(Photo Credit: UAH Athletics)
When we first chatted with David Fessenden, starting netminder for the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville, he plainly said of what this team could do this year “we are going to prove some people wrong.”
Well, the artist of a 42 save shutout tonight, and his Chargers did just that, putting their stamp on a 2-0 victory over the Bulldogs of Ferris State. In this game, UAH earned their second win, equaling all of last year’s total, and bringing them level (2-2) in WCHA play.
Goal scoring came only in a 1 minute and 23 second stretch in the second period. First, a Tyr Thompson pass found Connor Merkley on a partial breakaway, and he was able to convert against FSU netminder Logan Stein to send the socially distantced crowd at the Von Braun Center into a frenzy. On that play, the Chargers earned a power play chance which they would go on to convert. Dayne Finnson found the stick of emerging star Tyrone Bronte to tip the puck past Stein to provide the final margin of victory.
With that being said, we will note the many good things from this night, and some things a team on track to play one of the most defensively consistent teams in the country in Bemidji State may want to deal with.
For a team working on finding a new conference home, this weekend served as a wonderful audition to their two potential future homes. The crowd was into both games, the game presentation looked improved thanks in part to the Advisoty Board’s advice , and every element that the Athletics Department could control, from our vantage point, looked well done.
Now to the team on the ice, Fessenden did a lot in this game, the first and third periods each required him to be perfect, and to his credit, he was. Whenever UAH took a penalty, Fessenden seemed to elevate his game even more, along with how he played pucks throughout. His ability to control rebouds took a step forward tonight, as did his defense group’s ability to clear them away. Remember, he was in net for this team going into the third period with a 1-0 lead over since ranked Robert Morris. So far, Fessenden is doing what he can to keep a solid grip on the net.
Looking at the goals, first off the one for Connor Merkley had to feel simply grand. He put home his first point on the season off a nice breakaway setup from Thompson. As to Bronte, he seems to be quietly building a case for WCHA Rookie of the Year with the consistency he is showing. He still has more work to do, but his speed and ability to drive play positively is something this team thrives on. Bronte’s ability to get in between defenders and create his own luck leaves us stupefied that he did not have a Division One offer until Head Coach Lance West gave him one.
What to watch for
These Chargers have, in past seasons, allowed too many shots to make it on net. Tonight Fessenden did have to make 42 saves, but that was off 72 Ferris State attempts. Shots on net suppression was ok relative to shot attempts given up. The Chargers only finished with 36 shot attempts. Unlike last night, Ferris State owned time and space tonight. Every period but the second featured a double-digit shots on net difference between the two teams. To adjust for this will be crucial, as the Beavers of Bemidji State are a more veteran and heavy team to compete with than Ferris State, and they are coming off of their biggest effort of the season with an overtime win against Bowling Green.
Last night, early penalties got the Chargers out of the flow of the game and tonight was no different. Giving up penalties in succession as UAH did is inviting trouble, and luckily their penalty kill survived the weekend unscathed.
Going forward, it is simple for this team, Fessenden has earned the right to be the starter. Tyrone Bronte’s first line is one of the faster in the WCHA, and has had far more grade-a looks than those not following this program would have guessed, and these Chargers are in the business of working to prove people wrong this year. Against Ferris State we saw what this team can do across a range of situations and emotions in-game.
How they build on it against Bemidji State will be the next test for them.
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