PLYMOUTH, Mich. — After Wayne State jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period, Alabama-Huntsville did the Warriors two better, putting up a five-spot in the second period en route to a nail-biting 6-5 win Sunday afternoon at the Compuware Sports Arena on Wayne State’s Senior Day.
Lone WSU senior John Grubb was honored in a pregame ceremony, but didn’t play due to injury.
Seldom-used freshman goaltender Marc Narduzzi, in just his third game of the season, replaced UAH starter Scott Munroe to start the second period for the Chargers and found out in so many words from head coach Doug Ross what was expected.
“Coach came up to me and said, ‘You’re going in. No more goals,’” Narduzzi said. “I was more anxious than nervous for the first 10 minutes or so, but after I made a couple saves I felt more relaxed and when we scored five, that certainly helped out. We depend on Scotty for a lot, but this just wasn’t his night.”
The Warriors tied the game in the third, but Charger senior co-captain Jared Ross scored the game-winner at 13:32, just 22 seconds after Dan Iliakis made it 5-5 for WSU.
“The past couple years we haven’t had a lot of momentum heading into the CHA tournament,” said Jared Ross. “Hopefully this win will carry over.”
Tylor Michel’s power-play goal at 5:09 of the first period got Wayne State on the board first. Iliakis took the shot that Munroe stopped, but the rebound squirted free to his right and Michel was there for the easy tap.
Nate Higgins then made it a two-goal lead at 10:59. Just three seconds after a WSU power play expired, Higgins ripped a Michel pass just inside the far post on Munroe.
Jason Bloomingburg’s school-record 19th goal of the season at 14:50 capped off the first period scoring spree. Adam Krug won an offensive zone draw back to Matt Boldt, who wired a shot at the net that Bloomingburg tipped past Munroe. With the goal, Bloomingburg broke Dusty Kingston’s season record of 18 goals set in 2000-2001.
“It’s a good personal accomplishment,” said Bloomingburg. “But in a perfect world we would have won the game, too.”
Doug Watkins scored his first of the season at 2:24 on a shot from just inside the blue line that Wayne State goalie Will Hooper never saw. Tyler Hilbert’s shot caromed off Hooper’s pads right to Watkins, who walked into a slapshot.
Jeremy Schreiber’s power-play goal 32 seconds later brought the Chargers to within 3-2. Hooper was again screened and Schreiber’s low shot eluded Hooper glove side. Dominik Rozman tied the game at 13:21 on a goalmouth scramble with Hooper down and out.
Then on a delayed penalty to Wayne State forward Mike Forgie and Narduzzi on the bench for the extra skater, David Nimmo took a pass from Keith Rowe behind the net and jammed it past Hooper on the short side.
Steve Canter’s redirection at 17:02 off a Jeff Winchester point shot ended the period 5-3 in UAH’s favor.
“We came out brain dead in the second is the only way to describe it,” Warriors head coach Bill Wilkinson said. “We took too many penalties and when you’re playing a team with a power play like Huntsville’s, those penalties are costly.”
Bloomingburg one-timed a Michel pass past a sliding Narduzzi for his second of the game at 6:50 of the third period and then Iliakis finished off a 2-on-1 with Jason Baclig at 13:10.
“The first goal, I got caught with my stick behind me and wasn’t quick enough going side to side,” explained Narduzzi. “The second one I just overcommitted to the shooter and I knew I was beat.”
Just 22 seconds later, Ross beat two WSU players to the puck and walked in on Hooper for the game-winner.
“It was 4-on-4 and (Craig) Bushey made a good play getting the puck in,” Ross said. “It was hopping around and I read that. I got there ahead of two guys and went in and got off a quick shot. It’s a good feeling for sure.”
Hooper was on the bench for the final 1:13, but WSU could not get the equalizer. Stavros Paskaris hit the post and also had another pass go over his stick in tight on Narduzzi in the waning seconds.
Narduzzi finished with 24 saves while Munroe stopped 10. Hooper made 34 stops.
The Chargers (17-9-4, 14-5-1 CHA) finish in second place in the CHA and receive a bye into the semi-finals of the league tournament next weekend in Grand Rapids, Minn., to play the winner of the Niagara-Robert Morris quarterfinal Saturday afternoon.
Wayne State (14-16-4, 7-9-4 CHA) ends in fourth spot in the conference and plays Air Force in the second quarterfinal Friday. The winner of that game takes on regular-season champion Bemidji State — possibly without Andrew Murray, who suffered a broken collarbone Saturday — in the second game Saturday night.
The CHA finals are Sunday night at 7:05 p.m. with the winner gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.