Oct 122017
 

With the Chargers off this week, here are some notes about last weekend’s series at Notre Dame:

  • Coach Mike Corbett told the Notre Dame broadcasters that he didn’t want the Chargers to have a special teams battle with the Irish. UAH was 57th of 60 Division I teams last year on power play opportunities, and 49th in penalty killing, and both aspects did not have great starts to the season. For the weekend, the Chargers were 1-for-10 on the power play, and the Irish was 3-for-9.
  • Tyler Poulsen’s two goals on Friday earned him the third star of the game. It was Poulsen’s second two-goal game of his UAH career.
  • Friday’s game was close to a repeat of history. The last (and only) time UAH has defeated a top-10 team was also a season opener and also at Notre Dame. The Chargers beat the fifth-ranked Irish 3-2 on Oct. 9, 2009. UAH led 3-2 at one point of the second period on Friday.
  • Saturday’s 4-0 loss wasn’t fun, but it didn’t appear to be as dominating as the score indicated. UAH had an advantage in shots on goal (34-31), while shots attempted were also close with the Irish with a slight 58-57 edge.
  • All five freshmen forwards played in both games, with Levi Wunder getting an assist on Friday. Freshman goaltender Mark Sinclair make his first start on Saturday, stopping 27 of 31 shots.
  • The Chargers may be feeling the effects of being without injured center Max McHugh in the faceoff dot. UAH won only 22 of 63 faceoffs on Friday and 20 of 53 on Saturday, or 36 percent for the series.
  • McHugh is the team’s captain, with Kurt Gosselin, Josh Kestner, and Brandon Parker being the alternate captains.
  • The UAH softball team was in attendance at Friday night’s game. Les Stuedeman and her squad were in South Bend to play the Irish and Western Michigan in fall practice games on Saturday. They were certainly heard at the Compton Family Ice Arena, particularly late in the game when the Chargers were threatening to score the tying goal.

The Chargers are off this week. Next week they head to Houghton, Mich., visiting Michigan Tech for their first WCHA series of the season.

Recruiting news and notes: Ben Allen, a ’97-born forward from Allen, Texas, recently committed to UAH for the 2018-2019 season. Allen is currently playing for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL after having spent the majority of last season with the Battleford North Stars in the SJHL. He’s not big at 5’9 and 175 lbs., but he makes up for it with an advanced hockey IQ and a relentless motor. With 11 forwards currently committed to play college hockey on Penticton’s roster, this should be a great year for Allen’s development. He’s currently got 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games, and I expect his production will increase as he gets used to a new league and a new team. All-in-all, another solid commit for Coach Corbett and his staff.
Unfortunately, around the same time Allen committed to the Herd, it was confirmed that blue-chip defenseman Hank Sorensen had decided to open his recruitment back up. At this point in time, it’s unclear whether he’s still considering UAH. —Asher Kitchings

Single-game tickets now available: Reserved single-game tickets to the Chargers’ 14 home games are now for sale. They can be purchased online through Ticketmaster or through the Von Braun Center box office.

Season tickets are still available by calling 256-UAH-PUCK or through uahchargers.com.

The home opening series, which is also Homecoming, is Nov. 10-11 against Alaska Anchorage.

Around the WCHA: Michigan Tech scored a couple of crucial non-conference wins for the league by winning the Ice Breaker Tournament in Duluth, Minn. The Huskies defeated No. 16 Union 4-3 and host No. 6 Minnesota Duluth 4-3. Now at No. 15, Michigan Tech is the only WCHA team in the USCHO.com poll. … Minnesota State opened at home to a large crowd against in-state rival St. Cloud State, but the Mavericks lost 4-0 Saturday despite, like UAH, outshooting the Huskies 42-26. … Alaska Anchorage surprised No. 7 North Dakota at home on Friday with a 1-1 tie, but the Seawolves fell to the Fighting Hawks in overtime on Saturday, 3-2. … UAH alumnus Lance West made his debut as the head coach of the Alaska Nanooks, which took a loss and tie against Air Force in Fairbanks. … Ferris State split with Western Michigan, with each team winning at home. Western defeated Bowling Green 3-1 in Kalamazoo on Tuesday. … Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan split a non-conference home-and-home series.

