Northeastern 3, UAH 1

On the surface, this was one of those games where you’d say, “Oh well, we competed hard.”  That the boys worked hard is certainly true, but this is a night where you’d better not be saying it sarcastically or roll your eyes.  This game came down to puck luck and two excellent Husky goals.  Unfortunately, it was a one-goal game with an empty-netter tacked on at the end to seal off the doubt.

Even the Northeastern announcers noticed early on that the boys had jump.  You never heard “our guys are playing down to their level” or “we’re just not playing that hard” or “we’re letting them stay in this one”.  The boys really did make their marks all over this game.  The finishes just weren’t there.

Kyle Lysaght scored the Chargers’ lone goal with just 7:01 gone in the first.  Lysaght picked the puck up in the slot and pulled off a spin move to get the puck onto his forehand.  His rip left Chris Rawlings (24 SV) guessing and gave the boys the lead that they’d hold for more than a period.  Alex Allan and Lasse Uusivirta got the assists.

The penalty situation is something that many Charger fans have decried of late, but the ones taken tonight were “good penalties”.  Graeme Strukoff took two penalties that likely saved Husky goals, while Uusivirta took a hooking penalty near the net that certainly slowed things a bit.  Certainly Coach Kleninendorst would prefer that the guys not put themselves into the position of needing to cancel the advantage with two minutes in the penalty box, but at least the penalties were serviceable.

Gregg Gruehl was a revelation for the Chargers in net.  After stopping 20-of-21 on Saturday night in St. Lawrence, he earned Kleinendorst’s confidence and showed up big, stopping 31-of-33—including all 14 in the third, when the Northeastern announcers kept praising his work.  The two goals he allowed were difficult saves: a tip-in from his stick side that went between his mask and glove, and a point-blank shot through the five hole on the power play.  A third marker on his card was disallowed when a Husky was found to be in his crease, impeding Gruehl’s progress going from right to left.

Gruehl now sports a .944 SV% and a 1.82 GAA.  Will he start to eat into Johnny Griggs’s minutes?

The boys played with good pace and intensity for most of the game.  Coach Kleinendorst talks about the process and how that will drive wins.  If you watched both last night’s game and tonight’s, you’ll see how that process has driven progress, but at 0-9-1, the boys aren’t seeing the results they want.

The Chargers next travel to the Soo to play Lake State on Friday night and Saturday night.  That’s a tough week on the boys, who will fly out of Boston on Monday morning, practice and go to classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then leave out that night for the long bus trip to the UP.  The end of this road string is in sight!  After a weekend series at Omaha right after Thanksgiving, the Chargers return to Huntsville for a couple of weekends.

UAH 10, UAT 0

It was more than a little bit “same song, second verse” on Sunday afternoon at the VBC. After a 12-1 rout on Saturday night, the Chargers came out and shut out the Frozen Tide, 10-0.

It took the boys a little while to get started on the goal column, even though they were working Coach K2‘s system pretty hard. Jack Prince (London, England) kicked the scoring off with an unassisted goal, leading a barrage of five goals in 3:13. Following Prince were Doug Reid (Innisfill, Ont.) from Craig Pierce (Roswell, Ga.) and Stephen Hickey (Ancaster, Ont.), Pierce from Reid and Mat Hagen (Ottawa, Ont.), Prince unassisted, and Tyler Kotlarz (Hudsonville, Mich.) unassisted. Reid and Pierce’s goals came in such quick succession that PA announcer Taylor Flatt was unable to get Reid announced before Pierce scored.

The second period was another slow start for goal scoring before Hickey scored at 12:47 on an assist from Pierce. Prince picked up his hat trick at 14:55 on assists from Kotlarz and Michael Webley (Stittsville, Ont.). The Frozen Tide held the Chargers to just nine shots on goal while making five of their own count. Junior netminder CJ Groh (Cincinnati, Ohio), having not seen a shot in the first frame, stopped all five.

Scoring in the third was a little more spread out. Hickey scored at 7:14 on assists from Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alta.) and Reid. The final Charger goals came 18 seconds apart: Kotlarz from Prince at 12:45, then Webley from Hagen at 13:03. Freshman goaltender Gregg Gruehl (Dublin, Ohio) saw just one shot in the final frame. On the weekend, the Chargers outshot the Frozen Tide 108-11.

