The 2,436 fans in attendance would be forgiven for needing programs to remember their beloved Chargers’ names, as two months had passed since the last time Alabama-Huntsville had donned the home whites and skated the ice at the Von Braun Center. The Chargers used the momentum picked up in the consolation game of the Badger Classic to prevail over College Hockey America opponent Robert Morris, 5-2.
Andrew Coburn helped the Chargers pick up the early lead by working on Wes Russell’s doorstep to take a couple crisp passes and put the puck in the back of the net at 1:47 of the first period.
The last five minutes of the first started the regular delivery of players to the penalty box, as three Colonials picked up penalties inside of two minutes. Matt Sweazey capitalized on the two-man advantage, putting his team up two with his first of two power-play goals on the night by
roofing the puck on a low-angle shot after Cody Campbell pushed the puck through traffic.
“Our power play was really working well tonight,” Sweazey said.
Campbell then led off scoring in the second period, having assisted on both of the Chargers’ first two markers. On the next shift, the regular progression of matching minors began as tensions, always high between the two schools, began to boil over. The physical play carried on into the third period, with Tom Train taking his third penalty of the night for contact to the head at 12:18.
Colonials coach Derek Schooley pulled his netminder, and his charges used the two-man advantage to solve Blake MacNicol, who stopped 25 shots on the night. The Colonials broke the ice when Kyle Burton redirected a shot from Nathan Longpre that looked to be going wide by placing his shaft in the puck’s trajectory, pushing it just inside the post to give his team new life at 13:06 of the third.
The Colonials took the momentum and skated hard on the next shift, with Stefan Lachapelle working the puck past MacNicol just 19 seconds later, bringing his team to within one.
“After their second goal,” Sweazey said. “We just got together on the bench and Coach [Cole] reminded us that we’d had the rest of the game, and two quick ones didn’t change that. We settled down and just went back to work.”
Sweazey was the recipient of that hard work, as the defensemen on his power play unit moved the puck near the blue line just as Chris Kushneriuk came back on the ice to have the Colonials only down one man.
With the Colonials working to get into a four-man penalty kill, Sweazey was able to slip behind the defense and take a pass from captain Scott Kalinchuk and again find the top of the netting behind Russell. When asked why the 5’10” Coburn was planted in front of Russell while the 6’1″ Sweazey was working the wings with Campbell, Sweazey stated, “Coby is one strong kid. He just gets himself planted in there and you can’t move him. He does so many little things without the puck that he makes it really easy to play with him.”
The Colonials got a brief spark on the next shift, as former Colonial Joe Federoff took a hooking penalty just nine seconds after Sweazey’s second tally to put his old squad on their eighth power play of the evening.
Schooley again pulled Russell, but solid puck movement by the Chargers on the penalty kill, especially strong faceoff wins, allowed the home team to work the puck out of their end twice despite the two-man disadvantage, with Josh Murray eventually lofting the puck into the empty net with just 23 seconds left on the clock.
Danton Cole was pleased with his team’s effort after the game.
“The power play was good, the penalty kill was great. Our level of effort was there, and we kept our heads in the game, but make no mistake, Derek’s team will come back out tomorrow and work even harder to pick up a win if they can get it.”
The two teams face off at 3:05 p.m. Saturday in the second of four CHA contests between the two in Huntsville this season.