UAH Loses 4-0 in WCHA Opener: The Good, and Improvements Needed

(Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics)

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville came out today against the Huskies of Michigan Tech, and played a game that had a few good things about it, but left some questions that this team still needs to answer. David Fessenden played well in net for the Chargers, especially in the first period, surviving 9 Huskies’ salvos in the first frame. In the second, Michigan Tech put themselves ahead for good, outshooting UAH 17-5 and scoring three of their goals. The Huskies tacked on an insurance marker in the third to round things out.

The Good

The first period was a defensive effort by this team the way Lance West and Karlis Zirnis would like. The buy in from every Charger was there, and of the nine shots Fessenden faced, really only two or three were high danger chances that Fessenden was able to stop. In addition to this bit of good, we continued to see the speed of this team. Systemically, that is the biggest difference for these Chargers every night. Fundamentally having this team speed kept this game closer longer than it should have been. Despite only having 34 shot attempts, these Chargers showed their system and its ability to stretch out games.

What to improve on

Like fouling at the end of the game in basketball to extend it with hopes of your opponent missing a foul shot, one has to use the time and space given by your trap system to put home some goals. These Chargers, tonight, did not do that. They were outdone in shot attempts by a margin of 26. That will not win you many games in any league on any night. On Michigan Tech’s first goal, they had a sustained shift of more than a minute of zone time leading to the goal by Brian Halonen. The Huskies wore down the Chargers, and he got a tap-home goal Fessenden had no chance to stop. Between condensing the box a little bit to increase the blocked shots, and finding ways to get quicker exits, the coaches are probably looking to tweak how they execute their systems to stand up to these Huskies tomorrow afternoon.

In addition to this simple fact, the Chargers need to not try for stretch passes nearly as much as they did. When they got a stretch through, it was not on the tape of the receiver most times, and it did not go anywhere. These Huskies live to make your life tough when trying to attack them, and this game brought no exception to that rule.

Finally, on offense, this team has to string together shifts from time to time. We cannot recall many instances in this game where the Chargers changed on the fly while holding possession in the Michigan Tech end. Blake Pietila is a superb goaltender all on his own for the Huskies, and is even better because of the system he has in front of him. The more these Huskies score before their opponent can catch up, the harder things get. To get Michigan Tech out of sorts, you have to score first. We saw flashes of the speed we are starting to get used to, but need to see more of it in the finale.

Regardless of the result tomorrow, this team needs to show the get-back it has had in the first four games of the season. Even if they come home from Houghton with no WCHA points, they need to string together some more positives before Ferris State comes to town in a series that could determine who plays either the toughest team in the WCHA, or who makes the postseason tournament if it needs to be shortened due to COVID-19 concerns.

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