Mar 222015
 

Editor’s note: We’ve reviewed the 2014-15 season, now let’s take a look at who’s coming in for 2015-16. This analysis comes from one of our regular posters in the UAH thread of the USCHO.com forums, who wished not to be named. He follows junior hockey more closely than either me or Geof, and we appreciate him allowing us to share this on UAHHockey.com. Remember that this site is independent of UAH and the hockey program, neither of which can comment on recruits until they have signed a NCAA National Letter of Intent. Also, this was written before the announced commitments of Madison Dunn and Hans Gorowsky. See our Commitments page for more information. — Michael Napier

It’s that time of year when junior seasons start wrapping up, and I thought I’d give an update on our recruits for this upcoming 2015-2016 season. I’ve followed our boys pretty closely and honestly believe this is the best class UAH has brought in in the last 10 or so years. I don’t think we’re done quite yet either. Here’s what I think will be next year’s incoming class:

Forwards

Brandon Salerno - Pickering Panthers (OJHL), 49 GP, 30 G, 39 A, 69 Pts

After starting the year in Huntsville, but having NCAA Clearinghouse issues, he put up some fine numbers in the OJ. Sure, moving from Waterloo (USHL) in 2013-14 to Pickering this year was a step down in terms of competition, but I think it was a great move for him to regain his confidence. He played only sparingly in Waterloo and was often times a healthy scratch. In Pickering, he was “the” player on an average team and he put up well over a point per game. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got Salhany-type speed and has a knack for making plays. Salerno is a legit Division I prospect who we’ll see on special teams from day one. Arguably the top forward coming in. Check out this player of the week video and you’ll see what I’m talking about. His season’s done after Pickering failed to make the OJHL playoffs.

Jetlan Houcher (Photo by Fort McMurray Oil Barons)

Jetlan Houcher (Photo by Fort McMurray Oil Barons)

Jetlan Houcher - Fort McMurray Oil Barons (AJHL), 60 GP, 39 G, 32 A, 71 Pts

Excellent numbers on an average AJHL team. Everything I’ve seen and read indicates he’s a pure goal scorer. Got a great shot with a quick release; the kid can score. He’s done it at every level he’s played at. Got to wonder if skating is an issue considering he isn’t already in college somewhere, but I highly doubt it’s a huge hindrance given his numbers. Houcher has been everything for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons this year. He’s the captain, and with 22 more points than the next closest player on the roster, they’ll be making the playoffs due in no small part to his contributions. A good kid and a leader, Houcher should challenge for top-six minutes right away.

Adam Wilcox - Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL), 41 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 Pts

Also a TPH product, Wilcox is from Atlanta and has bounced around junior leagues these past few years. He had a cup of tea with Wichita Falls (NAHL) in 2011-12, spent two season playing sparingly for Houcher’s Oil Barons in the AJHL in 2012-14, and is now with Fairbanks back in the NAHL. Wilcox is fast, big, and strong, and while he’s never going to “wow” you with his offensive abilities, he’s a heart and soul kind of player that every team needs to win. He plays with an edge (evidenced by his 62 PIMs this season) and has a lot of energy. Think Brent Fletcher here folks. Hope his offensive numbers can improve the rest of the reason and into the playoffs. We’ll love his style of play down here in Huntsville and he should be a solid contributor on the bottom six for years to come.

Defensemen

Kurt Gosselin - Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL), 32 GP, 12 G, 31 A, 43 Pts

Playing for Alberni Valley in the BCHL, Gosselin has really come into his own this year. A Michigan native, he has put up a whopping 1.3 points per game as a defenseman. That’s unheard of in most junior leagues. He’s been hurt since mid-January, otherwise those totals would be much higher. And even despite his injury, he was just nominated for Defenseman of the Year for his division. Gosselin has solid size, skating ability, and vision. He’s quarterbacked the power play when healthy and played big minutes. If he can fully come back from his injury, there’s no reason to think he can’t play top four minutes as a freshman.

