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.