UAH 4, Air Force 2

It had been a year since the Chargers had taken a lead into an intermission and won the game — last year’s win over Bemidji.  And yet the Chargers went into the second intermission having taken a strong hold on their game against the United States Air Force Academy at the Cadet Ice Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo, on Friday night.

After the Falcons opened scoring with a fluky goal where sophomore netminder Carmine Guerriero‘s (Montréal, Que.) clearing attempt bounced off a Charger defenseman and onto the stick of junior forward Max Hartner (Greenwood Village, Colo.), UAH knotted the game five minutes later when freshman defenseman Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.) picked up a puck on the left point and fired it past Falcon sophomore netminder Chris Truehl (Stoughton, Wisc.).

The Chargers were strong with puck possession in the second frame, edging the Falcons 10-9 in shots on goal while giving up three power play opportunities to the home squad.  Junior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) received an outlet pass from freshman forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia), charging down the right side and ripping a shot from just inside the top of the right circle to push UAH ahead 2-1 with a little over half of the game gone.

The Falcons zoomed out to begin the third, forechecking hard and pressuring the puck deep into the Chargers’ end.  The Chargers met that intensity, but Air Force knotted the game at two when senior forward Cole Gunner (Richfield, Minn.) took a fine feed from senior forward Chad Demers (Grafton, N.D.) along the blue line to the top of the right circle.  Gunner skated into the slot and ripped a puck just under the crossbar and past Guerriero (24 sv, 1-3-1) with 9:51 remaining in regulation.

There was no apparent nervousness on Mike Corbett’s bench, and UAH played with purpose and pressure.  And then …

Freshman forward Josh Kestner‘s (Huntsville) second goal of the season came at just the right time, spurring the Chargers to push even harder while grounding the Falcons and Truehl (2-6-0, 20 sv).  Frank Serratore called his timeout and no doubt looked at his protégé a couple dozen feet to his left.  “Is he really going to beat me the first time he faces me?”

Corbett is now 2-3-0 against Serratores.

Junior forward Jack Prince (London) scored the empty-net goal on what was perhaps an ill-advised clearing of the puck 190 feet down the ice.  But they don’t ask how — they ask how many, and it’s Prince’s first goal of the year.

So let’s look at this.  There are positives here, and not just the first win of the year (although Lord knows that’s awesome).  But here’s what happened:

  • Puck pressure was really strong all game, and even if the Herd didn’t keep possession of the puck at all times and spent most of its time with the puck around the boards, the fact is that UAH was in the offensive ice for far more time than we’ve seen all season.
  • Guerriero and his teammates shrugged off a gaffe that led to a fluke goal.  Let’s be honest: last year’s team might have crumpled under that weight.  Instead, they tightened things back up, played with purpose and confidence, and took the game back to the Falcons.
  • The movement of the puck on the power play was really good, especially at the points.  Champagne’s shot was just the kind of thing that we’ve been seeing from UAH defensemen all year.  In fact, six of UAH’s fourteen goals come from blueliners: Misuraca with three, Brandon Carlson (Huntingon Beach, Calif.) with two, and Champagne’s goal tonight.  With the forwards struggling to score — only Kestner has multiple goals — the goalies need support from somewhere, and they’re getting it from the guys closest to them.
  • Misuraca’s goal came on a nice breakout.  Rather than forcing the rush up ice the way some of his compatriots do, he saw that he had space and took a feed from Saulnier.  Misuraca was looking to pass to the center of the ice after crossing into the offensive zone, but when there weren’t any good lanes available, he took the shot.  That’s the kind of play that we haven’t seen much of from the Chargers for the last two years.  Last year, we would’ve been indecisive and lost our speed advantage while either taking a poor shot or making an ill-advised pass into someone’s feet.
  • Kestner notching his second goal is big.  Two goals in nine games puts him close to double-digit pace; no Charger has potted 10+ goals since Matt Sweazey (Toronto, Ont., 12 goals) in 2008-09.  Kestner scored goals in bunches last year, but the question was there: would statistics in the GOJHL transfer well to NCAA Division I?  It may not be a jump, but his performance so far is a step up.  No pressure, Kesty. (Get a goal at home next weekend, okay?)
  • Guerriero was sharp despite not seeing 40+ shots.  26 shots on goal was the second-fewest that he’s faced in his career, bested only by his first home start in a 1-0 loss to Bemidji State.  The coaching staff really likes to argue that they have two equal goalies, but it’s starting to look like the little guy may be pulling ahead.  His .934 SV% is well ahead of sophomore goaltender Matt Larose (Nanaimo, B.C., .909), and his GAA of 2.57 is a good bit better than his counterpart’s 4.00.  I certainly expect that the rotation will stay in place, and there’s no doubt that Larose is one heck of a goalie.  (In fact, my bet in the long run is that he’ll be the better college goaltender.)
  • Not only did the team get to carry a lead into intermission, but they held it for half a period — and then didn’t back down after going back level.  I can tell you nothing else about the game than that, and you’d be happy.

