HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — While the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers are threatening to finish with their worst record ever in Division I play and perhaps with the fewest wins in a season in team history, the 2007-08 home slate ended well in Huntsville with the home team earning a 4-3 win and split with No. 20 Niagara University in front of 2,251 at the Von Braun Center.
The Chargers’ defense actually carried the team to victory, as sophomore Brennan Barker netted two goals, including the game winner.
“Niagara makes it pretty hard for defensemen to put pucks in the net,” Alabama-Huntsville coach Danton Cole said. “They do a pretty good of blocking up perimeter shots, and they also cover up the back side where the ‘D’ can sneak in and do a good job.”
Niagara carried the scoring early, as Matt Caruana scored on a power play opportunity with just over two minutes left in the first period, and speedy teammate Brian Haczyk netting the Purple Eagles’ second goal
with just a hair over two minutes gone in the second.
“Barker’s first goal was a pretty hard shot,” Cole remarked of the defenseman’s hard blast from the left point past Niagara netminder Juliano Pagliero, who shut out the Chargers the previous night.
Tom Train put the Chargers even at two just past the halfway point of the game.
“You can see why we’ve missed him in the lineup,” Cole said about his recently-injured forward. “He’s kind of a sloppy player, but he gets in there and skates hard and hits guys. He’s always scoring goals and going to the net, and he’s great in the locker room.”
Niagara had a good bit of jump early in the third, capped off by Ryan Annesley’s power-play goal just over six minutes into the third period, which quieted the home crowd a bit. Annesley’s effort ensured that the Purple Eagles finished the night perfect on the power play, making the Chargers pay for both penalties they took.
Cole was happy with how his charges responded to Annesley putting the visitors up 3-2.
“There’s not a lot of quit in them. We’re slowly getting stuff and putting ourselves in position to win games. This is our best win of the year; those guys are ranked No. 20 in the nation and had only lost eight games all year.”
The Chargers were playing with a short bench all night, as assistant captain Josh Murray got injured on his first shift, leaving the team short a center.
“It was a real good test for us against a great team,” Cole said. “We ended up shortening ourselves to three lines and spotting the other two guys out there, but we just had to suck it up and go.”
Freshman Joey Koudys worked a puck through traffic and netted his second career goal to tie the game at three.
“Joey is just skating well right now and attacking. He’s not letting the game come to him, and he’s earned extra ice time and is killing penalties for us.”
Of Barker’s game-winner, Cole stated, “It was just moving the puck and flopping it on night. Some nights, like last night, you can’t get a shot through to the net, and tonight, we were getting the breaks.”
Barker’s shot came in through traffic again from the left point, and looked to be intended more for redirection than a goal, but put the Chargers up by one with 3:45 to play. Despite pulling Pagliero for an extra attacker with over a minute left, the home team reined victorious.
The two teams each face the Colonials of Robert Morris University next. Niagara hosts RMU next weekend, while the Chargers travel to Pittsburgh after a week off.