 2-7-2 WCHA), points which moved them out of the basement in the WCHA standings.  (It’s a league game, Smokey.)

McHugh got things started early, taking a drop feed from junior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alb.) and rifling the puck home past Anchorage freshman goaltender Olivier Mantha (La Tuque, Qué.) just 3:59 into the game.  Freshman defenseman Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.) picked up the secondary assist.

McHugh dented the twine with just :32 left in the first period, when a centering feed from junior forward Jack Prince (Leicester, England) found the freshman with time and space at the top of the circles.  He ripped one through and past Mantha (17 sv) for his seventh goal of the season.  The secondary assist went to Brears.

Let’s stop here for a point that Michael made to me in a text: with 7-7—14, McHugh has already eclipsed the season scoring leaders for 2011-12 (Kyle Lysaght with 13), 2012-13 (then-sophomore forward Jeff Vanderlugt [Richmond Hill, Ont.] with 11), and 2013-14 (Prince with 13).  McHugh looks to be the first Charger to record double-digit goals since Matt Sweazey (Toronto) in 2008-09.  Max McCutie, we’re on the way back because guys like you are giving us a shot.

Marooney muscled the puck past Mantha (4-6-3) after junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) fired up a Misurocket™ and into the Seawolf crease.  Marooney’s goal was his second of the year.  Vanderlugt got the secondary assist.

From there, it was just hanging in there.  The Seawolves cut the lead to two on a power-play goal by senior forward Scott Allen (Edmonton, Alb.), who was assisted by freshman forward Tad Kozun (Nipawin, Sask.) and junior defenseman Blake Leask (Edmonton, Alb.).  The marker ended a shutout by UAH sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué.), who had 31 saves overall.

Kozun narrowed the margin to one when sophomore forward Brad Duwe (Solodotna, Alaska) fed him the puck after dekeing a Charger out of position.  Kozun’s shot rang the post on the way past Guerriero, who moved to 4-8-2 on the season.

The Chargers would hold on thereafter, as they were outshot 10-5 by the Seawolves in the final frame.  Worse still for the home squad, freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Faribault, Minn.) was called for tripping at 16:32, and Prince was whistled for slashing at 19:33.  Mantha was out of the net for the final 2:10 of the game, but Guerriero closed all of the doors that his teammates didn’t.

This wasn’t a statement win for UAH — that would’ve been taking a 3-0 or 4-0 lead into the second intermission.  But this was UAH proving to itself that it could open up a big lead, play with fire, and pull it back in.  While last year’s UAH team, bereft of offense, would’ve never opened up a three-goal lead on an opponent, that team also would’ve likely not been able to hold it.  This team did, though — the lessons of Colorado Springs were learned.

The Chargers and Seawolves are back at it at 7:07 p.m. Central Standard Time in Huntsville.  Michael Napier will have coverage, and woe betide if you’re stuck watching the UAH broadcast on WCHA TV.  (More on that next week.)

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.

Ferris State 5, UAH 2

While UAH had a fine first two periods, the wheels came off in the third period, as the homestanding Ferris State University Bulldogs (7-6-0 overall, 4-4-0 WCHA) pulled away to win 5-2 and secure a conference split at the Robert L. Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.  The loss dropped UAH to 3-9-2 on the season and 2-6-0 in WCHA play.  No worries, though: Bemidji lost, too, so we’re still tied with the rodents in the league standings.

The Chargers scored early again in this one, as freshman defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) ripped a shot from the point off of a draw by freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.) to junior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alta.) just 2:29 into the contest.  The visitors then held serve for the next ten minutes or so, going on the power play at 12:10 when Ferris freshman forward Mitch Maloney (Macomb, Mich.) kicked freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Fairbault, Minn.) behind the Chargers’ net and received a major penalty and match disqualification.

The hopes for an early 2-0 lead were quickly dashed when Ferris junior forward Matt Robertson (Rohnert Park, Calif.) picked up a puck along the wall in the Bulldogs’ defensive zone and saw sophomore teammate Chad McDonald (Battle Creek, Mich.) with time and space.  The pass was good for the first of Robertson’s four assists on the night, and McDonald went forehand-backhand before roofing the puck past the outstretched blocker of UAH sophomore netminder Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.) for the first of his two goals just :16 into the major.  The SHG was the fourth that the Chargers have allowed this year.

Robertson made his presence known halfway through the second, stick-handling through the defense between the circles before finding Islanders draftee and sophomore forward Kyle Schempp (Saginaw, Mich.) for the go-ahead goal at 10:05.  The Chargers struck back a couple of minutes later when freshman forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia) fed junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) the puck at the point.  Misuraca’s strong shot bounced right to senior forward Jeff Vanderlugt (Richmond Hills, Ont.), who pounded the puck past Ferris senior netminder C.J. Motte (St. Clair, Mich.) to tie the game at two with 4:22 left in the second period.

