Minnesota State kicked off their season with a fairly dominating 4-1 victory over Alabama-Huntsville, led by a hat trick and four point night from Chase Grant. Grant was playing in his first game since returning from hip surgery, which forced him to take a medical redshirt last season.
But the biggest star of the night may have been the fans of Alabama-Huntsville. This was an important weekend for the Chargers because it will be the only one all season that UAH will play at home against Division I competition. Add in that they were playing a team from the conference they are desperately trying to get into, and that officials from the WCHA were reportedly on hand in Huntsville to take in the weekend, and a good showing by their fanbase was absolutely critical.
The Chargers' fans responded with an impressive announced attendance of 5106. Now that number may be a little skewed because UAH was literally giving away tickets for free to get people into the building, but gives a good representation of what the potential market at least looks like. By comparison, my unofficial searching found Minnesota State was the only new WCHA team to crack 4000 in attendance for a home game last year, and they just barely did that. The large majority of new WCHA home games last year seemed to be in the low 3000 range.
There's still going to be issues with UAH that people don't like. There's never going to be a way to get Alabama closer to the upper Midwest. But tonight sent a pretty strong statement that if college hockey gives Alabama-Huntsville a fair shot, and gives their fans something to cheer for, their fans will show up in more than adequate numbers. This Friday night will hopefully be remembered as the night UAH lost a game, but saved their program.