Nov 112017
 

On Friday night, the Chargers showed a good crowd what they can do when things go right. On Saturday night, they showed what they can do when things go wrong. Both nights, they left entertained.

Connor Merkley’s goal with 0.9 seconds remaining completed a rally from a two-goal deficit as the Chargers tied Alaska Anchorage 3-3 on Saturday at the Von Braun Center. UAA won the second WCHA point in a shootout.

UAH (3-6-1 overall, 2-1-1 WCHA), after dominating in Friday’s 5-1 win in the series opener, got two goals by Josh Kestner and 31 saves by Jordan Uhelski.

But Alaska Anchorage (1-7-2, 1-2-1) had built its lead on three unanswered power play goals in the second period, two on a major penalty.

BOX SCORE

Still, the Chargers found a way to at least get a point in front of another good crowd for homecoming and military appreciation weekend, thanks to the freshman Merkley’s critical goal, his first at UAH.

“We were fighting the whole third period to get back into the game,” Merkley said. “We had a lot of good opportunities. We knew if we just stuck to it, we’d get a bounce.

“We had a couple of good keeps by the D-man and ran a normal play that had been working. It had just popped loose to me free in front of the net and I hammered it home.”

 

The announced attendance of 3,072 was excellent for a college football Saturday.

“The fans want wins, and so do we,” Kestner said. “The more times we win, the more fans we get. Coming out Friday night with a 5-1 win made our reputation pretty high. It was a bigger crowd than I thought tonight, but it was a great feeling. I love playing in front of my hometown. It was fun to play and I imagine it was fun to watch as well.”

“Homecoming weekend, a lot of fans, a lot of kids and their parents coming to a game for the first time — I don’t think anybody was let down,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “Anybody who stayed to the end both nights was not let down. Hopefully we’ll build on it.”

Just like Friday night, the Chargers came out strong, dictating the action for the first 10 minutes.

On UAH’s first power play, Kestner fired a one-timer from the left circle to beat Olivier Mantha for the first goal of the game. It was Kestner’s fifth goal of the season, with Cam Knight’s pass to Kestner being his fourth assist. Tyler Poulsen also got his third assist of the year.

“I liked our start again,” Corbett said. “We did build on it (Friday’s win) and we were able to get a power play goal. Once again we were outshooting them pretty handily.

“We had a couple of game objectives as a team,” Kestner said. “One of those was to get the first goal, so to cross that off the list was nice.”

The second half of the first period, however, saw the Seawolves try to fight back as the Chargers made some sloppy turnovers. Jordan Uhelski was there to make saves and covers, including a point-blank stop on Austin Azurdia that almost tied the game.

The second period saw plenty of chances on both sides. But then late in the period, things went south for UAH fast.

Anchorage tied the game up at the 14:03 mark on the power play. Following a Tyler Poulsen tripping call, Nicolas Erb-Ekholm scored from the high slot.

With 2:53 left in the frame, a scrum in the corner of the UAH zone after the whistle, and Brennan Saulnier got a roughing major and a game misconduct. There were also offsetting penalties on UAH’s Richard Buri and UAA’s Corey Renwick.

Anchorage capitalized twice on the major power play. Austin Azurdia gave UAA the lead with 2:03 to go in the period, and Tad Kozun made it 3-1 Seawolves with 7.5 seconds left.

“We’re talking a lot about what you can control right now, and you can’t control the referees,” Corbett said. “As young players, they get consumed by something that they can’t control, and it showed in our penalty kill. We were standing right next to the guy that scored the goal in the back door twice. We weren’t dialed in, and that’s what led to their 3-1 lead after two.”

UAH weathered the rest of the power play to start the second, and then got started on a rally.

On the power play, Poulsen’s shot from the right circle rebounded to near the goal line, and Kestner took the puck with Mantha out of position and easily scored his second goal of the game with 15:24 to go.

“I had a nice dish to Poulsen, who I thought was going to bury it but it ended up landing right on my stick,” Kestner said. “So it was nice to get another one on the board.

