Location: Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan
Game Time (Central):
Friday, October 30 – 6:37 PM
Saturday, October 31 – 6:07 PM
Broadcast: WCHA.TV (PPV)
This weekend, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers are on the road for the first time this season as they head to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to take on the Lakers of Lake Superior State.
Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz refers to these sorts of games as “defining moments”. UAH is rolling off of a very disappointing series against Alaska-Anchorage in which they finished with a loss and a tie. The Chargers are off to a surprisingly slow start with just one win in the first four games of the season. Lake Superior, on the other hand, is coming off of a very surprising weekend in which the Lakers split a series with Michigan State.
The Lakers have been helped a lot by their incoming freshman class this year, while UAH was expected to have improved over last season’s team. Lake Superior opened the season by giving North Dakota a strong fight before relinquishing the lead and succumbing to the powerhouse 5-2. Picked by the WCHA coaches (and this writer) to finish last in the league, the Lakers have defied expectations so far, staying in every game and winning two of their last three.
With a 4-6-2 record in 12 games against the Lakers in a series that dates back to October 14, 2005, the Chargers are fairly well-matched with the Lakers historically. Last season, UAH finished 2-1-1 against the Lakers with a win and a tie in Sault Ste. Marie. This weekend, however, they will be entering as the team on the opposite side of the pendulum.
It’s early in the season, but with just one win and one tie so far, UAH needs to increase the number in the win column because the schedule will not get easier as the season moves along.
Alabama-Huntsville Key Players:
Carmine Guerriero, G, Junior
Guerriero’s season has not gone the way he’s wanted it so far. He’s been the goaltender of record in all four of UAH’s games, which means he’s only snagged one win in the first four. Expected to be among the WCHA’s top goaltenders this season, Guerriero has given up 12 goals on just 111 attempts, giving him a save percentage of .892 to go along with a 2.96 GAA. Granted, it’s very early in the season, but Guerriero is currently ranked tenth out of the twelve starting WCHA netminders in terms of save percentage and ninth in terms of GAA. The good news is that Guerriero was the goaltender for all four games against LSSU last season, grabbing a 2-1-1 record while only allowing four goals over the four games. The last UAH shutout was by Cam Talbot in 2010 at Robert Morris. It has been five and a half years and 170 games since the Chargers shut out an opponent, but this would be the best time for Guerriero to break that streak.
Max McHugh, F, Sophomore
Extremely consistent so far, McHugh has scored three points in each of UAH’s two series. The sophomore forward led the Chargers in scoring last season and his 1.5 points per game ranks second in the WCHA only behind Saulnier. Last season, McHugh scored the game-winner in both of UAH’s wins over LSSU, so he should be dangerous again this weekend.
Brennan Saulnier, F, Sophomore
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2015-16 season, Saulnier showed that the first week of the season was not a fluke by racking up another goal and an assist in the series against Alaska-Anchorage. Through four games, Saulnier has seven points (4 – 3) and just six penalty minutes. Last year’s leader for the Chargers in terms of minutes spent in the box didn’t see it at all last weekend. He’s currently tied for the WCHA scoring lead and is tops in points per game. With a goal a game, the sophomore is tied for fifth in that category in the entire NCAA.
Lake Superior State Key Players:
J.T. Henke, F, Sophomore
A transfer from Maine, Henke has only scored in two games this season, but they’ve been in big games for LSSU. He had a goal and an assist each in the team’s quick start against North Dakota and win over Michigan State. It’s a small sample size, but Henke has shown an ability to get things done in big games. At Maine, Henke spent a lot of time as a scratch and getting “freshman” minutes, but he did pull of another similar performance in an early season game versus UMass.
Gordon Defiel, G, Sophomore
Based on the goaltender rotation so far, Defiel will likely only play on of the two games against UAH this weekend. That’s good news for someone, but who it is is not quite clear. With four games under his belt this season, Defiel has a 1-3 record. However, his lone win came against Michigan State at East Lansing. On the other hand, Defiel currently ranks last in the WCHA in save percentage and GAA. Like Guerriero, it’s very early in the season and he hasn’t been able to establish a consistent picture of his ability yet. If Defiel falters again this weekend, look for Nick Kossoff to get many more reps in goal for the Lakers as the season continues to ramp up.
Gage Torrel, F, Freshman
The freshman Torrel has gotten off to a good start with the Lakers, leading his team in scoring early in the season. Torrel racked up a goal in two of LSSU’s three games against Michigan State, including one in the team’s win in East Lansing. He also had three helpers in Lake Superior’s win over Northern Michigan on October 17.