Location: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Game Time (Central):
Wednesday, November 25 – 7:07 PM
Friday, November 27 – 7:07 PM
UAH: 3-6-1 (WCHA: 2-5-1 9th)
BGSU: 2-6-3 (WCHA: 1-5-2 10th)
Broadcast: WCHA.TV (PPV)
It’s probably safe to say that when UAH and Bemidji State saw these dates on the calendar, neither team expected to both be sitting in the WCHA’s only two non-playoff spots on game day.
UAH’s season has gone painfully downhill since the Chargers swept Lake Superior on Halloween weekend. Since that game, UAH has lost four straight being swept by Michigan Tech and Bowling Green. Perhaps most painful for UAH is that three of those four games were decided by one goal. The other loss was a two goal loss. They have been in every game but have been on the wrong end four straight times.
Bemidji had an equally promising start to the season, starting 1-1-1 with a win over Minnesota-Duluth and getting a tie at North Dakota. A seven-game winless streak ended with the Beavers’ lone WCHA win against Alaska on November 14. Last weekend, the season hit a low point as Bemidji was unable to defeat Lake Superior at home, only managing a win and a tie against a team that had been swept by first year NCAA program Arizona State the week before.
Something has to give for one of these teams this weekend. Bemidji actually has both the top power play and penalty kill in the WCHA. UAH’s special teams, meanwhile, have left much to be desired. Out of ten clubs, the Chargers rank eighth and ninth in those respective categories. On the other hand UAH – a team that has spent years not just at the bottom of the WCHA in scoring, but at the bottom of the UAH – ranks second overall in the WCHA in goals scored (with 3.00 per game). Bemidji is eighth with 2.36.
UAH has played no team as many times as they have played Bemidji. In a series that dates back to the 1994 NCAA Division II Championship, the Chargers and Beavers have faced off 76 times. In four of those occasions – 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1998 – there was a National Championship on the line. Each team won a pair. The Chargers have a 29-43-4 record all time against the Beavers, with a 19-15-3 record at the Von Braun Center. Last season, the two teams had one series at Bemidji with the Beavers winning a pair of 4-0 games.
Alabama-Huntsville Key Players:
Carmine Guerriero, G, Junior
Statistically, Guerriero had a rough outing at Bowling Green, letting in three goals out of 27 shots. His save percentage was not greatly affected and still hovers just under the .900 mark on the season. Through seven games played, the junior goaltender has a 2-4-1 record with a GAA just under 3 at 2.98. After a particularly Guerriero-esque outing in the last homestand against Michigan Tech, he hopes lightning strikes twice with a little more goal support this weekend. Last year, Guerriero let in four of 33 shots in his lone appearance versus Bemidji. As a freshman, he backed the net twice against the Beavers, with a one-goal performance and a four goal performance in which he faced nearly 50 shots. With a career record of 0-3 against his rival, Guerriero will obviously be hoping to reverse that trend this week.
Matt Larose, G, Junior
Larose snagged his first career shutout – and UAH’s first in several years – against Lake Superior. Since that game, he has earned at least one start in UAH’s last two series and will likely get one of two this weekend as he has capitalized on his opportunities. While Larose earned a loss against Michigan Tech and Bowling Green, he saved a ton of shots. Larose stopped 36 of 40 in UAH’s 4-2 loss to Michigan Tech on November 6 and 25 of 28 in UAH’s overtime loss to Bowling Green this weekend. On the season, the junior goaltender has a save percentage of .929 with a GAA of 2.30. Among goaltenders in the WCHA with at least three starts, he ranks second and fourth in those categories respectively. Last season, Larose was in net for the second of the Chargers’ two 4-0 losses to Bemidji. As a freshman, he earned his lone win – and his only collegiate win outside of the shutout against Lake Superior – with a 40 save, one goal performance at Bemidji. With a 1-2 record against the Beavers, Larose is UAH’s only goaltender with a win against Bemidji since the 2010-2011 season.
Max McHugh, F, Sophomore
After being kept off the scoring sheet during the Michigan Tech series, McHugh returned to his consistency with an assist in each of the Chargers’ games against Bowling Green. The sophomore forward’s 10 points (3 – 7) now tie him for the team scoring lead with Brennan Saulnier.
Brandon Parker, D, Sophomore
With one of the flukiest goals you’ll ever see, Brandon Parker snagged his first career goal against Michigan Tech. He came back again last weekend against Bowling Green to get his second while tacking on an assist. Parker was fourth on UAH in scoring last year, so the fact that he’s actually getting points (6: 2 – 4) shouldn’t be much of a surprise. He’s starting to find the scoresheet at least once per series. It’s been years since UAH’s last hat trick…but Parker has a chance of scoring three goals in a month which should be considered a “Brandon Parker Hat Trick” if he does it.
Bemidji State Key Players:
Michael Bitzer, G, Sophomore
Last season’s WCHA Rookie of the Year, Bitzer was expected to be one of the top goalies in the WCHA this season, receiving votes from both the media and coaches in the preseason All-WCHA team. It’s been a rough start to the season for the sophomore goaltender, with just one win to his credit so far…and that one came on opening night. That means that Bitzer has played in eight consecutive games without a win. It’s not wholly on the goaltender, though – he fought Northern Michigan to a 65 minute shutout but had no goal support so came away with a tie. His last outing was perhaps the low-point of his collegiate career as he was beaten by Lake Superior. So far this season, Bitzer carries a GAA of 2.78, a save percentage of .882, and a record of 1-6-2. All of this after a 1.80, .929 freshman year. If there’s a saving grace for Bitzer, it’s this – he has never allowed a goal against UAH. Last season he started both of the 4-0 shutouts. Going against a team that has never even scored on you is a pretty decent way to break a slump.
Gerry Fitzgerald, F, Sophomore
As a freshman, Fitzgerald scored 19 points, but only one of those – an assist – came against the Chargers. This season, he’s been the ray of hope for the Beavers with 10 points (7 – 3) in 11 games. Fitzgerald started the season with a goal in each of Bemidji’s first five games but has just managed one in the last six. Still, he had a season-high six shots and a goal in the opener of the Lake Superior series so while they may not always find the back of the net, he’s always firing.
Graeme McCormick, D, Senior
McCormick has consistently been one of Bemidji’s top threats over the past few seasons and more-or-less their primary threat from the blue line. Despite the team’s struggles so far, McCormick has continued to perform at his known levels, racking up 9 points (4 – 5) in the Beavers’ first 11 games. With a two-goal performance in the North Dakota tie and another goal against Minnesota, he generally shows up in big games. Last weekend, he put together a two-point performance in the Friday night loss to Lake Superior before being held without even a shot on goal on Saturday. McCormick has four career points against the Chargers, including a two point night on March 1, 2014.