Coach Ken Kleinendorst was happy after the game. “We tried to work on some things that will help us move forward.” When asked how the team is progressing, Kleinendorst, said, “I think so. I think that we definitely have the bodies to put together to put a pretty solid lineup on Friday night [against Mankato]. I’m getting a good feel for the guys, but I still need a better feel.”

When asked about the start to his career, Prince said, “It’s been a long wait. It’s hard to watch junior teams get ready to play and have to wait longer.” He was happy to have the opportunity to get to know his teammates’ tendencies on the ice, saying, “It was nice for us freshman. We got to see what everyone else was going to be doing. It helped us play along. We sorta know where to be based on watching video, but when you get into a game situation, it’s different. It was nice to have two games where to figure out where to be at the right time.” Asked about the speed of the college game, he said, “It’s a big step up from juniors. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

The Chargers have four days of rest and practice before facing Minnesota State University, Mankato on Friday night at Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center. Tickets at all levels of the arena are FREE, so please come out and support your Chargers and bring all of your friends (and some of your enemies).

Quick Hits

Have a great rest of the week, and be sure to come out to the game on Friday night! It’s free, you know.

UAH 12, UAT 1

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Less than a year after retired UASystem chancellor Mack Portera relegated the program to club status after February 2012, and ten months to the day that UAH President Dr. Robert Altenkirch extended the varsity life of the program for the forseeable future, it just so happened that a team from Big Bad UAT would come to Huntsville to try and beat up on Little Sister UAH.

While the Chargers and Crimson Tide have tangled a little of late—men’s basketball has held their own in exhibition games each of the last two seasons, after which the Chargers would progress to the Division II Elite Eight—this was Huntsville’s chance to shine brightly, with UA’s Frozen Tide club team coming to play the varsity Chargers. It was the one-sided contest that everyone expected it to be; I’d joked for a good three weeks that it would be Alabama (+6.5) on the road, just to see if football fans noticed. Saturday night’s game would prove to be a 12-1 stampede of the sort that Nick Saban would appreciate.

With Kurt Kleinendorst still in his first month as UAH’s head coach, everyone was excited to see what would transpire. K2‘s charges scored early and often. Nashville’s Sebastian Geoffrion lit the lamp with just :30 gone with a back-hand shot between Sean Vinson’s pads. Atlanta’s Kyle Lysaght followed his linemate’s lead, scoring the first of his five goals just 2:17 later.

“I saw a lot of things that I liked,” Kleinendorst said. “We’ve only been together a little while, and we did some good things. We did some things that we’re going to have to find a way to do better. … It’s a win. We’ll take it, but I don’t want to get carried away with it.”

The Chargers kept building momentum, with goals from Lysaght and Curtis deBruyn (Calgary, Alb.) followed by shorthanded goals from Nashville’s Brice Geoffrion and Lysaght. From there, the Chargers cruised to victory. Freshman Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alb.) scored twice, freshman Steve Koshey (Trail, BC) scored once, and junior Alex Allan (Calgary, Alb.) scored late in the second after knocking a guy through the corner door in the first period. The three stars of the game were deBruyn (1-3–4), Justin Cseter (Menomonie, Wis.) (0-4–4) and Lysaght (5-0–5).

Neither Charger netminder saw much work in the game. Freshman Gregg Gruehl (Dublin, Ohio) got the win, seeing only three shots on goal in two period, all in the second. Junior CJ Groh (Cincinnati, Ohio) saw one shot on goal in his 20:00 of action.

Alabama coach Mike Quenneville (UAH ’90) was clearly excited about the opportunity that playing the Chargers presents to his team. “We preach stuff every day, and when we get an opportunity to play a team that does everything so right, and have got the speed, it’s going to make us a better hockey team.”

Alabama scored midway through the second period, as 5’4″ Huntsville native Mark Wysock, an aerospace engineering student in Tuscaloosa found open space in the slot to push in a tumbling rebound for a power-play goal.

Kleinendorst seemed happy with his team’s effort. “For the most part, the guys went out and executed the plan that we’ve put in place up to this point. This is not about winning. This is about the process. When you play the game the right way, when you work your way through the process, winning is a by-product of that.”

The teams play the second game of the series at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and Quenneville is ready to see his team face the challenge. “[The Alabama players] are going to get faster, they’re going to be smarter, they’re going to move the puck quicker. We’re definitely going to get better for this experience.”