Location: Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, Michigan
Game Time (Central):
Friday, January 15 – 6:07 PM
Saturday, January 16 – 6:07 PM
UAH: 5-15-2 (WCHA: 3-11-2 10th)
FSU: 9-9-4 (WCHA: 7-7-2 5th)
Broadcast: WCHA.TV (PPV)
UAH finally bounced back into the WCHA win category last Saturday night, with a 3-1 win over Alaska at the Von Braun Center – the Chargers’ first conference win since October 31.
This weekend, UAH heads to Michigan to where it all began – Ferris State, to take on the Bulldogs. FSU currently sits fifth in the WCHA, while the Chargers reside in last place. The Bulldogs were out of action last weekend, having taken third place in the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota the prior weekend after a 7-3 loss to Harvard and a 5-2 win over UConn. Ferris State has a few strong wins this season against Minnesota State and Michigan Tech, but they’ve also struggled against opponents who sit lower in the standings like Lake Superior and Alaska-Anchorage.
FSU is coached by Bob Daniels, who has been at the school longer than most of the players in this game have been alive. Three years ago, Daniels coached the Bulldogs to the National Championship game where they lost 4-1 to Boston College.
Defensively this season, the Bulldogs have lacked a bit of finesse, ranking 8th in the WCHA in scoring defense, allowing 2.86 goals per game. The Chargers, meanwhile, sit dead last in the conference, allowing 3.05 goals per game. Scoring-wise, Ferris State is a little better off, ranking 3rd in the WCHA, scoring 2.59 goals per game. The Chargers rank second-to-last, scoring just 2.23 goals per game. On the power play, UAH actually improved last weekend and has moved up to 8th, scoring on 13 percent of their attempts. Ferris State’s power play is a bit better, scoring on 15.2 percent. On the penalty kill, the Chargers struggled a bit last weekend, dropping them to 4th in WCHA with just a 14.9 percent conversion rate. The Bulldogs give up significantly more power play goals, having a 19.2 percent penalty kill rate.
Last season, these teams met four times, with UAH winning hte first game at Ferris State and FSU taking the next three. In a series that dates back to UAH’s first ever varsity hockey game – October 25, 1985, the Chargers have a 3-12-0 record all time against the Bulldogs, with a 1-7-0 record at the FSU.
Alabama-Huntsville Key Players:
Matt Larose, G, Junior
Matt Larose came up huge in Saturday night’s 3-1 win over Alaska on Saturday. The senior stopped 28 of 29 shots that headed his way en route to the third win of the season (and his career). Larose played 58 shutout minutes and looked to have the donut in the bag before Alaska’s Colton Sparrow put one past him in the dying moments. Most importantly for Larose is – combined with Carmine Guerriero’s disastrous 6-goal outing on Friday night – may have found himself in the “first chair” goalie position for the time-being.
Josh Kestner, F, Sophomore
Josh Kestner had the best game of his sophomore season in Saturday’s win over Alaska, scoring a pair of goals, a rare UAH power play goal, and the game-winner. In addition, he was throwing his body around all weekend and playing with a level of intensity that hasn’t always been apparent this season. After Friday’s loss, it was the hometown player who stepped up to deliver Alabama-Huntsville their first home conference win of the season. This weekend, he may ride that wave to more success. He was very close to UAH’s first hat trick in nearly a decade…he would probably be a very popular option to be the one to finally nab it.
Max McHugh, F, Sophomore
Last weekend started out with a bang for perennial key player Max McHugh. On Friday night, McHugh scored 3 points in the opening half of the game versus Alaska. However, the wheels fell off the bus for the entire Chargers’ team and they ended up losing 6-3. The first line – with McHugh at the center – was firing on all cylinders for the first 30 minutes. When the chemistry is working, the trio of McHugh, Chad Brears, and Brennan Saulnier is very tough to contend with. However, with the exclusion of that first period, the three of them have had a bit of an issue putting it together as of late.
Ferris State Key Players:
Corey Mackin, F, Freshman
In the preseason, this writer voted Mackin as the WCHA’s preseason freshman of the year. Coming off of a career in the BCHL where he dominated scoring and was named the best Junior A player in Canada, Mackin certainly had a bit of hype coming with him. So far in his freshman campaign, he’s lived up to it. Through 22 games, the freshman has 16 points (7-9), leading all WCHA freshmen in scoring, while ranking in the top ten of all players. A very disciplined player, Mackin has yet to take a penalty this season (he only took 11 in 144 BCHL games). One thing about Mackin is that when he scores, he scores a lot – he has 5 multipoint games this season…and since he’s only a freshman, he’s only going to get more dangerous. The Bulldogs are 6-2-2 when Mackin scores, as opposed to 3-7-2 when he doesn’t.
Chad McDonald, F, Junior
Junior Chad McDonald missed several games earlier this season, but came back in time for the Mariucci Classic. Before his injury, McDonald had scored 9 points (5 – 4) in 15 games – not a terrible tear, but nothing to sneeze at either. Where McDonald is key is his performance against the Chargers last season. In FSU’s first win over UAH, McDonald put a pair – including the game-winner – past Guerriero and added an assist. He also had the game-winner in the Bulldogs’ second win over the Chargers, again beating Guerriero. As a freshman, he did not have as much scoring success, but did manage to put up 5 shots on goal in a game at the Von Braun Center. He can get a lot of shots off on the UAH defense.
Darren Smith, G, Freshman
It seems like every week, we’re talking about a key freshman goalie. This week is no different – freshman Darren Smith has stepped up in a big way for the Bulldogs. He’s earned 6 of the Bulldogs’ 9 wins. His .926 save percentage ranks 4th in the WCHA, 3rd among WCHA freshmen, and 6th among NCAA freshmen. His 2.25 GAA is 6th among NCAA freshmen and 6th overall in the WCHA. By contrast, his goaltending partner Charles Johnson ranks last in the WCHA in both categories, while placing in the bottom four in the NCAA. Smith hasn’t really been “rocked” in any outing this season – he gave up 4 goals on 38 shots in a 7-4 win over Minnesota State, but that’s really it. If Ferris State wants to do anything in the WCHA, they need to ride Smith.