But I’ll only really be happy with a sweep, and I’m betting that’s true for everyone inside that locker room.

Alaska 6, UAH 1

The Alaska Nanooks (11-12-4, 8-11-2 WCHA) stormed out to an early lead and rode three third-period goals to win going away hosting our beloved UAH Chargers (1-25-1, 1-15-1 WCHA) in Fairbanks.  Six different Nanooks scored goals on the evening.

The story of this game is one that we’ve told you once or twice before: UAH quickly goes down by two, rallies, hangs in there, and fades at the end.  It is Friday, after all.  Here’s the story:

  1. The Nanooks went out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first 7:10 off of goals from Jared Larson and Marcus Basara.
  2. The boys put the clamps down at that point, and while Matt Larose (38 sv) was getting it done in the Chargers’ end, the boys started to leak out offensively.  And then BEHOLD! A MisuROCKET appeared, beating Sean Cahill (12 sv) over the shoulder with 1:04 left in the first.  Assists on the goal went to Matt Salhany and Joakim Broberg.
  3. The buzz you might have expected coming into the second didn’t appear to be long-lived, as neither team had much life for most of the second period.
  4. A tired Chargers squad took an icing penalty late in the second, and the Nanooks capitalized when Jared Linell banged a puck home just outside the crease.
  5. The Nanooks pulled away in the third on goals from Garrick Perry (9:15), Colton Parayko (10:45, PPG), and Colton Beck (13:42).

Larose falls to 0-13-1 on the season.  The two teams face off to conclude the season series at 10:07 p.m. Huntsville time on Saturday.   This week’s Catching the Game has all the information you need to stay in tune with the Chargers on these late nights.

UAH 4, BGSU 3, OT

Somewhere under there, Frank Misuraca cries for everyone to get off of him because he can't breathe.  (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

Somewhere under there, Frank Misuraca cries for everyone to get off of him because he can’t breathe. (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

Oh, you want to see the man of the hour? Okay.

(Credit: Todd Pavlack)

Wow.  What a game.  That would be an exhilarating game even if it wasn’t that first win all of our young men have been working and working and working to get.  But to have all of the frustration of this season to be decided on a last-second overtime goal?  COME ON.

So how did we get here?  I mean, it was tied at three after regulation time expired.  So there was some fun, yeah?

Yeah.

Sean Walker started off the scoring in the first for the Falcons, flinging a puck through traffic that I’m not sure Carmine Guerriero ever saw.  But after a few minutes, it was a Charger power play and …

… tic-tac-GOAL for Cody Marooney, his first collegiate marker.

The Chargers couldn’t pull ahead even with 1:06 of 5×3 late in the first when Brett Mohler (hooking) and Connor Kucera (boarding) took minor penalties.  Guerriero was still sharp after not a lot of pressure, and he stopped a couple of chances to end the frame.

Unfortunately for partisans in blue and white, the Falcons struck early in the 2nd, with Brent Tate slipping the defense to find a Cam Wojtala pass in the slot for a goal.

A couple of penalties on Marooney left the Chargers scrambling to cover Falcons, but the Chargers were crashing the point pretty hard.  BG countered by taking the puck wide to the boards while looking for cross-ice passes to the bottoms of the circle.  But they took their eyes off the puck for a second, and …

… it’s Matt Salhany time!