And at that point, it was pretty okay for the Chargers.  They out-shot the Bulldogs 11-9 in the first and 12-9 in the second — more SOG in 40:00 tonight than they had in a full game last night.  But a facemasking penalty on Brears at 19:35 of the 2nd, combined with a cross-checking penalty to Ferris junior defenseman Brandon Anselmini (Guelph, Ont.) sent the teams to the locker room at 4-on-4, an option that isn’t to the Chargers’ strength.

McDonald struck :26 into the period off of a feed from Robertson, and it was on.  Ferris State outshot UAH 17-7 in the final frame, including a goal from sophomore forward Jared VanWormer (Traverse City, Mich.) at the tail end of Brears’s major.  At that point, it got rough.  Saulnier had already taken two cross-checking minors, and then he picked up a major high-sticking penalty.  Ferris killed the advantage :48 later, but then McHugh ran into Motte 1:56 into the major and 1:02 into the 4-on-4.

UAH was back to killing the 5-on-4 major penalty when Guerriero interfered with a Bulldog, sending Misuraca to the box, a place Frank has only been to twice this season.  1:01 later, Guerriero committed another infraction, this time sending senior defenseman Graeme Strukoff (Chilliwack, B.C.) to the box to serve his roughing penalty.  McDonald also went off for a misconduct penalty at the same time.  Mind you, there are still four seconds remaining on Saulnier’s major at this point.

Sophomore forward Matt Salhany (Warwick, R.I.) went off at 17:35 for roughing, and Schempp followed :11 for hooking.  In all, eight penalties were called in the third, three involving goalies, two by a goalie, and an extended 4-on-3.  The Chargers were at full strength just 10:25 of the second period, and that just won’t cut it.

Saulnier was really in trouble again tonight, and that just can’t keep happening.  Brears’s facemasking penalty was pretty borderline to my eye, as both players were making the same motions and it just seems that Chad’s fingertip got caught in a hole in the grid as he pushed the player’s head back in a scrum.

The Chargers came into the game averaging 15.8 PIM/G, but they racked up twice that tonight.  In fact, that average has been steadily climbing, with PIM totals of 16, 16, 16, 22, 18, and 36 tonight.  This has to be a worrying trend.  Yes, the PK was 8-for-9 tonight and has killed 29 of their last 32 penalties, but you just can’t keep doing that and expect positive results all of the time.

Special teams are indeed a strength for the Chargers, who have had positive events in 79 of 128 situations, a 61.7% rate that is second in the nation behind Harvard, but those 128 opportunities are tied for the third-most in the country with Colgate behind Minnesota-Duluth (138) and Miami (131).  But until guys like Salhany and fellow sophomore forward Cody Marooney (Eden Prairie, Minn.) have turned themselves into Steve Charlebois (1999-2003, Carbon, Alta.) or Jason Hawes (1999-2003, Perth, Ont.), the Chargers are playing with fire.

Ferris junior forward Kenny Babinski (Midland, Mich.) concluded the scoring with an empty-net goal at 19:01.  Guerriero ended up with 30 saves and drops to 3-5-1 on the season.  Motte pushes to 7-6-0 on the strength of a 28-save effort.

The Chargers face Michigan Tech at the VBC next weekend.  The Huskies came into the weekend as the #1 team in the country, but Minnesota State swept them in two one-goal games in Houghton.  Look for the dogs to come a-barking.

UAH 3, Ferris State 2

The boys are back.  I repeat, the boys are back.

The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (3-8-2 overall, 2-5-0 WCHA) never trailed in this hockey game, scoring in the first two minutes and holding the lead for the next 31:08.  The homestanding Ferris State Bulldogs (6-6-0 overall, 3-4-0 WCHA) pulled even midway through the second, but two third-period goals pushed the home fans to the brink, and the Chargers held on for a 3-2 win at the Robert L. Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Mich.

The Chargers are now 3-1-1 in their last five games.  Their last two-game win streak against Division I opponents came when that Cam Talbot guy was in net, backstopping the Herd to the 2010 CHA Championship.  The last stretch of at least 3-1-1 was also in 2010, when UAH won the replacement game from the Amy Bishop shooting at Niagara, lost by one goal and tied Bemidji at the VBC next weekend, and then beat Robert Morris and the Purple Eagles for that NCAA berth.

If you want to look at the last three-game winning streak, it also comes that season: two wins at home against Niagara, a road win there before being called home, then a home win against the Colonials.  Oh, and last night, Talbot shut out the Flyers and Bemidji alumnus Matt Read.  #CHAForever

There are three major stories to the evening’s proceedings.  They are: junior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alta.), an overtaxed but strong penalty kill, and sophomore netminder Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Que.), who made his fourth start in five games.