Friday, October 13
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* #15 Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
Minnesota State at #2 Boston University, 6:30 p.m.
Michigan State at Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m.
#5 Minnesota Duluth at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at #6 St. Cloud State, 7:37 p.m.
Alaska Anchorage at Colorado College, 8:37 p.m.

Saturday, October 14
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* #15 Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
Minnesota State at #2 Boston University, 6:00 p.m.
Bowling Green at Michigan State, 6:05 p.m.
Bemidji State at #5 Minnesota Duluth, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska at #6 St. Cloud State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska Anchorage at Colorado College, 8:07 p.m.

Oct 072017
 

UAH had the shots against 8th-ranked Notre Dame, but not the goals. Not any.

The Chargers were shut out 4-0 on Saturday by touted freshman goaltender Dylan St. Cyr and the Fighting Irish, who completed the season-opening sweep.

BOX SCORE

UAH (0-2-0) had the benefit of 34 shots on goal and five power plays, but were bitten by last-second goals in the first and second periods by Notre Dame (2-0-0).

Mark Sinclair had 27 saves in his first collegiate start for the Chargers, who have next week off before travelling to Michigan Tech for their first WCHA series of the season.

The first period was set up nicely for UAH.

UAH had the benefit of three power plays in the first 10 minutes of the game, but could not convert. Indeed, it was Notre Dame which had the shots advantage at that point, including a couple of shorthanded opportunities.

The Chargers finally found some rhythm afterward, though, and was able to keep St. Cyr, the U.S. national development team product, busy. With about seven minutes left in the frame, St. Cyr denied a one-time shot by Josh Kestner after a great pass by Kurt Gosselin.

Despite the offensive charge by UAH, it could not find the net. But when Notre Dame finally got its first power play of the game with 33 seconds left in the period (a hooking call on Christian Rajic), the Irish, which had two power play goals on Friday, made them pay quickly.

Notre Dame pounced on a turnover, and Bobby Nardella found a wide open Andrew Oglevie in the left circle. Oglevie’s one-timer beat Sinclair with only a half second remaining in the first.

The Chargers had more shots in the first period, 15-11, but it was the Fighting Irish who led 1-0.

Notre Dame extended its lead to 2-0 on a similar play with 14:41 left in the second. Colin Thiesen on the right circle passed it to the left circle, where Jordan Gross, again wide open, released a one-timer past Sinclair.

UAH had 1:06 of two-man advantage after back-to-back penalties by way of Irish hits on Brennan Saulnier, but the Chargers couldn’t start a comeback. UAH finished 0-for-5 on the power play for the game and 1-for-10 in the series.

To make things sting even more, the Irish ended the second period with yet another goal in the final second. It was Oglevie who scored again, this time with just :00.1 left on the clock to make it 3-0 Notre Dame.

Matt Steeves added ND’s fourth goal with 10:11 to go, putting in a rebound as he was being tripped by Cody Champagne.

Hans Gorowsky had seven of the Chargers’ 34 shots on goal, which actually exceeded Notre Dame’s 31.

Cam Knight briefly went to the locker room after a collision with Notre Dame’s Dennis Gilbert laid him down on the ice for a couple of minutes. He returned late in the period and started the second period.

Oct 062017
 

Game No. 1,000 for UAH varsity hockey came close to being one of the program’s all-time upsets. While it came short of that, it did show that this Chargers team could have the tools to withstand some tough situations.

UAH never let No. 8 Notre Dame out of its sights on Friday, but the Chargers lost 5-3 in South Bend in the season opener for both teams.

BOX SCORE

Tyler Poulsen scored two goals for UAH in the see-saw affair, which saw the Chargers have a lead throughout a bulk of the second period.

Notre Dame had advantages in shots on goal (40-28) and particularly faceoffs (41-22). UAH senior goaltender Jordan Uhelski did his job to keep the upset chance alive with all the pressure around him, making 35 saves.

It was up and down for the first half of the first period, but the Fighting Irish asserted control in the second half. Notre Dame was able to get several close-range shots on Uhelski, who was up to the task with 16 saves in the period.