“Our special teams had struggled for the past 20 reps or so. Now that we got one on the board, it definitely got everyone’s momentum and hype up.”

Then at the buzzer, during a 6-on-4 advantage with a power play and Uhelski pulled for the extra attacker, Merkley from the slot found the net for his first collegiate goal. Video replay confirmed the puck crossed the line at 0.9 seconds left, causing the crowd to erupt again as the game was tied at 3-3.

“We got back to controlling what we could control,” Corbett said. “We killed the last two minutes of that five-minute power play, then OK: We gotta go at ’em. And they just kind of sat back. We get a power play, we score on that power play.

“Just be resilient. We knew we were going to have to fight through adversity. This was adversity we created by ourselves and we fought through it. I’m proud of the kids, because maybe in years past, we don’t do that.”

“It was great to see that we could come in between the second and third, rally the troops, and throughout our leadership,” Merkley said. “We just stayed composed and we knew that if we stuck to the game plan and fought hard, we could battle the adversity and come back. That’s a great thing to see out of the team moving forward.”

UAH had a power play chance in overtime but could not score. The extra period ended resulting as an official 3-3 tie.

No scoring occurred during the 3-on-3 overtime period. Jeremiah Luedtke scored in the first round of the shootout to earn the extra point for the Seawolves, and Kestner could not answer it.

Uhelski finished with 31 saves on the night, and Mantha had 35.

The Chargers continue their six-game home stand with Lake Superior State next Friday and Saturday.

Nov 102017
 

It may be just the first game, but the Chargers took a step toward establishing their presence they have missed at Von Braun Center.

UAH opened its home season with dazzling plays and timely goals, entertaining a homecoming and Military Appreciation Weekend crowd of 3,128, in a 5-1 victory over Alaska Anchorage on Friday night.

BOX SCORE

UAH (3-6-0 overall, 2-1-0 WCHA), which had won only two games at home last season, got two goals from Brennan Saulnier as the Chargers had 40 shots on goal against the Seawolves (1-7-1, 1-2-0).

“That’s as complete a game that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” said UAH head coach Mike Corbett, now in his fifth season. “It was nice to see. Power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5 … we dominated the first half of the game. We were able to get our shot totals and put some by their goalie.”

 

The first period was all Chargers, who dominated puck possession and were making plays that got the crowd into it. UAH had 24 shot attempts, and 19 were on net. UAA only had 10 attempts with four on goal.

Saulnier was seemingly everywhere, and he got UAH on the board early at 2:18 on the power play. He found a spot from the slot to beat UAA goaltener Olivier Mantha for his fifth goal of the season. He was assisted by Austin Beaulieu and Kurt Gosselin.

Mantha, a senior who known for his ability to keep the Seawolves in any game, was a big reason the Chargers’ lead wasn’t larger.

Saulnier struck again in the second, with a wrister from the left circle for a 2-0 UAH lead with 15:08 left. At six goals, Saulnier matches his season high in just nine games.

“For myself, our power play has really been clicking,” Saulnier said. “I’ve been finding the open areas and getting my shots off.

It was also the first time the Chargers scored the first goal of the game this season.

“It was nice to get the first one tonight and I felt like we were just rolling after that,” Saulnier said.

“That first goal was a big one for him, because he shows the poise,” Corbett said. “He outwaits the goalie and then he scores the goal.

“Our best players have to be the best players and he was one of them tonight.”

The Seawolves answered at 7:06 when UAA’s leading scorer Austin Azurdia fired a shot past Jordan Uhelski high from close range.

But any momentum the Seawolves may have gained did not last long. UAH regained its two-goal advantage at 10:30. Cam Knight’s doorstep shot led to a scramble in the UAA net.  Beaulieu got a shot in, then Christian Rajic put in a rebound for a 3-1 lead. It was Rajic’s third goal of the season.

“We eliminated the big mistake tonight,” Corbett said. “Even when we made a mistake and they scored their goal, we were able to come right back with our third goal.”

UAH took a 4-1 lead when John Teets made a beautiful centering pass to Levi Wunder, who fired it from the slot for his first collegiate goal.

