Gerald Overton scored the game winning goal with :58 left in overtime to lead the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers over the eighth-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs, 5-4, at the UConn Classic.
Alabama-Huntsville scored the opening goal when Karlis Zirnis put back a rebound from a Jared Ross shot past the outstretched pad of Bulldog goaltender Mike Brown.
Ferris State answered with three straight goals. Captain Troy Milam scored a power-play marker when a Jeff Legue rebound skittered into open ice and he jumped into the play, lifting the puck over the blocker of Charger goalie Scott Munroe to even the score at one.
The Chargers missed an opportunity to go up 2-1 when Zirnis passed on an open net. “Karlis had an open net and didn’t shoot the puck,” Charger coach Doug Ross said, “and that was a big turn for us. We could have gone up by one, but they came back and scored and went up by one.”
The Bulldogs played excellent transitional hockey, with Greg Rallo putting a shot high glove-side past Munroe after the Bulldog defense cleared the puck out following Zirnis’ mental mistake. Simon Mangos found a streaking Rallo to put the Bulldogs ahead by one.
The transition game continued as the Bulldogs’ Derek Nesbitt flipped a pass from the defensive zone into neutral ice, where a streaking Jeff Legue skated through four Charger defenders to put the puck past Munroe.
“We had a little spell there late in the first period,” Ross said. “They got another quick one there, but we went into the locker room with confidence, because we didn’t play that bad in the first period. Then we came out and played catch-up hockey in the second period.”
The Chargers certainly did that, scoring three straight goals of their own in the second. Ryan Leasa scored a breakaway shorthander when solid point defensive coverage from Karlis Zirnis and Steve Charlebois freed up the puck for the senior defenseman to skate into the Ferris zone unmolested.
The assist gave Zirnis 100 points on his career, the first Charger to reach that plateau in the program’s Division I era.
The Chargers tied the game at three thanks to strong cycling by the second line. Sophomore Jared Ross flipped the puck to Craig Bushey, who tried to chop it down past Brown. Brown made the save, but the rebound flipped out to Zirnis, who found Ross on the weak side staring at an open net.
The Chargers went ahead when Leasa scored his second of the game on a power-play marker. Leasa uncharacteristically jumped up into the play, putting home a puck sitting in open ice after Charlebois and Jason Hawes failed to score. The marker came with just :23 left in the second period.
The two teams skated around in the third, with opportunities for each team going down to solid goaltender play from Munroe and Brown. Derrick McIver scored on a wraparound goal after Phil Lewandowski’s shot went wide into the end boards. McIver beat Munroe to the post at 11:19 of the third period.
In the five-minute overtime, the teams nearly skated their way into a shootout, but Overton picked up a rebound after linemates Keith Rowe and Mike Funk had worked their way into the slot in front of Brown. Overton fired the puck into the back of the net and was mobbed by his teammates at center ice.
Of the goal, Overton said, “That was all Funky and Rosy. They got in there and were banging away and the puck just came to me.”
Ross said that he already had his shooters selected, but wouldn’t reveal who was on the list, except to acknowledge, “Overton was certainly on there.”
The Chargers will face CHA foe Findlay in the tournament final at approximately 5:15 p.m. ET at the UConn Ice Arena Monday. Ferris State will play host Connecticut in the 2 p.m. consolation game. The matchup between Findlay and Alabama-Huntsville will not count in the CHA standings.