The Chargers were able to get nine shots on goal on Irish sophomore goalie Cale Morris, with Brennan Saulnier getting a couple to keep him on his toes.

The second period is when things went crazy, with six of the eight goals being scored and each team getting three.

Bobby Nardella finished off a power play from Brandon Parker’s hooking call late in the first to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead just 12 seconds in.

If you thought that may open the floodgates for the Irish, you were quickly corrected. UAH answered right back as Poulsen scored the Chargers’ first goal of the season just 36 seconds later, redirecting a Saulnier shot from the right circle.

Notre Dame quickly retook the lead at 3:01, with Colin Theisen splitting the defense and wristing the puck over Uhelski.

UAH bounced right back yet again. Josh Kestner tipped a Hans Gorowsky backhander through the slot, fooling Morris as the puck passed to his right and in the net. Levi Wunder got the second assist for his first collegiate point.

In a span of 4:44, four goals were scored and the game was tied at 2-2.

After Nardella was called for hooking during a Kestner breakaway, UAH notched its first power play goal and lead of the season. Kestner had a nifty backdoor pass to Poulsen, who wrapped the puck around an open net as the Chargers took a 3-2 lead at the 7:17 mark.

Notre Dame tied it up at 3-3 with 1:30 left in the second when Dennis Gilbert’s right point blast through traffic beat Uhelski.

In the third, the Irish regained the lead on their second power play goal. Connor James was called for high sticking at 5:30, and just 20 seconds later, Jake Evans tipped a Jordan Gross shot to make it 4-3 Irish.

The Irish went 2-for-5 on the power play Friday, as the penalty killing struggles seemed to continue from last season.

The Chargers had a big chance to tie it up before regulation. Gilbert was called for slashing with 1:06 left, and with Uhelski already pulled for an extra attacker, UAH had a 6-on-4 advantage. However, Evans was able to clear the puck down the length of the ice for a shorthanded empty net goal for the final 5-3 score.

Game two of the series is at 6:05 p.m. CDT, and can be seen online at NBCSports.com.

Oct 052017
 

Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, Ind.
When: Friday, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 6:05 p.m. (CDT)
Watch: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Chicago+

Charger update: UAH begins its 39th hockey season (33rd as varsity) looking to improve its record for a fourth straight year and get back into the WCHA playoffs. This series at Notre Dame will be the first of four road trips to start the season.

Huntsville senior Josh Kestner returns as UAH’s leading scorer from last year (9 goals-13 assists-22 points), and he’s expected to be the go-to guy to spark the Chargers’ offense, especially with Max McHugh (8-11-19) out with an injury for the time being.

Head coach Mike Corbett says the Chargers will be relying on an improved defensive corps, led by Kurt Gosselin (9-9-18), Cam Knight (3-16-19), and Brandon Parker (6-9-15). Jordan Uhelski is expected to be the starter in net (2.78 goals against average, .906 save percentage).

Friday will be UAH’s 1,000th varsity game.

About the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame reached the Frozen Four last spring, falling to eventual national champion Denver. The Irish compiled a 23-12-5 overall record and a 12-6-4 record in its final season in Hockey East, reaching the tournament’s semifinals.

Now Notre Dame is in the Big Ten as an affiliate member for hockey only. The Irish were picked to finish second in their now seven-team league by the Big Ten coaches. Notre Dame is ranked No. 8 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today preseason polls.

Last week, Notre Dame defeated the U.S. NTDP Under-18 team 3-2 in a preseason exhibition.

Players to watch:
Andrew Oglevie (Jr., F, 21 goals-20 assists-41 points in 2016-17)
Jake Evans (Sr., F, 13-29-42 in 2016-17)
Jordan Gross (Sr., D, 10-22-32 in 2016-17)
Dylan St. Cyr (Fr., G, 2.74 GAA, .896 SV% with U.S. NTDP U-18 team in 2016-17)

