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 , Justin Cseter , Jamie Easton , Keenan Desmet , Tom Durnie ). 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.