Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics
Alabama Huntsville did nearly everything right in defending a potent Lake Superior State offense. They killed penalties, they blocked shooting lanes, and even were leading for most of the game after a Bennett Stockdale toe drag goal in the second period. With that being said, the ending was not what any Charger or fan of UAH Hockey wanted. Here are three things on this game, the good, the not ideal, and what to be hopeful about heading into the finale tomorrow afternoon.
David Fessenden is one of the best goaltenders in the country. He moves with an economy of motion, and is able to stop most looks on the first try when he sees them. He was able to see most looks tonight. Despite packing the shooting lanes, and crowding the net front, Fessenden still was able to make save after save, and keep the Chargers in the game, despite his team generating either three or four shots on Mareks Mitens each period.
This team was also consistently able to limit grade a looks for most of the evening. Despite getting outshot 28-10, this team boxed out on the Lakers’ zone time and prevented most rebound looks. The system of Head Coach Lance West has shown results, not all shown out by a box score yet, but results that will show up in the long run.
To the team, Huntsville had some periods of sustained offense, two or three in the secon period, one of which produced the goal, and a few more. In the third, they had some zone time, but could not put enough pucks on Mitens for any of it to cause much harm to Lake Superior State. Credit the Lakers for their work in limiting chances.
One thing that stood out was the elevation of Frank Vitucci to the second line for the Chargers. The Yardley, Pennsylvania native has displayed speed all year, and his shot is one of the better ones on this team. In addition, this staff is all about rewarding players who practice the right way, and do the right things with more ice time. Frank is one player that certainly is vying for more ice time as he wants to grow his role throughout the season.
The not ideal
While penalties from this team need to subside, they are not the reason that the Chargers lost this one in heartbreaking fashion. The simple fact that the upper limit of shots on net for this team was four is more indicative of the evening. While this team’s defense is growing, and producing some looks on offense for them, which Stockdale took advantage of tonight, it needs to generate more chances off sustained pressure, and force their opponents to defend for 30-60 seconds per shift compared to 10-15 that the Lakers had to do, for most of the game. Yes, the team needs to take less not-needed penalties, but that is not why they lost tonight.
This game of college hockey, and sport in general has in and of itself, its own myopic bias. How my team did in the last game is its best indicator of how it will do. Alabama Huntsville Hockey is beyond that. A team composed of 14 freshmen was able to skate end to end with the number 20 ranked team in the country. In addition, this team scored first once again. UAH can put teams on their heels and make them react and adjust. Consistently, when was that last time UAH fans could say that about this group. The results are not there for them yet, but this team and staff are firm believers in one philosophy. They know that to make your own luck, you have to put yourself in a competitive spot. They did that tonight for most of the game, and have scored first at least once in the past few series after coming back off their pandemic pause.
If you want a longer term trend to watch, how often they are scoring first is one for you. Also remember, that this is all happening with 13 players that did not think they would be on the Huntsville campus until June or later. While everyone wants the results to come, this staff is building a new foundation on a better process. Games like the one tonight give everyone with this program a reminder, that the hill back to where this program, and school want to go takes time, has good moments, and bad, and your response to them, is what matters more.
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