Series notes: Notre Dame leads 10-6-0 since UAH became a varsity program in 1985. The last meeting was Jan. 10-11, 2014, at Notre Dame, with the Irish winning 7-1 and 5-0. UAH’s last win was 3-2 on Oct. 9, 2009, when Notre Dame was ranked No. 5. The Irish have won eight of the last nine meetings, including the 2007 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals, 3-2 in double overtime.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Oct. 6
UAH at #8 Notre Dame, 6:35 p.m.
#16 Union vs. Michigan Tech, 4:07 p.m. (Ice Breaker at Duluth, Minn.)
Ferris State at #20 Western Michigan, 6:05 p.m.
Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
#7 North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
#17 Air Force at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
USA Under-18 Team at Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m. (exhibition)

Saturday, Oct. 7
UAH at #8 Notre Dame, 6:05 p.m.
#3 Minnesota/#6 Minn Duluth vs. Michigan Tech, 4:07/7:37 p.m. (Ice Breaker at Duluth, Minn.)
#20 Western Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
#9 St. Cloud State at #18 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
#7 North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
#17 Air Force at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.

Oct 022017
 

How UAH will fare in its fifth WCHA season will depend on several factors.

Can they shore up its defense and goaltending? Will they overcome early injuries and spark the offense? Can they manage through a grueling road schedule? Could they post another improvement in their record and make a return to the playoffs?

Here’s a look at the 2017-18 University of Alabama in Huntsville Chargers.

Defense

Kurt Gosselin

The Chargers fell to the bottom of the WCHA in scoring defense last season, allowing 3.53 goals per game. As such, defense became a point of emphasis in the preseason.

That’s not to say UAH is devoid of talent on the blue line.

“One of the biggest things that we’re keying on is our ‘D’ group,” Corbett said. “Kurt Gosselin is an all-league player. We believe Cam Knight and Brandon Parker are two of the upper-echelon defensemen in this league. That’s going to be one of our areas of strength for our team.”

Gosselin, a junior who was a third-team all-WCHA player last season, was named to the preseason All-WCHA first team in the media preseason poll and received votes in the coaches poll. He tied for the team lead in goals with nine, including a hat trick of blue-line blasts against Ferris State.

Knight and Parker each blocked 56 shots last season. Knight led the squad with 16 assists, and Parker pitched in six goals.

It will help if the Chargers can improve on their penalty killing, which was last in the WCHA at 78.5 percent.

“Everybody in our league primarily tries to play a puck-possession game, and a lot of it depends on your ‘D’ core as far as I’m concerned,” Corbett said. “We feel at this point in time with roughly three seniors [Parker, Cody Champagne, and Richard Buri] and three juniors [Gosselin, Knight, and John Teets] in our night-to-night ‘D’ core that we believe we can do a lot of positive things starting with them.”

UAH has two sophomore defensemen, Connor James and Sean Rappleyea, and only one incoming freshman defenseman, Huntsville native Teddy Rotenberger.

Goaltending

Jordan Uhelski

Last season was a surprise between the pipes for the Chargers. Both experienced seniors, Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose, struggled. The bright side was that Jordan Uhelski, who hasn’t played a regulation minute between the pipes his first two seasons, posted solid numbers (2.78 goals against average and .906 save percentage) in 23 games and 20 starts.

“We had roughly an 89 percent save percentage last year,” Corbett said. “We know at the Division I level that just doesn’t cut it, especially in our league.”

Uhelski, now a senior, will naturally be the No. 1 coming in, backed up by two freshmen that Corbett feels can help right away.

Mark Sinclair joins the Chargers after helping lead the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) to the championship round of the Western Canada Cup.

“Mark has shown very well in the preseason that he’s able to come in and contribute in net for us,” Corbett said. “We’re excited about that.”

Josh Astorino was the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s top goaltender with a .936 save percentage for the Georgetown Raiders.

Offense

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner

Once again, the question for the Chargers is whether they can score more goals. UAH was ninth in the WCHA last season at 2.18 goals per game. They also didn’t fare well on the power play, converting only 10.8 percent of opportunities.

It won’t be easier as the Chargers are already battling key injuries in the preseason, including senior center Max McHugh, who will be out to start the campaign. McHugh was second on the team with eight goals and tied for second with 19 points last season, and at 64 career points has been UAH’s most productive scorer in a decade.

