HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Three power-play goals from the team’s top scoring line pushed the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers past longtime rival Bemidji State, 4-2, in front of a crowd of 3,474 at the Von Braun Center for UAH’s Division I home opener.
The teams skated evenly through the first period, each team killing off two penalties while generally testing the other’s style of play for weaknesses. The penalty boxes were consistently full, when three penalties in the first four minutes led to a power-play tally for each side.
Matt Sweazey banged home a rebound from teammate Cody Campbell’s stick to put the home team up by one just two minutes into the stanza. After the ceremonial tossing of a catfish on the home ice was cleaned up, the Chargers played charitable hosts, with Neil Ruffini going to the box five seconds after the faceoff followed by Joe Federoff just a minute later. Cody Bostock fired home a shot from the right circle on the ensuing 5-on-3 Beaver power play to knot the score at one.
After the early scoring flurry, the teams both seemed to lose direction, as the game lost all flow in either direction.
“We both just seemed to hit a lull in there, not able to get much of anything done, Sweazey remarked after the game.
The third period proved more exciting, with the Beavers coming out of the second intermission with a lot of energy. Graham McManamin joined his fellow blueliner in tallying a goal by twisting a wrister from just inside the blue line that went past Blacke MacNicol’s stick side.
But the Chargers didn’t get down on themselves.
“We felt that we were still in it and could hang with them,” noted Sweazey.
The junior made that statement true by knotting the game at two off a stellar feed from Andrew Coburn, who found his teammate posted on the weak side of the Beaver PK.
“Coby’s been working on that in practice, and I knew he’d either throw it back to Campbell or hit me on the post, said Sweazey. When I saw him flick it my way, I knew we had it.”
Coburn got into the goal column on the Chargers’ next man advantage after defenseman Tom Durnie flung the puck in deep past Beaver netminder Matt Dalton, who went out to handle the puck only to see it ricochet off of a seam in the end boards and right to Coburn’s stick blade.
“That was a gift right there,” Charger coach Danton Cole said. “After we got it tied up at two, Bemidji was just coming at us fast and hard and really bringing it to us, and then we get this crazy bounce.”
Neil Ruffini added the insurance goal with 88 seconds left when a turnover in the Beavers’ end found Dalton a bit out of position in trying to help his teammates, giving Ruffini a large swatch of net to aim at.
“That was just another lucky one,” Cole said, “but against a solid, grind-it-out team like Bemidji, we’ll take those bounces when they come to us. Give them a lot of credit for playing hard and really staying in it.”
The two teams reprise the rivalry at 7:05 p.m. CST at the Von Braun Center on Saturday night.