SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The sign in front of the Taffy Abel Arena should have read “Welcome to the Jared Ross show.”
Ross notched a hat trick, and linemate Bruce Mulherin added two goals as the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (9-5-4, 6-1-1 CHA) shut out the Lake Superior Lakers (7-12-3, 6-6-2 CCHA) by a score of 5-0.
After being held to just one shot and one goal Friday night, UAH’s high-powered line of Ross, Mulherin and Bushey scored five goals on just 14 shots.
“Tonight, we tried to use our speed a little bit more and started to work together a little better,” said Ross. “Last night they did a good job of shutting us down.”
Ross’ last goal, a 5-on-3 power-play marker, was the best example of how the Chargers’ speed did in the Lakers. Ross took the puck over the blue line, skated around a Laker defender, put the puck on net and scored on his own rebound.
“We struggled, and a lot of it was due to Ross,” said Laker head coach Frank Anzalone. “He’s a dominant player and he broke us apart.”
Keeping it simple is how the Chargers scored their first goal, which ended up being the game-winner. 23 seconds into their first power play, defensemen Jeremy Schreiber fed Mulherin in the slot where he fired the puck past Jeff Jakaitis to put UAH up for good, Mulherin’s 15th goal of the season.
“That’s been our production line all year,” said Charger skipper Doug Ross, referring not only to Mulherin, Ross and Bushey but Schreiber and Jeff Winchester as well. “They work really well together, especially on the power play.”
Alabama-Huntsville goaltender saved 36 shots in recording his 25th career victory. “It’s a great confidence booster for us,” said Jared Ross. “They couldn’t get anything past him. If he keeps on playing like that, we’re going to be unstoppable.”
Doug Ross had similar praise for his goaltender. “He had a great weekend,” said the coach. “He’s been playing better every week, and this is probably his best series of the year.”
Lake Superior, whose players where larger but slower, had a difficult time dealing with the Chargers’ physical, fast style.
“I think we are having trouble adjusting to the Bemidjis and the St. Lawrences that play a physical style of hockey,” said Anzalone, referring to the Lakers’ 1-6-1 non-conference record. “We have trouble playing teams that hit us. If this were a CCHA game, there could have been 20 power plays for both teams.”
The Lakers, who before this weekend had the fewest penalty minutes in the country, had 100 penalty minutes issued to them this weekend. Seventy penalty minutes were issued for a brawl after last night’s 3-3 tie, and tonight were issued 26 minutes on nine penalties, with Alex Dunn receiving 16 minutes including a 10-minute misconduct for goaltender interference.
“The guys were upset — and they had the right to be upset,” said Anzalone. “We played lousy. What [our team] did was they stretched our discipline just an ounce to let Alabama know, ‘Hey, listen. We’re not very good, but at least we’re trying to show you that we’re tough.’”
With Saturday’s victory, Alabama-Huntsville improved its non-conference record to 3-4-3 and extended their unbeaten streak to four games. “The guys are pretty happy right now, and I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said Doug Ross. The Chargers travel back to Alabama to take on CHA-leading Bemidji State. Currently, the Beavers lead the Chargers by three points.
The Lakers return to CCHA action next weekend when they travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. The two teams are tied for sixth place, and the matchup will be important in determining home-ice advantage in the CCHA playoffs.