The Chargers played their last two games of the 2011-12 season on Friday and Saturday at the VBC. They were up against Team USA’s Under-18 squad (this team is part of USA Hockey’s development program and the players are 16 or 17 years old). Along with Team USA came an old friend of the Chargers, former UAH and current Team USA head coach Danton Cole. Cole coached the Chargers for three seasons before taking his current position with USA Hockey. Though these games are exhibition matches, it was obvious that both teams had come to compete.
Friday night’s game was an extremely heated contest that ended in a close decision of 3-2 in favor of Team USA. Freshman Kyle Lysaght opened the scoring just seven minutes into the game and UAH took that 1-0 lead into the second frame. Team USA came back to earn two goals at even strength and one on the power play giving them a 3-1 lead heading into the final period. Unfortunately, the Chargers could only answer one of Team USA’s goals, and that final goal of the night was scored by sophomore Mac Roy. Sophomore Clarke Saunders was in net for the Chargers and had yet another stellar game making 32 saves. USA goaltender Jared Rutledge had 15 saves in the win.
The game held on Saturday afternoon was not as close as far as the final score is concerned, but the Chargers were certainly awake for their last game of the season. Both games saw a much higher level of physicality and competitiveness than many of the other games this season. Perhaps it had something to do with the teams’ head coaches being such good friends and their personal (but good natured) rivalry. The Chargers fell 6-3 with UAH’s goals coming from Michael Webley, Lasse Uusivrita, and Doug Reid (Webley and Reid being freshmen and Uusivrita being a sophomore). Junior John Griggs was UAH’s netminder and he ended the match with 36 saves. Near the halfway point of the second period, following the first two UAH goals, Danton Cole pulled goaltender Collin Olson in favor of Jared Rutledge. Olson made 12 saves before exiting and Rutledge made 11 for a total of 23 saves.
This weekend was a rather sad one for UAH fans. Not because the Chargers lost the series, not because it’s the last time they’ll see the team before October, but because they had to say goodbye to some players that are graduating this year. Defenseman Tom Durnie and forward Jamie Easton took their final skate in a Chargers uniform on Saturday. Both are seniors and are on track for graduation this May. They wore the ‘A’ for their team this season. Also, as reported by Mark McCarter of the Huntsville Times, both are engaged and while Durnie will return to Calgary, Easton will remain in Huntsville (due to his fiancée being a local girl). It would be nice to see Easton stay involved in Huntsville hockey as there are a lot of aspiring young athletes in this city that could benefit from his knowledge and experience. No statement has been made regarding that matter, however. Whatever their plans for the future, their fans here in Huntsville that have watched them grow over the course of 4 years, wish them the best of luck and thank them for their hard work, and for sharing their college hockey years with us.