Two games stand between Chad Brears and the conclusion of his college hockey career. The best the Alabama-Huntsville senior forward can gain from a belated perk-up is a scrapbook entry against Bowling Green, which bears the WCHA’s best goaltender in Chris Nell and remains in the hunt for first place.
The WCHA is the lone Division I men’s conference to exclude its bottom-feeders from the postseason. And with this past Saturday’s loss, UAH is officially out of contention.
Brears’ second-half struggles have personified those of the Chargers, who had entered 2015-16 looking to build on their first conference playoff berth in five years.
Following a two-goal, three-point performance versus Alaska on Jan. 8, Brears had set himself a new career high with 16 points on the year. But in the nine games since, he has added one solitary assist and missed a series at Alaska-Anchorage to finish the month.
His current, carry-over seven-game pointless skid has overlapped with a seven-game winless hex for Huntsville. Upon his return, the Chargers turned in a head-turning pair of ties with first-place Minnesota State. But they have gone 0-3-1 since, failing to claw out of the WCHA’s basement.
Needing to earn at least one more point than Anchorage in Saturday’s action, Huntsville brooked a 6-2 beatdown at Bemidji State. Brears and reunited linemates Max McHugh and Brennan Saulnier combined for three shots on net.
Brears has mustered but one stab at the opposing cage in each of his seven straight scoreless ventures. This after landing 39 on the net and a team-leading nine in the net over his first 21 outings on the year.
Given the three ties and two one-goal losses in their current 0-4-3 slump, it is safe to assume the Chargers would be in a more favorable spot had they reaped more tangible output from Brears.
Lake Superior statement
They were facing an unbeaten rival goaltender in Mathias Dahlstrom, and they bent him for two unanswered strikes. They let Northern Michigan retort for a textbook back-breaker to cut their lead in the dying seconds of the middle frame, and they did not let the play live up to its natural traits.
The next night, poor coverage around their own porch spotted their visitors a 2-0 lead. But they bounced back to salvage a 2-2 draw, just as they had held on to finalize a 3-1 triumph on Friday.
The pleasantly surprising Lake Superior State Lakers were too hungry for a hard-earned postseason passport and regional bragging rights. The first dent they drove into Dahlstrom’s record gave them their second straight WCHA playoff spot. Saturday’s rally polished a 2-1-1 season-series victory with the Wildcats, giving them the Father Cappo Cup.
A single point proved enough to nudge NMU ahead of Ferris State for the last home-ice quarterfinal seed for now. But robbing their rivals of a radiant chance to make more headway is one more notch in LSSU’s freshman-laden belt.
Perspective on Petan
Fifth-year Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson inherited a then-rising senior class that would finish its tenure with 31 wins in four seasons. More than half of those wins — 16, to be precise — came on his watch in his 2011-12 debut campaign.
In November of that year, Pearson announced his first recruiting batch, featuring a promising specimen of firepower named Alex Petan. Fast-forward to Petan’s own senior season, and MTU’s three-time scoring leader has joined his classmates in 75 victories already.
With the overtime clincher in Saturday’s 3-2 edging of Alaska, Petan has now had a hand in 27 of those wins alone. His latest clutch tally also gives him 129 career points, tying him with 2006 graduate Chris Conner for second among all Huskies in this century. Only 2005 alumnus Colin Murphy’s 152 points best him on that front.
And the 2015-16 Huskies are still assured a minimum of four more games, but more likely five, six or seven.
Weekly power ranking
1. Michigan Tech (1)
2. Minnesota State (2)
3. Bowling Green (4)
4. Bemidji State (6)
5. Lake Superior State (7)
6. Northern Michigan (3)
7. Ferris State (6)
8. Alabama-Huntsville (8)
9. Alaska (9)
10. Alaska-Anchorage (10)