Cam Knight - Wichita Falls Wildcats (NAHL), 57 GP, 9 G, 24 A, 33 Pts

A teammate of Beaulieu’s on Wichita Falls’ solid team, Knight has put up excellent numbers a defenseman in the NAHL. He’s already surpassed what Cody Champagne did last year and Frank Misuraca did a few years back, and he’s still got some season left. Both of those two right-handed shot defenseman have done well for UAH thus far and Knight should continue that trend. He’s a tough Mass. product with good size, solid skating ability, and a good shot. He’s a two-way defenseman who plays with a chip on his shoulder at times. Would be a good recruit for any school in our league. Like Gosselin, should compete for top four minutes right away.

John Teets - Fairbanks Ice Dogs (NAHL), 58 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 Pts

Teets has been a teammate of Wilcox’s for awhile now. Teets played with him for two years on Houcher’s Oil Barons (AJHL) squad, and now with his hometown Fairbanks in the NA. He has great size and plays hard. A stay-at-home defenseman in the truest sense of the word, he’s another heart and soul guy like Wilcox. You need guys like him on a team. Should be a solid contributor on the PK one day. Likely will compete for playing time immediately as a freshman.

2016 and beyond

Austin Beaulieu - Wichita Falls Wildcats (NAHL), 57 GP, 22 G, 30 A, 52 Pts

A former TPH kid from Florida, Beaulieu probably has the highest ceiling of our incoming forwards. Judging by his birthdate, he’s a senior in high school. It’s rare that UAH gets an 18-year-old kid straight out of high school. Most of our guys have near exhausted junior eligibility. Clearly his speed, vision, and playmaking abilities from Midget AAA have translated well at the next level. More of a passer than a goal scorer, Beaulieu has been extremely consistent for Wichita Falls (NAHL) this season, rarely being held off the scoresheet for more than a couple games at a time. It’s his first year of juniors and he’s playing on the top line for a solid team in the U.S.’s second best junior circuit. His season isn’t done yet and Wichita Falls is poised to go deep into the playoffs. Another kid who can legitimately compete for top-six minutes right away.

Ted Rotenberger - Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL), 38 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt (includes 6 GP with Topeka)

Yet another former TPH kid, and Huntsville native, many of you have likely heard of Rotenberger. His character is reportedly off the charts and he’ll be a welcome addition to the team when he’s ready, but he’s not quite there yet. Defenseman tend to develop slower than forwards at nearly all levels and he needs another year or two to get bigger and stronger and to play more minutes. I just cannot see the coaching staff bringing him in in 2015. Could be wrong, we’ll see.

Connor Wood – Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (NAHL), 57 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts (includes 10 GP with Amarillo)

Also a TPH kid from Atlanta, Wood has had a tough year by the looks of it. He’s a quick, tough, agitator dating back to his TPH days, but that has led to some ridiculous PIM totals (182) this year. Wood can play the scrappy role well and still produce; he did it with TPH. He just needs some more seasoning before he comes to school. He’s sure to get more ice time next year and his offensive numbers will hopefully take a noticeable bump up.

Ivan Bondarenko - Wenatchee Wild (NAHL), 38 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 Pts

He’s Russian and has been committed for a long time. I believe the plan was for him to come in in 2016 or 2017 all along. Bondarenko has that Russian explosive flair as seen by his crazy numbers in the now defunct NORPAC league last year (50-51-101 in 37 games played as a 16 year old). He, like Wood and Rotenberger, just needs more time to develop. I imagine he’ll play a lot more next year, but right now he’s counted on for secondary scoring with Wenatchee in the NAHL. Will be following him closely next year.

Mar 182015
 
Photo Credit: Timothy Burns

Photo Credit: Timothy Burns

Jack Prince will playing for a spot on his home country’s national team.

The Charger wing from Leicester, England is on Team Great Britain’s initial 31-man squad preparing for the World Championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The team will be pared down to 23 players in two weeks.

Prince scored five goals with nine assists for 14 points in his just-completed junior season, and has 30 points in three years at UAH.

