Series Preview: "Hockey Capital of the South" visits "Hobey Town, State of Hockey"

Alabama Huntsville treks as far northward as one can possibly do, without bypassing the city limits of Duluth of course, as the UMD Bulldogs host their first home series in two weeks.

I gotta be honest, I love Bama-Hunts.  I really don't understand who wouldn't want to go play college hockey while leaving the arena in shorts everyday, but to each his own I guess?

Photo: Brett Groehler - UMD

To a program who was supposedly shutting down, losing talented players (Clarke Saunders ring a bell?), and reversing the title back to a club team, they've came pretty far right?   But add in some administration changes, fund raising and talks with sponsors and just like that the UAH hockey program was dead and alive and the "Hockey Capital of the South" (Dubbed by Alabama Governor George Wallace) was freezing ice with temps well into the the 80's once again.

Plus, they're on the ballot to host the next outdoor hockey tournament!  Bama-Hunts wants to call it the "Gulf Shores Shiver".  Only without the shiver of course...  No I'm completely kidding.   But they have gone through many obsticles in the past few months, even being accepted into the WCHA for the 2013-'14 season.  Which not only allows them to be able to recruit better, but also have something to play for, say a MacNaughton Cup?  Or Broadmoor Trophy?  You get the picture.

Wait who's playing?

Well, it's safe to say Alabama Huntsville has had a rough season so far this year.  Being it was very late when they were trying to throw a schedule together, this team has only played 20 games against actual NCAA division 1 opponents, with Minnesota Duluth being their last series of the year.

Forward Jeff Vanderlugt leads the team with seven goals and 10 points, but Kyle Lysaght is right with him at 10 points as well.  Defenseman Greeme Strukoff has shown to have some offensive production as well with eight points on the season.

After losing someone by the name of Clarke Saunders to North Dakota, Bama-Hunts knew they'd have a little trouble finding a new goaltender.  While John Griggs isn't putting up Ryan Miller-like goalie statistics, he is holding his own in net for a team who refuses to fire on all cylinders.

Scoring Leaders:
Pos.
(GP) G-A-Pts.
Pts/G
Jeff Vanderlugt
F
(23) 7-3-10
0.43
Kyle Lysaght
F
(21) 5-5-10
0.48
Michael Webley
F
(23) 4-4-8
0.35
Graeme Strukoff
D
(23) 3-5-8
0.35
Frank Misuraca
D
(18) 2-4-6
0.33
Pos.
(GP) GAA/Sv%
Mins.
John Griggs
G
(19) 3.95/.894
988

It's hard to believe the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs took as many points on the road from Bemidji State as they did to arguably the best team in the country, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, last weekend.  With that being said, there are a couple things we can conclude when comparing the two weekends; first, our power play unit will struggle when there are certain players missing.  Caleb Herbert's injury stunned our power play, it's really that simple.  It's not that the replacement players don't deserve to be there or didn't play well, it's more chemistry of the players that have been playing in those places and know where to find others.  Much like how Austin Farley was able to spot himself correctly to earn a couple goals.

Matt McNeely had a hell of a weekend in Minneapolis, saving 67 of 73 shots throughout the weekend, and 38 of 40 shots on Saturday night.  I think it's safe to say McNeely will get the start against UAH on Friday night, and depending on the score and his perfomance, should get the start as well on Saturday.

Scoring Leaders:
Pos.
(GP) G-A-Pts.
Pts/G
Mike Seidel
F
(32) 13-14-27
0.84
Tony Cameranesi (TOR)
F
(32) 12-14-26
0.81
Austin Farley
F
(30) 13-11-24
0.80
Wade Bergman
D
(31) 2-13-15
0.48
Andy Welinski (ANA)
D
(32) 3-11-14
0.44
Pos.
(GP) GAA/Sv%
Mins.
Matt McNeely
G
(22) 2.70/.900
1311


Photo: Brett Groehler - UMD

Let's Compare:
Bulldogs
Chargers
10-17-5
...Overall...
3-19-1
8-13-5
WCHA
0-0-0
5-8-1
Home
2-2-1
5-7-4
Away
1-15-0
2.44
Avg. Offense
1.48
3.00
Avg. Defense
4.13
16.1
PIM/G
12.1
20.4%
Power Play
14.4%
81.0%
Penalty Kill
77.9%
33.2
Shots/G
24.5
27.2
Opponent S/G
36.0

The Verdict:

Well on paper, everything points to the Bulldogs finishing off their non-conference season schedule with a sweep.  After last weekend especially, you'd assume that if this team could skate with the best in the country, how couldn't they prove to be dominant over a team who has a single road win all year?  Well, remember, with a young team comes inconsistency.  Put that into play and we have a whole different ballgame ladies and gentlemen.

Now this is college hockey and anything can happen, we all know that.  I'm hoping for a home sweep to propel the Pups into their final weekend at home against Nebraska Omaha, but anything could happen!

I'll see y'all there.

Enjoy.

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