Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville put more shots on net tonight than they did last night. Many more of their opponent’s shots, Northern Michigan University, found the back of the net to make the 8-2 final, forcing UAH to settle for a split. Bauer Neudecker and Quinn Green’s tallies came in the second and third periods, respectively. Both came after the Chargers were six goals down, each time. The potent offense of Northern Michigan came alive, and credit the Wildcats for putting a complete game out there after the Chargers did more to earn their luck yesterday. For the Chargers, they have no time to rest, which given the composition of this roster with 14 freshmen and a staff dedicated to continuous training and evaluation, that is probably best. Below are three things from tonight that stood out to us, including some positives for the team going forward, looking beyond the box score today.
The shots on goal, or even shot attempts are not useful when describing the success of this team in this series
Look at these two game numbers for the Chargers, last night, they finished with only 34 attempts (NMU had 76), with three of them being goals. Tonight, they finished with 40 attempted shots (NMU only had 64). In a traditional sense, most metrics suggest that the Chargers should have lost last night and tonight. They lost tonight for a lot of the same reasons they lost to Minnesota State, playing a speedy team on the road for the second of four games this weekend. That is, they got beat in transition on many of the goals conceded before their offense could get going. Last night, they did a better job at clogging grade-a looks in transition and forcing a block or shot wide before a second or third look by the Wildcats. While shots on net and attempts matter, they do not tell the story of this series as much as transition goals and speed by both teams do.
The effort of this team was there all night, even as the game got out of hand
First, the goal from Bauer Neudecker to open the scoring ledger for the Chargers was indicative of this first line. Tyrone Bronte found him and Neudecker’s clean release found its way into the back of the net. Quinn Green would use his speed in the third period to create enough space to pot a goal of his own. Everyone on the first line had a point tonight, and played with the speed and grit UAH fans are getting used to seeing from them this year. Neudecker played like the captain tonight, given that he tried to get the team back into things with his goal, and his efforts pushed the Chargers forward. It did not make a major difference in the final score, but Head Coach Lance West and his staff did have a big bright spot in the first line, and seem to have found a consistent one, given the effort and chemistry of everyone on the line.
On defense, we were impressed with the consistency of Lucas Bahn, and his effort as well. One sequence in the third period stood out to us as an illistrstive example. With about 10 minutes left in the game, he pursued a NMU forward through the neutral zone and denied him a grade-a look. This is well after the Wildcats took the lead, and during a time in the game where we have seen players in this situation on other teams not exude the same effort Lucas did. He does not have a goal, yet, for this group, but has one of its biggest reservoirs of effort and consistency in the face of playin in many adverse results. Bahn also leads a power play unit for this team, and does anything else West and the staff ask him. In terms of modeling the new direction of Charger Hockey, he is definitely the type of player this staff wants to bring more of to campus in future years.
What comes next
Well, the Chargers now get a brisk 24 or so hours off to travel over to Sault Ste. Marie to face the Lakers of Lake Superior State this weekend. They have earned a tie with them in a December non-conference series, and will be up against one of the best and most underrated goalies in the country in Mareks Mitens. Karlis Zirnis was a part of the Latvian coaching staff in the 2017 World Juniors Tournament that Mitens played in. Karlis knows how hard working Mitens is, and respects how tough it is for his team to score on him. In addition, the Lakers are lead up front by Aston Calder, who is continuing to show the league, and the country how good of an offensive threat he is, with 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) in 17 games played so far. For the Chargers to have success, his line must be kept in check, and UAH will have to earn a rebound goal to score on Mitens. He does not give up many clean looks at this level, and is, in our opinion, ready to compete for an NHL roster spot in the fall.
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