NMU 8 UAH 2: Beyond the box score

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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UAH wins an overtime thriller 5-4: Now What?

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tonight, the Von Braun Center was rocking from start to finsh, as the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville were able to come back to tie the game with 2.4 seconds left on a Ben Allen put back on a rebound from a Quinn Green shot to send the game into overtime. In the extra stanza, Dayne Finnson rocketed home a top corner snipe to send the socially distanced crowd home happy, and put a stamp on one of the most intense games of this pandemic-altered season.

After all of that, there is plenty to consider, and while UAH did win, we think the staff will have some things they would like to chat with the team about before the finale. Remember that, tonight, in terms of time of possesion and shot attempts from dangerous areas, the Chargers not only did better, but found a way to answer adversity. This fact will serve them well as the season marches forward.

The Good

Well, the speed of the Chargers was on full display tonight. Tyrone Bronte was an absolute rocket on the ice, and he was not the only Charger that was able to get in behind a very physical Ferris State team that capitalized on chances they had. Bronte himself picked up a power play goal on a nice setup from Lucas Bahn. Bronte was able to get in between a big Ferris State penalty kill and tip the puck past Logan Stein, who showed why he was a goalie for Team USA at the World Junior Championship this year. Stein finished with 40 saves on the evening, including many grade-a looks. In terms of how hard the Chargers made a goalie work, this was their best outing of the year.

In addition, we were heartened to see Drew Lennon get his first goal as a junior for this team. He, like many in his class, could have gone elsewhere but he choose to come back and buy in to this new staff’s program, and had a key goal and two assists. Along with scoring his first goal as a Charger, he exceeded both of his previous individual seasons’ point totals in one game tonight with three.

To us, multiple people stood out, but Bronte, Lennon, and Dayne Finnson all stood out tonight. His winner was one of the most effective shots on net the Chargers have had all year on a tough angle against a superb goalie. He deserves all the credit in the world for his effort. Also, on the heels of a good weekend against Michigan Tech we will highlight the effort and speed of Quinn Green, on the equalizer by Ben Allen, it was Green’s speed and pass that sprung Allen for the look that provided the equalizer.

What to watch for

While the Chargers had the better time on attack, possession, and shots on net, we still want to point out a few areas we feel confident in saying that after the euphoria of today abates, that the coaches may adress with this group. First off, two penalties happened away from the play or not during its run that gave Ferris State more time on the extra man, and some five-on-three time. We are pretty positive neither Connor Witherspoon or Connor Wood meant to end up in the box for their faceoff delay, and roughing penalties, but it happened. Luckily the penalty kill of Karlis Zirnis killed off both looks there, but the point will probably be driven home some more in some way tomorrow.

Finally, for how important the system is to this team, it got away from it at points. Other than the first look which was a seeing-eye marker from Antonio Venuto, nearly every other goal from Ferris State came on a defensive zone breakdown that gave the Bulldogs more time and space in front of the net.

With all of this said, the page turns to tomorrow night, and the Chargers must be ready for a determined opponent that wants its first win. Ferris State, especially Stein will be ready, how will these Chargers react to playing after a win? Tomorrow will be the first chance they have to answer that question.

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Tyrone Bronte: Humble on a Rollercoaster

(Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics)

Alabama Huntsville Hockey center Tyrone Bronte is relatively unique to Men’s College Hockey. He hails from Melbourne, Australia and is one of the few players from down under to play at the Division One level.

With that said, his story of how he got to Huntsville given the unique circumstances of the program, combined with just coming to America this fall make it more exceptional. Through all that Fiona and Paul, his parents have sacrificed and gone through for Tyrone and his brother Declan to play ice hockey, Tyrone, like a lot of hockey players we know, is incredibly humble and happy to be where he is. in fact, he is so humble, he did not even realized he was named the Hockey Commissioner’s Association Rookie of the Month that he did not even know what the award was at first. It took some of his teammates saying congratulations twice for him to get that he was WCHA and National Rookie of the Month, which he first learned about on twitter. Bronte also takes that humility off the ice as well. When asked which of the eight Chargers that play Fortnite is the best, he deferred to his roommate, and NAHL teammate, Adrian Danchenko.

Tyrone’s upbringing around the game we go, ice hockey in Melbourne is not very common, and his parents worked hard to get him and Declan involved in many sports growing up. Around the time Tyrone was seven, he and his brother received roller skates on Christmas Eve, and his family went roller skating and got to a skate park the next day. He soon saw people playing roller hockey, was asked to join, and he did. He worked his way up over time, before making the natural jump to ice hockey. Bronte worked his way up in roller and ice hockey and kept being asked to play at the next level, including playing for his country.

He did play three games for the Omaha Lancers two seasons ago, but has spent most of his past two seasons in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights organization in the North American Hockey League where he met Danchenko. During that time he put up 116 points in 155 games and finished his junior career leading the Knights as their Captain.

Bronte’s story of how he got to Huntsville is all too uncommon. To start, he did not even have the Chargers on his radar when the program was cut before being reinstated. He started following the #SaveUAHhockey campaign “purely out of hoping my friend (Danchenko) had a place to play.” As more of the original class went elsewhere after the folding and reinstatement of the program, more spots opened up. Head Coach Lance West then proceeded to call Bronte at the beginning of June without ever seeing him play in person. He noted that the staff likes the speed he plays with, but that to earn a spot in the lineup that he would have to show his skills as a Charger. He was offered fairly quickly and both sides took a leap of faith. The first four games, where Bronte is playing as a point-per-game player shows how correct both sides were. His speed with the puck and ability to generate instant offense is essential to the long-term success of this group.

All of that effort was just to get Bronte an offer and a spot on a Division One Team. Fast forward to about the time where school was starting, and the Melbourne native was in Melbourne waiting to get an interview at the US Consulate to get an interview to come over. He was looking at starting in the winter due to the long wait time for his Visa interview at the Consulate because it was closed. However, special exemptions for athletes were allowed, and because of that Tyrone got his interview and was planning to leave the next week for the start of American University. A week later, he had not received his passport with his visa, and the day of his flight was at hand. His family and him went to a processing center where his passport was. He found it in the sprawling shipping complex with some help, and got on the plane to Huntsville that day.

Since coming to Huntsville, Tyrone has come to like the area quite a lot. He complimented the look of the entire city, especially the downtown area around the Von Braun Center, and campus. Bronte stressed throughout this interview how happy and fortunate he considers himself to be a member of the Herd, and how much his parents have done to get him here.

He noted that his parents have not gotten to see him play in person very much, and hopes to be able to play in the Australian Ice Hockey League this summer for his hometown Melbourne Ice. That is really the only place he can train over the summer at home, and the only way for him to get competitive games in. If he can get clarity as to an amateur status of the league from the NCAA he will suit up again for the Ice, pending review from the NCAA.

His brother Declan is a couple years younger than him and has 8 points in 12 games for the Connecticut Chiefs of the EHL. There is an outside chance the two could play together or against each other in a few years. As to that Tyron and Declan playing together, the best chance of that is with the Ice if allowed. Tyrone noted that his mom Fiona would probably not be able to stop herself from crying if the two could play together in front of them. As it is, both of his parents watch when they can on FloHockey, with Tyrone’s dad Paul offering some occasional feedback to him from the other side of the world. Bronte laughed mentioning this, because his parents have limited viewing of hockey. Both his parents and his brother are proud of Tyrone’s ability to maintain that humility on the rollercoaster of a year he has had.

Going forward relating to the Chargers’ projected finish in the WCHA Bronte simply had this to say, “we’re going to surprise some people.”

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell