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.

Bemidji State 4, UAH 0

The homestanding Bemidji State Beavers (6-10-3 overall, 4-6-3 WCHA) had the jump from the get-go, and the visiting UAH Chargers (5-15-3, 4-11-0) never countered the punches, losing 4-0 for their fourth shutout of the season, the second to Bemidji in the last two seasons, and their 38th time since the Chargers’ last shutout.

This one hurt, especially after the raging success of last weekend.  The win pushes the Beavers to 3-0-3 in their last six contests, their best such streak since the beginning of their 2009-10 season.  (Hey, does anyone remember what two College Hockey America teams made the NCAAs that year?)  Lastly, it pulled the Beavers three points clear of the Chargers in the WCHA table, ensuring that the hated intruders from the South wouldn’t leapfrog them in the standings.

Senior co-captain Matt Prapavessis (Oakville, Ont.) got the scoring started for Bemidji, taking a puck high near the top of the right-wing circle, ripping one past UAH sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué) for a power-play goal at 6:39 of the 1st, :25 into senior defenseman Graeme Strukoff‘s (Chilliwack, B.C.) holding penalty.  The goal was Prapavessis’s fifth marker of the season, and was assisted by junior forward Cory Ward (Las Vegas, Nev.) and freshman forward Kyle Bauman (Apopka, Fla.).

Sophomore forward Charlie O’Connor (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) pushed Bemidji’s advantage to 2-0 at 10:07 of the 1st, collecting a pass from senior defenseman Sam Windle (Maple Grove, Minn.) to fire one past a screened Guerriero (29 sv, 5-9-2).  O’Connor’s seventh goal ties him for the team lead and also came courtesy of Ward’s secondary assist.

UAH was out-shot in all three periods: 15-8, 10-6, and 8-4 for a game total of 33-18.  Freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer (Moorhead, Minn.) made all 18 saves for his first collegiate shutout, moving his record to 4-5-1 on the season.

Bauman scored unassisted at 7:21 of the second for the Beavers’ third goal of the game and his first collegiate marker.  Senior forward John Parker (Green Brook, N.J.) got the Beavers’ final marker of the night at 16:21 of the final frame, circling around UAH freshman defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia), into the slot, dekeing Guerriero into committing, skating past him, and pushing the puck backhanded into the open net in a highlight-reel goal.

Blargle.

See you tomorrow night.

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.