“Unfortunately we’ve had some injuries to our centers, so we’re hoping to get them back by once the conference season starts,” Corbett said. “Some of our freshmen whom maybe we didn’t expect to come in and contribute as much as we wanted them be big contributors will have to step up and fill up a little bit of those minutes playing down the middle.”

UAH still has the services of last year’s leading scorer Josh Kestner, who will be key in his final season with his hometown team. Kestner had a breakout season in 2016-17 with nine goals and 22 points.

“Josh Kestner is one of the players that the media needs to watch,” Corbett said. “He’s one of those kids that shoots the puck very well and he’s a natural goal scorer. We have to find ways to be able to get him the puck and put him in position to put pucks in the net for us.”

Another key returning player is senior Brennan Saulnier, who had six goals last season and participated in the Montreal Canadiens development camp over the summer. Junior Hans Gorowsky scored seven goals last season, two of them shorthanded.

Also returning are juniors Madison Dunn, Tyler Poulsen, and Adam Wilcox; and sophomores Austin Beaulieu, Jordan Larson, and Brandon Salerno.

As for the freshmen forwards who may see extra time because of the injury bug, Corbett has five to choose from.

Connor Merkley is a big left winger that plays a good 200-foot game,” Corbett said. “We’re probably going to put him in our top six to start and he’s going to get an opportunity to play some of those minutes right off the bat. He’s an older player we feel can contribute.

Andrew Dodson is another one. [Both he and Merkley] played at Carleton Place, a very successful junior team. These are kids with dynamite character who know how to win.

Christian Rajic, who played at Oakville, Ont., is another young man we believe will come here and play some serious minutes from the start of the year.”

The other newcomers are Connor Wood and Levi Wunder. Wood is from Buford, Ga., giving the Chargers five players from the Southeast, the most UAH has ever had as a varsity program.

Schedule

There’s no such thing as a short road trip or home stand this season. The schedule starts with eight on the road, then six at home, then 12 on the road, then eight at home.

“[The schedule] is something we’ve broken down,” Corbett said. “It’s a little bit like an NFL season, the four quarters of the old NFL. We’re all or nothing: We’re either going to be all at home or all on the road.”

UAH opens the season with an 8-game road trip comprising of its entire non-conference schedule and a trip to Michigan Tech to start WCHA play. It starts this Friday at No. 8 Notre Dame, which made Frozen Four last April. Also included are visits to Cornell, another NCAA tournament team, and Arizona State.

The 12-game road swing, which runs through all of December and most of January, is particularly tough. The Chargers go to Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, and Minnesota State in back-to-back-to-back weeks. After a week off for Christmas, it’s on to Bemidji State. Directly from Bemidji, the Chargers go to Alaska, where they’ll spend two weeks playing series at Fairbanks and then Anchorage.

“It’s just more cost effective for us to do that,” Corbett said. “We’re going to have kids who are not going to be on campus for roughly 5 1/2 weeks, because they are going to go home for Christmas after our Mankato series. It’s going to be a unique situation, so we have to manage that.

“One thing we do a good job of is the communication with our players, and they are going to have to communicate with us on how they are feeling, not just how they’re practicing, but their energy levels. That three week stretch through Christmas is going to be big.”

Once that mega-trip is over, the Chargers can stay at home for the rest of the regular season, which could help their playoff push. They’ll need to play better at home, however, as they were 2-10-2 at the Von Braun Center last season.

Conclusion

The outlook doesn’t look great if you go by the preseason media and coaches’ polls, which have the Chargers finishing ninth in the WCHA standings and missing the playoffs for the third straight year. Perhaps that’s to be expected when there are a number of questions that need answering.

Still, UAH has improved its record each year since joining the WCHA, if only slightly each time. Corbett says the Chargers are committed to continue that improvement and build that solid foundation within the program by growing fan and alumni involvement.

“We just want to continue that uptick. Do we wish it was faster? Sure. Am I patiently impatient? You bet your butt I am. But we just want to continue doing it the right way. And it’s not easy by any means.

“Some of those ties we’ve got to turn into wins. Those one-goal loses, we’ve got to turn them into ties and wins. Can it be frustrating at times? Sure, but we don’t let that affect us. We’re a positive group here. We keep looking at those positive things, understanding that those things are going to come if we continue to do things the right way around here.”