UAH 5, UConn 2

HUNTSVILLE — The homestanding UAH Chargers (1-1-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) rebounded from a tough game on Friday to win going away on Saturday, again potting two first-period goals but equaling that total in the final frame for a 5-2 win over the visiting Connecticut Huskies (1-1-0, 0-0-0 Hockey East).  (Box score)

The Chargers were paced by a blistering night from their top line.  Sophomore forward Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia) scored two goals and assisted on each of his linemates’ markers, while senior forward Chad Brears (Cold Lake, Alberta) also assisted on his linemates’ goals and sophomore forward Max McHugh (Seattle) assisted on Saulnier’s first tally.  The 4-5—9 mark is the highest for one Charger line since February 25, 2006, when Bruce Mulherin (2002-06, Red Deer, Alb.) went 1-4—5, Brett McConnachie (2003-07, Ajax, Ont.) 3-0—3, and Chris Martini (2003-06, Calgary, Alb.) slacked 1-0—1 to make for a startling five goals and four assists on the night.  Saulnier’s effort is the Chargers’ single-best point effort since Jack Prince’s 2-2—4 game against Michigan Tech on February 8, 2014.

UAH scored five goals just once in 2014-15, a 5-2 win over Lake Superior that was the program’s first Division I home win in nearly four years.  The seven-goal weekend output was the highest at home against a Division I opponent since a 4-2 loss and 5-5 tie against Niagara in 2008-09, and the Chargers are 1-1-0 to start the season for the first time since 2010-11.

It was kinda historic.

The Huskies got an early lead when freshman forward Hans Gorowsky (Lino Lakes, Minn.) hauled down sophomore forward Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty shot that Ronan rang in off of the left post.

The Chargers soon responded.  Brears would knot the game at 1-1 just 67 seconds later off of a feed from sophomore defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia).  Husky freshman defenseman Miles Gendron (Shrewsbury, Mass.) would push the visitors back up 2-1 with his first collegiate goal just 1:55 after that.  Then the Chargers returned the favor :25 later with Saulnier’s first marker of the night (Brears, McHugh).  All four goals were scored in 4:27.

After a period of out-shooting the Huskies 15-10, the Chargers returned more to recent form, suffering a deficit of 12-5 in the middle frame.  McHugh would score on the power play, though, pushing UAH to the lead with just 2:36 left in the 2nd right after senior defenseman Kyle Huson‘s (Parker, Colo.) penalty expired to bring the Huskies back to four defenders.

The Chargers poured it on in the third, adding Saulnier’s second marker from an assist by senior defenseman Frank Misuraca (Clinton Township, Mich.) at 6:10.  Gorowsky added an insurance marker on the penalty kill, taking a feed from junior forward Regan Soquila (Maple Ridge, B.C.), who had intercepted a poor outlet pass into neutral ice.  Soquila nearly ended his goalless streak just a shift later, sending a puck just wide of Husky sophomore goaltender Steve Thulin (North Reading, Mass.).

Junior goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué.) made 29 saves in the win, moving up to 1-1-0 and raising his save percentage to .908 and lowering his GAA to 3.01.  Thulin, seeing his first collegiate action, made 24 saves.

UAH plays an exhibition next weekend against the University of Alabama’s club team before starting the WCHA season at home the next weekend against Alaska-Anchorage.  The exhibition is at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday the 17th, while the varsity games on the 23rd and 24th drop the puck at 7:07 p.m.

Ferris State 2, UAH 1

It was a wintry night in Huntsville, with many roads closed after a crusting of ice fell atop already snowy lanes.  It was great hockey weather, but for the home fans, it wasn’t a great hockey result.  The visiting Ferris State Bulldogs (13-18-1, 10-13-0 WCHA) scored two quick first-period goals and held on thereafter, winning 2-1 over the homestanding UAH Chargers (8-19-4, 7-15-1 WCHA).