Brears

Brears hadn’t lit the lamp all season, but he did it twice tonight on five shots-on-goal.  His first goal came at 1:48 of the first, when a splendid feed across the goal mouth from freshman forward Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.) and an entry pass from senior defenseman Graeme Strukoff (Chilliwack, B.C.) gave him the time, space, and angle that he needed to rip the puck hard past Ferris senior goaltender CJ Motte (St. Claire, Mich., 6-6-0, 15 sv).  The primary assist put McHugh temporarily atop the team’s scoring chart.

Brears would score the game-winning goal on the power play in the third, when a point shot rattled from freshman defenseman Brandon Parker (Faribault, Minn.) around and found his stick after touching that of junior forward Jack Prince (Leicester, England).  The assists for Parker and Prince pushed them to six points, alongside McHugh.  It was a fine night for Chad.  Cheers, buddy.

Penalty Kill

After giving up three, third-period power play goals against Air Force, the Chargers limited Lake Superior to one on Friday and none in ten on Saturday.  Tonight, the Chargers again had problems staying out of the box, committing nine minor penalties resulting in eight power play chances for the homesteading Bulldogs.  The Chargers nearly killed them all, but the Bulldogs struck gold on their seventh when sophomore forward and New York Islanders draftee Kyle Schempp (Saginaw, Mich.) scored to make it a 3-2 game.

A late-period interference penalty by Strukoff led to the Bulldogs pulling Motte for an extra attacker with around :50 left.  While you hate to see them get all the opportunities, the fact is that the Chargers have killed 21 of their last 23 penalties, a 91.3% clip that’s well above their season rate of 84%.

One concern that I (and I’m sure that many of you as well) have with all the penalties is that you take Prince off of the ice.  Anyone who’s watched UAH play even-strength hockey for any length of time has come away with good impressions of Prince and his freshman linemates Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and Josh Kestner (Rocket City, U.S.A.).  Prince leads the team in shots on goal (30) despite losing ice time every time that his team is down by a man or more.  Saluter is second with 24 and Kestner fifth with 19.  With UAH mired at 1.92 goals per game, you want your volume shooters out there as often as you can.

Guerriero

What is there to say about Guerriero?  Last year’s squad struggled with puck possession, and when they did finally get it across the center line, they were often there just to dump, change, and chase.  What we’re seeing right now is a lot better than that, but it still starts between the pipes for the Chargers.  CG35 made 36 saves as the Bulldogs outshot UAH 38-18.  If he wasn’t the best player in blue out on the ice tonight — you could argue that Brears was — he was in the top two or three.

The confidence that exudes from Guerriero radiates out through his teammates, and it’s really clear to me that Parker and fellow freshman defensemen Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.) and Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) know what to do with the puck when they get just a little room to move it out of the zone.  Combine their work with that of Strukoff, senior Ben Reinhardt (Arnprior, Ont.),  junior Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) ,and sophomore Brandon Carlson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and the Chargers have a solid D core that feels like it improves every weekend.

But it’s always going to stop and start with the fantastic Québécois, who pushed his GAA down to 2.23 and his SV% up to .939.  The WCHA is clearly a goalies’ league, what with Motte (8th), Northern Michigan’s Mathias Dahlström (Smedjebacken, Sweden, 1st), and Michigan Tech’s Jamie Phillips (Caledonia, Ont., 2nd) all in the top ten of Division I net minders in terms of goals-allowed average.  Guerriero currently stands at 31st, but more outstanding efforts from him that are coincident with his teammates limiting shot opportunities and strongly possessing the puck could see him pick up his first collegiate shutout.  (I’m sure that folks in Bemidji might start in here by saying something about small sample sizes, but the only people that take that course at Bemidji are math majors, and …)

Random thoughts

  • The go-ahead goal from junior forward Alex Carpenter (Portage, Mich.) was a fantastic workmanlike goal.  He and Saulnier worked to corral a bouncing puck low.  Carpenter hasn’t gotten to play competitive hockey since 2010-11, his final year in the USHL.  After not getting ice at Western Michigan, he came to Huntsville and seems to have found a place to play after sitting out a transfer year.  Alex, we’re excited for you.
  • Sophomore forward Cody Marooney (Eden Prairie, Minn.) just kept popping off of my TV screen tonight.  He had two shots on goal, stick-checked a number of pucks, and was really active on the PK.  The Shattuck St. Mary’s product should be joined next season by his brother Joey.
  • Carlson (3), Brears, and Marooney were the only Chargers with more than one SOG.  I’d do something with ±, but they don’t have that for our players.

So the hopes for tomorrow:

  1. Six or fewer minor penalties, no majors.
  2. Fewer than 30 SOG.
  3. At least 28 SOG.
  4. A road sweep.

Keep up with the game tomorrow night, and we’ll be back then.

Oh, one last thing: while the Chargers are 3-1-1 in their last five matches, the hated Bemidji State Beavers are 0-5-0.  The teams are tied for sixth in the WCHA standings with four points apiece.