FSU hockey opens season with pair of losses to Alabama-Huntsville

UP THE ICE: Ferris State University forward Drew Dorantes (8) skates the puck into the offensive zone against the University of Alabama-Huntsville on Sunday. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

UP THE ICE: Ferris State University forward Drew Dorantes (8) skates the puck into the offensive zone against the University of Alabama-Huntsville on Sunday. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

BIG RAPIDS — University of Alabama-Huntsville’s hockey team was picked to finish ninth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll.

 The Chargers, however, made an early statement on Sunday, defeating the defending WCHA tournament champions Ferris State University 4-3 on Sunday at Ewigleben Ice Arena to complete a weekend sweep.

 FSU senior forward Gerald Mayhew’s second goal of the game pulled FSU within one with 2 minutes, 37 seconds remaining, but the Bulldogs could not equalize with the goalie pulled.

 The Chargers, who defeated the Bulldogs 2-1 in both team’s season-opener Saturday, turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the second period with a pair of goals on special teams. Brent Fletcher scored shorthanded nine minutes in, and Max McHugh scored his second goal of the year on the power play six minutes later.

 “One of the things that was really painful was the shorthanded goal we gave up,” FSU head coach Bob Daniels said. “I thought there was a real lackadaisical effort on the part of our players out there on the power play. Give them credit, they worked really hard on that and that player worked really hard to score that goal, but really had some disappointment with the casualness of the way that happened. That really sucked a lot of the wind out of our sails as a team. I thought it was a big momentum changer right there.”

 Brennan Saulnier gave UAH a two-goal cushion early in the third period, scoring on a feed from Josh Kestner on a 2-on-1.

 “The third period probably was the worst period of the weekend for us,” Daniels said. “I felt we turned over an awful lot of pucks. We were casual with things until the moment of urgency set in with about four minutes to go in the period. The turnovers, the casualness with the pucks wasn’t very good. It’s something we have to get better at.”

 Daniels attributed some of his team’s mistakes to a young lineup, but also praised the play of the Chargers.

 “I like their team,” he said. “I liked their play. I thought they played very cohesive, meaning they had good connection with their defensemen and forwards. I thought they were on task, had their gameplan and played it well.”

 The Bulldogs had three freshmen starting on defense.

 “I did see some real encouraging things this weekend, as strange as that might sound,” Daniels said. “But there are some areas that are going to need some attention. I do like our team a lot; it’s probably just going to take a little more time and effort to get where we want to be than what we anticipated from the start.”

 FSU jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when forward Tyler Andrew scored on the power play at the 10:45 mark of the first period.

 After the Chargers equalized midway through the first period, Mayhew, who led the WCHA in scoring last season, scored 36 seconds into the second period for a 2-1 lead.

 “I thought we played really well in the first period,” Daniels said. “I thought we were on our game, played with energy, and as the game went on, I think that slipped a bit.”

 FSU hosts Western Michigan University on Thursday. Daniels said he expects changes to the lineup.

 “There is going to be lineup changes, and it will probably be pretty consistent through the first half as we search for the right things,” he said. “I really think this is going to be a dynamic lineup in a constant state of flux as we grind through, trying to find some real good chemistry. But we have a ways to go.”

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Posted by Ryan Zuke

Ryan is the sports editor for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering local prep sports and Ferris State athletics. He can be contacted at (231) 592-8363 or rzuke@pioneergroup.com.

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