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Alabama-Huntsville Off to Hot Start

There have only been five official games in the men’s college hockey season so far, but we already have our first major surprise. Alabama-Huntsville, picked by myself and nearly everyone else to finish near the bottom of the WCHA, traveled to Big Rapids and swept a pair of games against Ferris State, picked by many to contend with the top of the WCHA.

It’s tough to draw too many conclusions off of just two games, but even just winning those two games are a big deal for Alabama-Huntsville. Two wins matches their season-long win total for both the 2013-2014 and 2011-2012 seasons. It’s also the first time the Chargers have started a season with two consecutive wins since the 2001-2002 season, in which they swept a pair of games against Bentley. Two road wins is significant too. The Chargers haven’t won more than three games on the road in a single season since 2009-2010.

The way the Chargers won is worth noting too. Senior goalie Carmine Guerriero will miss the first handful of games this season due to eligibility issues stemming from his time in juniors. Though fellow senior Matt Larose has split time with Guerriero throughout their careers in Huntsville, Guerriero had established himself as the team’s go-to goalie in big games. But Larose was spectacular on the weekend, stopping 67 of 71 shots for a .944 save percentage.

While Saturday’s 2-1 slugfest, which saw the Chargers outshot by 12 shots on goal, was more typical of the type of games Alabama-Huntsville has won in recent years, Saturday’s 4-3 victory, a relative shootout, also stands out. The Chargers only reached the four-goal mark in a game four times last year. The year prior, they only reached four goals twice.

The Chargers continue a brutal road stretch to start the season with a trip to Connecticut next weekend, followed by a long trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan to face Michigan Tech. After one week at home, they then have to travel for road series at St. Cloud State and Alaska-Anchorage. That type of travel schedule could wear any team down, but the good news is that early returns suggest this isn’t your typical Alabama-Huntsville team, and the Chargers may be more of a factor in the WCHA this year than they have been since joining the league.