Location: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Game Time (Central):
Friday, December 18 – 7:07 PM
Saturday, December 19 – 7:07 PM
Broadcast: WCHA.TV (PPV)
Two teams that have struggled more than almost any other this NCAA season matchup in a non-conference game at Huntsville this weekend, as the Colorado College Tigers roll into town to take on the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.
UAH is currently mired in a 10-game winless streak that dates back to a shutout win on October 31 at Lake Superior. The Chargers were swept last weekend by Minnesota State, the fourth time they have been swept this season. Alabama-Huntsville’s last home win came in the second game of the season against Connecticut, eight games ago. The Chargers are just 1-10 at home this season. Last weekend may have been a low point as the Chargers managed just 24 shots on the entire weekend while being swept by Minnesota State. On Friday night, the Mavericks outshot the Chargers 32-9. The 9 shots on goal were the second fewest in the history of the program. Were it not for a shot by Brent Fletcher in the last minute and a half of the game, UAH would have tied the dubious school record.
Colorado College hasn’t fared much better than UAH this year…in fact they may have been worse. The Tigers started the season by losing their first 13 before finally beating in-state rival Air Force at home on Thanksgiving weekend. Dating back to last season, the overall losing streak was 16 games. The Tigers have yet to win on the road this season, going 0-6. Going back to last season, they’ve lost their last 9 road games and are winless in their last 13 road games with their last win coming January 6 at Connecticut. In the last two seasons, the Tigers are just 1-23-2 on the road. The Tigers’ .167 winning percentage so far this season is the NCAA’s worst. On the bright side for the Tigers, they actually won three straight games before last weekend’s sweep against Western Michigan.
UAH’s lone saving grace this season is that – despite playing against some very fierce goaltending – the Chargers have not been shut out. The Tigers, meanwhile, have been shut out five times. At 2.38 goals per game, UAH isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but they are at least scoring at a respectable rate. Colorado College, meanwhile, has the second worst offense in the NCAA, scoring just 1.83 goals per game. At the other end of the ice, UAH is giving up 3.06 goals per game, while Colorado College is giving up the third most in the NCAA at 3.94. In terms of differentials, UAH ranks 42nd in the NCAA with a -.69 goal differential while Colorado College is second to last with a whopping -2.11. In terms of shots per game, Colorado College actually ranks ahead of UAH with 27.33 (49th) vs. 24.62 (57th).
The weekend is a bit of a breather for both teams, as UAH faces off against North Dakota, the #2 team in the country on New Year’s Day, while Colorado College will face #5 St. Cloud State next before facing that same North Dakota team. The latest PairWise rankings have UAH at 56th out of 60 and Colorado at 58th.
Colorado College is a founding member of the NCHC, having left the WCHA (of which it was also a founding member) at the end of the 2012-13 season. The Tigers’ departure directly paved the way for UAH to enter the WCHA. UAH has never won in seven games against Colorado College in a series that dates back to October 7, 2006. All seven games have been played at Colorado College, as this weekend represents the Tigers’ first trip to the Von Braun Center. Last season, the two teams opened the season against each other with the Tigers taking a 3-2 win in the first game and a 4-3 win in the second.
Alabama-Huntsville Key Players:
Chad Brears, F, Senior
As of late, Brears has probably been UAH’s best skater, with 3 goals in UAH’s last 5 games. Since missing a pair of games before Thanksgiving, the senior is playing some of the best hockey of his collegiate career. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t been up to the task. Last season, Brears managed an assist in the opener against the Tigers. While he has been able to score recently against very stiff defensive competition, it should be interesting to see what Brears can do against the young, inexperienced Colorado defense.
Brandon Carlson, D, Junior
While UAH lost last season to Colorado College, Brandon Carlson had a whale of a second game, racking up two goals and adding an assist. So far in his career, it has been his only multi-point outing. Offensively, Carlson’s season has not gone the way he’d hope so far, with just three goals on the season and no assists, but his previous victims are coming to town on Friday night. Defensively, Carlson is UAH’s best shot-blocker, averaging 1.71 blocks per game – that’s good enough for 11th in the WCHA.
Carmine Guerriero, G, Junior
You wouldn’t know it from the Chargers’ record, but Carmine Guerriero has been performing quite well over the past few weeks. While he lost both games last weekend against Minnesota State, the junior goaltender faced 72 total shots on the series, stopping all but 5. Guerriero’s GAA has dropped to a season-low 2.71, while his save percentage has risen to .909. While he does not have a win since October 30, he has received only one goal of support in five of UAH’s last six outings. Guerriero was the goaltender for the opener last season, taking the loss, but saving 37 of 40 shots he faced.
Max McHugh, F, Sophomore
With 15 points in 16 games, Max McHugh remains a story of consistency for the Chargers. Held off the scoresheet on Saturday without even a shot on goal, McHugh still managed one assist in the series and remains the Chargers’ leading scorer. There’s not much new to add about McHugh that hasn’t been said in these previews every week – he is going to be a factor in every Chargers game.
Brennan Saulnier, F, Sophomore
Brennan Saulnier opened the season on a tear, earning WCHA player of the month honors for October on the back of 9 points (6 – 3) in just 5 games. In the last ten games, however, Saulnier has only managed to put together four assists. He did manage an assist against Minnesota State, but in his last ten games, Saulnier only has 11 shots on goal. While not the primary reason for UAH’s struggles as of late, Saulnier’s success this season seems to be directly tied to the success of the team. If UAH comes away with a win against the Tigers, expect Saulnier to have a hand in it.
Colorado College Key Players:
Trey Bradley, F, Freshman
The son of former NHLer Brian Bradley, Trey Bradley has had a surprising bit of offensive power this season, netting 7 goals so far this season. Those 7 goals not only lead the Tigers, but they rank third in the NCHC and seventh in the NCAA among freshmen. Last season in the USHL, Bradley only managed 4 goals in 55 games against decidedly weaker competition. Last time out against Western Michigan, Bradley hammered home two goals. His 5 road goals this season ranks second among NCAA freshman.
Teemu Kivihalme, D, Sophomore
Drafted by the Nashville Predators in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft while still a junior in high school, Kivihalme has been one of the few bright spots for a team that has struggled in the past few seasons. The sophomore blue-liner from Minnesota was named for Teemu Selanne and has shown a tiny bit of his namesake’s scoring touch. Kivihalme’s 8 points (2 – 6) this season rank him first among Colorado College’s defensemen in scoring and 11th in the NCHC. He managed three points against Massachusetts in the opening weekend of the season, but, like his team, hasn’t found much scoring consistency this year. Last season, he ranked fourth among the NCHC’s freshmen defensemen (and 25th in the NCAA) with 11 points (5 – 8). His first career collegiate goal came in the first period of his first game last season against Guerriero. It was his only point of the weekend.