Who cares that the Falcons scored 52 seconds later?  Okay, we should all care, but the key thing is that the home side didn’t go up 3-1 late in the 2nd.  Instead, the margin was just one, and the boys knew that they had a very good chance at winning this one.

I will let these two tweets stand to vent my frustration with a broadcaster that was … sub-par but has a career that should have him be better.

Sorry, you mess with my alma mater and I’m gonna say something about it.  Back to hockey!

There were a lot of times where I could’ve tweeted this:

We're calling him CG35, and we're hope that he's okay with that.  (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

We’re calling him CG35, and we’re hope that he’s okay with that. (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

Then at the 12:30 mark of the third, Jack Prince had the puck just outside of the slot.

After that point, the boys were flying all over the ice.  There was a puck that ended up in the net before being taken back out and flipped in the air, but no amount of Prince arguments got the referees to change their mind, even with a review.  Presumably Jack tried a Cockney accent while he was at it.

A late tripping penalty on Brent Fletcher led to a BG power play with just 2:49.  Did the boys quit?  Hell no they didn’t.  Have you seen these guys quit?  Every WCHA coach praises their intensity.  Intensity is what made the PK happen.  The boys were again pressuring the D and looking for breakaways, and Joakim Broberg was tripped up.  4×4 for :31, and the penalty carried into overtime.

Overtime is a bit of a haze for me, but that’s mainly because it was just wide-open, end-to-end hockey, great goaltending at both ends, solid back-checking, strong passes through neutral ice, and good shots.  In other words:

But nothing, nothing, nothing replaces what Frank Misuraca did.

Oh, wait, yeah, this:

That “charge the hashes” stuff was pure Tim Thomas.  Steve Koshey helped out just enough to make sure that the puck was fluttering and rolling past BG sticks.  That the puck didn’t go in told you that this just might be the night.

MisuROCKET.

Good night, everybody.

UNO 3, UAH 2

With their team up just one goal midway through the third period, the UNO TV guys were calling the game “junkyard-dog hockey”.  You might presume that this was said in frustration; you would be correct.  Nebraska-Omaha just couldn’t stay out of the box in the latter half of the game, a scenario that we’re unfortunately familiar with.  The boys applied a ton of pressure, but enough of the shots were stopped, and the good guys couldn’t bring this game level, falling 3-2 on the road.

The start of the game did not augur well for the boys.  A tripping penalty at :40 on Lasse Uusivirta led to a quick power-play goal, as Ryan Walters flipped a backhander just under the crossbar to put the Mavs up 1-0.

Photo courtesy UAH Sports Information

But the boys tied it at one when they got numbers  and had a nice scoring chance.  Shot in, rebound in the crease, and who comes trucking through but Graeme Strukoff!  He now leads the team in scoring on the strength of a heads-up goal at 6:31 of the first.

The second period could have been a backbreaker.  Anderson White went off on a checking-from-behind major penalty at 2:58.  The Chargers held firm, killing the penalty and working hard to make up for being down to five defensemen, exacerbated further by Ben Reinhardt taking a tripping penalty just a minute after the major expired.  All in all, the Chargers killed all penalties on the night save that first one.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, killing penalties didn’t mean that they completely shut the Mavs down.  Dominic Zombo and Bryce Aneloski picked up goals just 2:  Kyle Lysaght saved a fourth goal at 14:14 as a blown point pass gave the Mavericks a shorthanded opportunity.  It was a little surprising that a penalty shot wasn’t awarded, but his penalty just brought matters to 4×4 hockey.

Photo courtesy UAH Sports Information

A little post-period festivities in the second left the Chargers up two men for :48 to start the third. The boys capitalized in the second penalty as Alex Allan found Frank Misuraca streaking to the weakside slot. The centering pass moved faster than John Faulkner could slide across the crease, and the freshman defenseman from Clinton Township, Mich., has his first collegiate goal.

Despite another two power-play chances that overlapped for :23, the boys just couldn’t find that third marker despite all manner of pinching by defensemen and hard skating and hitting by the forecheckers.  Johnny Griggs picked up the loss despite a 30-save effort.

The two teams finish up the weekend set with a 7:07 drop in Omaha.  Check out Catching the Game to follow along.