(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)
The University of Alabama Huntsville Chargers (UAH) have improved from their campaign last season, already. Now, they have not won a game yet, but the first three games of this team have shown progression and an ability to fight back that we have not seen at this scale since we started covering them. The Chargers coming back from a two goal deficit to earn their first point of the season is a big step. How they played against the Lake Superior State Lakers today shows there is more to come.
Let’s run through the game first. A Yuki Miura shot leading to a Miroslav Mucha tap in put the Lakers up 1-0 in the first period. 20 seconds after that marker, Chase Gamelin wired home a superb shot from around the top of the right circle past UAH netminder David Fessenden to make it a 2-0 Laker lead in the first. The Lakers were the better team in the first, and even through that, the Chargers began to show their system a bit more than in their Friday night affair with a physical Robert Morris squad from a few weeks ago.
In the second, the period was the Chargers’ to utilize, and make good use of it they did. Adrian Danchenko put home a rebound for his first goal of the season 4:30 into the second to make it a one goal marker. The sophomore forward did not score his first goal as a freshman until his ninth game of the year last season, and already has equaled his goal total from a year ago. Away from the puck, Danchenko played with a strong physical consistency that helped his line push things to the good. 1:09 after the first goal, the reigning WCHA, and Hockey Commissioners’ Association’s Rookie of the Month, Tyrone Bronte found his way to the front of the net on the power play. He tapped home a rebound with traffic around him to tie the game and provide the final 2-2 margin.
On this goal the Melbourne, Australia native went from the North American Hockey League to being the top line center for the Chargers to start the season and has not looked out of place. His line faced off against Miura’s line all night and was up to the task for matching their speed and grit. The Lakers won what hopes to be a meaningless shootout. Multiple reports indicate that should future WCHA games be canceled, the shootouts done in non conference play would then count for standings, so the shootout will hopefully not mean much.
What does this mean now?
Well, the ten minute stretch in the second where the Chargers were running things was the best singular stretch of hockey this team has played in a while. They were able to overcome a less than ideal start and exert their will a bit on the game. This game also showed the value of David Fessenden. Several times in the first and third, he was there when needed and read second chance looks well. He showed the same skill in making 25 saves as many Charger goalies have had to show making 40 or more in a game. That means fundamentally, we see a future for Fessenden, and a better one when this team plays their aggressive system around him and limits good looks.
In addition, Bronte and this freshmen class make this team eons faster than what left the ice in Huntsville last February. Bronte often times against the teams Huntsville needs to beat to ensure a postseason place if one is played will be the fastest player on the ice. His ability to get to the net and distribute is something that will only grow over time, especially as a graduate of the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Knights program, one known for developing skill and speed driven players ready to work towards their NHL dream in college hockey.
Another thing to keep in mind for this team in the short run is finishing this week strong. This Lakers team will finish higher than their picked station because of their system, structure, and goaltending. We have covered their goaltender Mareks Mitens since 2016 and have not seen a more unheralded goalie do so much for his team as he did a year ago. He set records on his way to nearly willing his team past a Bemidji State side capable of competing for a national championship. In addition, every year we have seen the Lakers, their speed gets better to compliment their physical defense.
The Chargers have all of those elements in place, and need to come out of the gate a bit better in their last two non conference games against the Lakers and Bulldogs of Ferris State to showcase what the Rocket City has been waiting awhile to see. This team has already done some to delete the past, and setting the tone of more of their games rather than answering it needs to be next on their to-do list.
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