In the third period, Anchorage came out stronger and made Uhelski work a bit more. But he was up to the task, making saves and recovering rebounds. He finished with 16 saves on UAA’s 17 shots on goal.

“It’s tough when you don’t really get a lot of action during the game, you kind of lull a little bit,” Uhelski said. “Honestly, it’s just staying even keel the whole game, making sure I don’t get too high or too low, and when it was time to step up and do my part for the team, I was ready.

“It was just a battle in front. Obviously, I’m not the biggest guy, so I’ve got to be looking around, I’ve got to be moving, I’ve got to be really active as far as locating that puck and jumping on it. But my ‘D’ made it really easy for me because anytime there was a scrum they were clearing the guys out, and I just cover the puck.”

“We tried to play a little more cautious and sometimes that can be our Achilles’ heel when you let off and let them back in the game,” Saulnier said. “U-Haul played really well in that third period for us. He was our best player in the third period.”

Madison Dunn put in an empty-netter with 1:52 to go for the final 5-1 score and another eruption from the crowd, which was larger than any crowd last season.

“The crowd was amazing tonight. It was electric in there,” Saulnier said. “It was like having an extra guy on the ice all night. We fed off that.

“I really like our team this year. We work hard, got a good group, and I think we showed it tonight that we’re going to contend in the WCHA.”

Game two of the series is Saturday night at 7:07 p.m. at the VBC as homecoming an Military Appreciation Weekend continues.

Three stars of the game:
1. Brennan Saulnier, UAH (2 goals)
2. Austin Beaulieu, UAH (2 assists)
3. Connor Wood, UAH (2 assists)

Nov 092017
 

Where: Propst Arena, Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
When: Friday, 7:07 p.m.; Saturday, 7:07 p.m.
Watch: Tickets | Promotions | WCHA.tv
Team stats: UAH | Alaska Anchorage

Brennan Saulnier

Brennan Saulnier (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Charger update: UAH (2-6-0 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) split the series at Arizona State, ending a stretch of eight road games to start the season. The Sun Devils won the first game 3-2 on Friday, and the Chargers came back with a 3-1 victory on Saturday.

Brennan Saulnier scored a goal in each game at ASU, and Kurt Gosselin had a goal and two assists for the series. Kestner secured Saturday’s win with an empty-net goal, giving him four on the season and tying Saulnier for the team lead.

Mark Sinclair made 19 saves in his second start on Friday. Jordan Uhelski was the netminder in the win as he stopped 18 of 19 shots.

The Chargers are ready to play at home for a while. They’ll spend the next six games in three weeks at the VBC.

Charger leaders:
Josh Kestner (Sr., F, 4 goals-2 assists-6 points in 8 games played)
Brennan Saulnier (Sr., F, 4-2-6 in 8 GP)
Kurt Gosselin (Jr., D, 2-4-6 in 8 GP)
Tyler Poulsen (Jr., F, 3-2-5 in 7 GP)
Jordan Uhelski (Sr., G, 3.35 goals against average, .896 save percentage in 6 starts)

UAH Tale of the tape Alaska Anchorage
2-6-0 Overall record 1-6-1
1-1-0 WCHA record 1-1-0
2.12 Goals/game 2.00
3.50 Goals allowed/game 3.25
14.5 Pen. minutes/game 13.6
15.4% Power play 15.4%
73.9% Penalty kill 82.5%

About the Seawolves: Alaska Anchorage (1-6-1 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) played its first WCHA series last week at Lake Superior State and earned a split. The Seawolves lost 3-2 in overtime and won 4-1 to end a six-game losing streak.

Senior forward Austin Azurdia scored twice against Lake Superior last week to take the team’s scoring lead. Jeremiah Luedtke had a goal and two assists in the series.

Senior goaltender Olivier Mantha stopped 65 of 69 shots against the Lakers, including 34 in the Seawolves’ win on Saturday.

Players to watch:
Austin Azurdia (Sr., F, 3-4-7 in 8 GP)
Tad Kozun (Sr., F, 2-4-6 in 8 GP)
Jeremiah Luedtke (Jr., F, 2-3-5 in 8 GP)
Jordan Xavier (Fr., F, 3-0-3 in 8 GP)
Olivier Mantha (Sr., G, 3.26 GAA, .909 SV%, 8 GP)

Series notes: Alaska Anchorage holds a 20-7-2 edge in the all-time series, but UAH was won five of the last eight meetings with one tie. UAH is 4-6-2 against UAA at home. Last season, the teams played in Anchorage, with the Chargers sweeping by scores of 5-2 and 3-2.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Nov. 10
Alaska Anchorage at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
#20 Northern Michigan at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m.
#10 Minnesota State at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 11
Alaska Anchorage at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at #20 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
#10 Minnesota State at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.

Nov 082017
 

The Chargers have completed the first quarter of their season, with all eight games on the road against tough competition.

It started with two losses at No. 8 Notre Dame, which is now ranked No. 6 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Then a split at then-No. 15 Michigan Tech. Then two losses at Cornell, which has moved up to No. 14. Then a trip across the country last week to Arizona State, where the Chargers forged a split.

Mike Corbett

UAH head coach Mike Corbett (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Although they only won two of the eight games, UAH head coach Mike Corbett found positives they can build on moving forward.

“I like where we’re at,” Corbett said. “We probably had one stinker game in there where I thought we didn’t compete, but in reality three of the four series were against top 20 teams and I’ll put a paycheck that Cornell will be in the top 10 in two weeks. Obviously, the competition was good.”

It will help that the Chargers will spend the next three weeks at home (finally). UAH hosts Alaska Anchorage this weekend for the home opening series, followed by Lake Superior State and Ferris State the following two weeks.

“Homecoming weekend is to establish a good home presence, get people in the building this first weekend of the year and get them excited about hockey since we’ve been on the road,” Corbett said. “We can also cure our wounds a little bit. We’re a little road weary.”

That home presence has been lacking the past couple of years. Out of the Chargers’ nine wins last season, only two were at the Von Braun Center. UAH was 6-20-6 the last two seasons at home.

“We’re also trying to establish a little bit of home ice advantage for us,” Corbett said. “A lot of times we played well, the only bad thing is the home team lost.

“We’re watching Anchorage and what they’re doing and some of their tendencies, but we’re still establishing our identity as a team right now. We’re playing five or six freshmen up front, and they’re getting more and more comfortable every weekend and we need them to chip in a little bit more. The focus is going to be on us over the course of the next three weekends.”

Defensively, the Chargers have given up 3.5 goals per game so far this season, ninth in the WCHA.

“We’ve all got to be come better defensively,” Corbett said. “We’ve done a good job of minimizing shots on goal for the most part. We’re in that 25 to 32 range, which is similar to most teams in the country.

“Now we need our goaltending to be 90 or 91 percent on a consistent basis. The biggest thing is we need to eliminate some of those bombs that end up in the back of your net. It’s not just our defensemen, it’s our team defense.”

The goaltenders have posted a combined .886 save percentage so far, with senior Jordan Uhelski starting six games and freshman Mark Sinclair starting two. Uhelski was in net for the Chargers’ two wins.

“I think right far as our goaltending is that they’re still neck-and-neck,” Corbett said. “Jordan played very, very well in the two games he’s won, but we need consistency in our net. You got both guys who we like and believe can do the job, and now it’s going to be who wants to step up and grab that job.

“We’d like to ride one goaltender, but not until one of them consistently starts playing at the level we believe they can. To put it nice and simple, just make the saves he needs to make.”

Offensively, UAH has had to deal without playing two top centers, Max McHugh and Jordan Larson, who will both remain out for some time.

Brennan Saulnier

Brennan Saulnier (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Meanwhile, Brennan Saulnier has four goals already this season, tied with fellow senior Josh Kestner for the team lead. Saulnier has always shown what he can do with the puck, but has also been known to rack up penalty minutes.

“A lot of people criticize him for his play, but we love his fire, ” Corbett said. “We’re re-channeling that fire.