Both Bulldog goals came on poor defensive zone passes.  At 4:33 of the first, senior forward Dominic Panetta (Baldwin, Mich.) picked a puck off and skated in alone on UAH sophomore netminder Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué.), potting a shorthanded goal.  Sophomore forward Chad McDonald (Battle Creek, Mich.) took a pass from freshman forward Tyler Andrew (Bethel Park, Pa.), who had just intercepted a puck in front of the UAH bench.

I expect that it’s no surprise that Michael and I have a backchannel during games.  Post-game, he commented, “Lost it in the first, didn’t win it in the 2nd and 3rd.”  He’s right.

The second period is notable only for its penalties.  An early UAH power play was nullified four seconds later by a holding minor.  Two penalties :07 apart by sophomore forward Cody Marooney (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and freshman defenseman Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) left UAH killing a long 5×3 situation, which they did fairly easily, allowing just three shots-on-goal on the disadvantage.  UAH is still the #1 team in combined special teams.

A carry-over penalty from the 2nd period gave the Chargers 1:55 of a man advantage on clean ice.  The home squad would score, as freshman defenseman Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.) took a feed from senior forward Alex Carpenter (Portage, Mich.) for a point shot that appeared to rattle around on bodies in front before going to the roof of the net past Ferris State senior goaltender CJ Motte (St. Clair, Mich.).  Sophomore defenseman Brandon Carlson (Huntington, Beach, Calif.) got the secondary assist.

Ferris State stymied UAH for the remainder of regulation time.  UAH pulled Guerriero (32 sv, 8-12-3) with 1:37 remaining, but the Bulldogs kept UAH to the outside and blocked shots.  Motte (18 sv) moves to 13-18-1 on the season.

The two teams face off again on Saturday night to conclude the season series, which the Bulldogs lead 2-1-0.

Road woes continue as Michigan Tech shuts out UAH

The Chargers have made big strides this season. However, against the top teams in the WCHA, which are also some of the top teams in the nation, they can’t afford any mistakes and expect to win. It took a span of five minutes for that reminder to hit hard.

Michigan Tech scored three goals in four minutes and 13 seconds of the second period, and that’s all the eighth-ranked Huskies needed in a 5-0 win over UAH on Friday night in Houghton, Michigan.

The Chargers (7-17-3 overall, 6-13-0 WCHA) fell to 0-7 on the season against the top three teams in the WCHA: Minnesota State, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green. Tech (19-7-1 overall, 14-4-1 WCHA) was four points behind Minnesota State atop the WCHA standings coming into the night.

UAH was shut out for the third straight road game — a program first. The Chargers have been shut out six times this season and 40 times over the last five years.

UAH hung tough in the first period, although Michigan Tech won the puck possession battle. The Huskies outshot the Chargers 14-8, but a chunk of that advantage came on the lone MTU power play following a Richard Buri holding call. The Huskies thoroughly controlled the puck at the UAH end and got four shots on goal, but all were seen well and stopped by Carmine Guerriero.

Guerriero saw the puck well the whole period, making many glove stops as the teams were scoreless after one.

But things fell apart early in the second, and the Huskies took firm control of the game after the first six minutes.

First, Richard Buri is called for interference at 41 seconds. Alex Petan puts in a rebound on the power play just 27 seconds later. Michigan Tech leads 1-0.

Second, UAH is called for too many men on the ice at 2:02. Blake Pietila scores just 30 seconds later. Michgan Tech leads 2-0. Two straight power play goals after the Chargers had run a streak of 15 straight penalties killed.

Third, three minutes later, Malcolm Gould puts in another rebound. Michigan Tech leads 3-0.

The Huskies got the first 12 shots on goal in the second period. Somehow UAH would get eight of the next nine shots on goal on a couple of power play opportunities of their own, but the Chargers could not find the net and found themselves deep in a whole after two periods.

Joel L’Esperance added two third-period goals for the final tally as UAH could not mount a comeback. Michigan Tech finished with 37 shots on goal to UAH’s 20.

Guerriero allowed all five goals, tying a season high. He made 32 saves.

Game two of the series is Saturday night at 6:07 p.m. Central Time.

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.