(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)
Associate Head Coach of Alabama Huntsville’s Hockey team, Karlis Zirnis, noted the tough challenge that his Chargers will be facing heading into the weekend. Of the Minnesota State Mavericks, he was incredibly succinct. He said that, “there’s no weaknesses on that team.” If he had to pick, he would support calling the Mavericks the best team in college hockey. They exude speed and are prodigious at driving a very physical brand of hockey, and do not give up a lot of shots. Of the ones they do give up, they have a Hobey Baker Award candidate in Dryden McKay on hand to stop them.
Furthermore, in expanding on how good Mike Hastings’ Mavericks are, he compared them to the Soviet Union teams that dominated the era of international hockey in the 1980’s. All of that is to say, the Chargers will have a bit of a challenge just managing the game against the Mavericks, let alone trying to win a game or two in this series.
That is not to say Karlis does not see a way forward for his Chargers. He does, but it will require perfection from his still developing team., given how good their opponent is Michigan Tech capitalized on a few mistakes to widen their leads in the third period this past weekend. The Mavericks have the ability to do that right away in each battle starting Thursday. For the Chargers to compete, they have to play to their five man system, all weekend, and get some help with scoring by the committee that Head Coach Lance West has referenced. After a month off for recovering from Covid-19, the team now has had time, and games under their belts to get ready before facing arguably the best team in the country on Thursday and Friday this weekend.
How it goes will depend in large part on what the team does together. If they can come close to replicating the first period in the finale, they have a chance to make life more interesting than the Mavericks are expecting. Anything but that effort, will produce a result that most of the country outside the UAH locker room is expected. This team has a chance to prove a lot of people wrong this weekend. How close they get to that will come down to their consistency, ability to manage the game, and making Dryden McKay face more shots per game than he typically does.
As Zirnis has often talked to us when noting the mentality of this team, especially relevant for this week, the team needs to play a perfect game in all three zones to force the Mavericks to alter what they do. Given the absence of Ryan Spooner for this weekend and perhaps another forward or two, UAH will not be facing the Mavericks at full strength. How they can start, manage the ebb and flow of the game, and what support they provide their goaltender, that will determine the outcome, not any of the past two decades of Minnesota State wins against this program.
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