“He’s matured, and he sees that he’s a senior and there’s a leadership position for him on our team. And with Max and Larson out, we need him to be a point producer, focused and dialed in to be an offensive threat every time he’s out on the ice.”

Tyler Poulsen has also started strong with three goals in seven games. Christian Rajic has made an early mark as a freshman with two goals and two assists.

Kurt Gosselin and Cam Knight continue to contribute from the blue line with four and three assists, respectively. Gosselin remains a scoring threat himself with two goals.

The power play is ahead of last year’s pace at 15.4 percent, but it recently had a stretch of 23 straight opportunities without a goal before breaking through in Saturday’s win at Arizona State.

“Against Cornell we hit the post three times,” Corbett said. “Early on against Arizona State, we had a little trouble getting in the zone and set up. But we’re moving the puck pretty well.

“You want to score a goal on the power play, but the biggest thing you want to do is, worst-case scenario, is giving you positive momentum. Even during the 0-for-23 stretch, it was  more frustration because we hit posts, missed some backdoor plays, got pucks flubbing off some guys’ sticks, and not because they’re not ready. We were still getting opportunities and it was continuing to provide momentum for us. It wasn’t demoralizing for our team.

“We’ve made a few tweaks here and there in the zone, putting guys in different situations, so we’re still kind of figuring it out a little bit.”

On the flip side, the penalty kill has been struggling at 73.9 percent. The PK was pivotal in the two wins, however, at 92.4 percent.

“Hans Gorowsky is our only returning penalty killer,” Corbett said. “We had to retrain Madison Dunn, who’s doing a good job and getting it. We didn’t have (Adam) Wilcox in the first weekend to be able to play some additional minutes on the penalty kill, and he’s a quality penalty killer who knows what he’s doing.

“It’s not your standard penalty kill that not a lot of kids coming from juniors are used to. To be able to get them thinking how we need them to think is going to take some time.”

That includes Levi Wunder and Andrew Dodson, two freshmen who are getting minutes on the penalty kill.

“With everything that we’ve had to deal with in the WCHA in the course of my four years is, you have got to distribute minutes. So we’ve got to be able to get some of those freshmen in on the special teams.”

The Chargers will use the time at home to rest up and build some cachet, because the next road trip is even longer and more grinding. Three straight road trips before an off week for Christmas, and then “hell starts”: Three straight weeks on the road, starting at Bemidji, then directly to Fairbanks and Anchorage.

“Once again, it’s about managing our team,” Corbett said. “We want to put ourselves in position for that last stretch of games in the fourth quarter (when UAH plays its last eight games at home), that we’re knocking on the door for the playoffs.

“We’re going to have to take care of our home rank, the old .750 at home and .500 on the road. We started out .500 on the road in the WCHA, so we have a good start and we’ve got games at hand. We’ve got to take care of those games at hand right now, especially at home.”

Nov 062017
 

The Chargers are finally playing at home this weekend, and there will be a lot going on.

UAH hosts Alaska Anchorage at the Von Braun Center this Friday and Saturday, with puck drop at 7:07 p.m. both nights.

Homecoming is this weekend, and all UAH alumni get free admission. The homecoming king and queen will be announced at Saturday’s game.

Military Appreciation Weekend is presented by AUSA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin and the UAH Office of Research and Economic Development. Military service members, veterans, Army civilians and their families can get free general admission with their military ID.

Soldiers are enlisted during last year’s Military Appreciation Weekend. (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

The first 500 fans on Saturday receive a free camo rally towel. During the first intermission on Saturday, there will be a mass enlistment of Soliders into the Army.

In addition:

  • Free general admission will be available to all kids 12 and under, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.
  • The first 500 fans at Friday’s game receive a free set of UAH Hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Blue Line Club luncheon: The first Blue Line Club luncheon is Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus. Terranova’s will be catering an it is free to Blue Line Club members.

Alaska Anchorage coach Matt Thomas and UAH coach Mike Corbett will be on hand to talk about this weekend’s series and their respective programs.