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After losing six straight games on the road against Western Collegiate Hockey Association powers, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers returned to the friendly confines of the Von Braun Center. It was “Sweet Home Alabama” indeed, as the Chargers’ offense finally got untracked to defeat the visiting Air Force Falcons 4-2 in front of 3,074 fans.
Tom Starkey started the scoring in the game after intercepting an errant pass from the Chargers’ Steve Milosevski in open ice and putting the puck past senior goaltender Mark Byrne at 2:58 of the first period.
The Chargers knotted the score when Keith Rowe put home a rebound past junior goalie Mike Polidor after a scramble in front of the net. Gerald Overton and Jackson Harren provided assists to Rowe in the scramble.
After that, it was the Joel Bresciani Show, as the senior right wing scored three unanswered goals. The Chargers took their first lead when Bresciani put in his own rebound stick-side past Polidor after Jason Hawes and Doug Watkins made passes to put Bresciani in position to score.
The gritty senior took a shot to the helmet late in the second period and needed six stitches in the second intermission to close a cut over his right eye, but the incident seemed to ignite his play, as Bresciani crashed the net and redirected hard slapshots from freshman defensemen Jeremy Schreiber [3:21] and Jeff Winchester [10:16] in the third period.
The hat trick was the first of Bresciani’s career.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s the first time in a long time to get a hat trick, let alone two goals in a game. The guys were playing strong tonight, and things went my way. I got lucky.”
Scott Zwiers closed out the scoring when a puck popped up off the back of the net, lofted over the crossbar, and settled in the crease. Zwiers was the first player to see it, and he banged the puck home to take the game to 4-2. Air Force tried to get in position during the last two minutes to pull Polidor and get an extra skater on the ice, but the Chargers forechecked well and Polidor had to stay in his net.
UAH’s first win of the season came after a bye week, following a difficult series at Minnesota.
“We had two good weeks of practice coming into this one and built some confidence back. Coming back after the 12-1 loss on Friday [against Minnesota] and to come back to only lose 4-2 told us that we could play at that level,” Bresciani said.
“They came out with a lot more intensity tonight,” said Chargers coach Doug Ross. “They played well together, were hitting each other tape to tape on passes, and they were making the right decisions.”
Ross echoed Bresciani’s sentiment that the close game against Minnesota gave his team a boost. “I think that 4-2 game demonstrated to them that they can play at that level. They know now that they have to play with that kind of composure and intelligence every game, because every opponent is going to be good in Division I. The guys went out and played the kind of game they need to play.”
The two teams play again on Saturday night at 7:05 at the Von Braun Center.