Dunn commits: The Chargers picked up a commitment on Wednesday from Madison Dunn, a forward from the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

Dunn, who is from Calgary, had eight goals and 35 assists for 43 points in 60 games with the Bandits during the regular season. He had two goals and five assists in six playoff games so far as Brooks goes into the second round of the AJHL playoffs.

More information on incoming recruits is coming soon. For more information, visit the Commitments page.

Banquet in two weeks: Remember that the UAH hockey post-season banquet is Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m. at Spragins Hall.

The cost is $25 per person, and you have the opportunity to sponsor a player’s dinner at the banquet for $25.

There will be several silent auction items at the event as well as the opportunity to sit with your favorite player at dinner. Payments will be accepted at the door upon arrival.

The hockey office asks that you RSVP for the event.  If you have any other questions you can email Nick Laurila.

Around the WCHA: The WCHA Final Five is this weekend at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The semifinals take place Friday, with Bowling Green facing Michigan Tech at 4:07 p.m. MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota State faces Ferris State at 7:37 p.m. The Broadmoor Cup championship game is Saturday night at 6:07 p.m.

The champion gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota State and Michigan Tech, ranked second and fifth respectively in the Pairwise Rankings, are locks to be at-large bids, with No. 12 Bowling Green in decent shape with at least a semifinal victory. If Ferris State wins the Broadmoor Cup, it is conceivable that the league could get four teams in college hockey’s big dance.

The WCHA Final Five can be seen on Fox College Sports Central. Find FCS on your local cable or satellite provider.

 

Mar 162015
 

Now that the 2014-15 season is over, let’s take a look about how the Chargers improved from the previous season from a statistical perspective. There are many ways the Chargers improved that reflected in their record, which is where we start.

Carmine Guerriero

Carmine Guerriero had one of the best goaltending seasons in UAH history. (Photo by Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)

Record: 2013-14: 2-35-1 (.066); 2014-15: 8-26-4 (.263); Change: +.197

This is the most visible, most obvious improvement. Not only did UAH have six more wins, which is the sixth-biggest jump in Division I, but three more ties — or nine more games where we had points.

Scoring margin: 2013-14: -3.29; 2014-15: -1.55; Change: +1.74

The Chargers had 26 losses, which is still not good. But this shows we’re closing the gap even if we didn’t come through victorious. UAH lost games by five or more goals 12 times in 2013-14. This season: Three. UAH reduced the number of games lost by three or more from 26 to 13.

That’s why general excitement was up this season. The number of games we still had a shot went up from 32 percent to 68 percent.

Offense: 2013-14: 1.08 goals per game; 2014-15: 1.63; Change: +0.55

Still nothing to write home about, but at least we’re no longer dead last in the nation, or even in the WCHA (sorry, Lake Superior State). Three goals has been the magic number this season — this year the Chargers scored three-plus 10 times (as opposed to only three times in 2013-14), and were 6-2-2 in those games.

The freshmen really contributed to the boost, which is why we’re optimistic that the offense will continue to improve its potency with experience. Leading the team was Max McHugh, whose 12 goals are the most by a Charger since Matt Sweazey in 2008-09, and whose 23 points are the most since four Chargers had that many or more in 2006-07. Brandon Parker had 14 assists, most since Andrew Coburn had 15 in 2009-10. UAH freshmen, including Brennan Saulnier, Josh Kestner, Richard Buri, and Cody Champagne, accounted for 61 of 167 points (37 percent) this season.

Meanwhile, our juniors had their best seasons to build on as they become seniors. Chad Brears had 15 points to more than double of career total coming in to 2014-15. Jack Prince’s 14 points is also a career high. Defenseman Frank Misuraca had six MisuRockets™ find the net. And Alex Carpenter, who had no playing time in two seasons at Western Michigan, put together a nice 3-5-8 season in 32 games played.

Coach Mike Corbett has said the goal for UAH is to be the up-and-down team like a Michigan Tech. Building depth behind this corps can do just that.

Defense: 2013-14: 4.37 goals allowed per game; 2014-15: 3.18; Change: +1.19

Again, UAH is still near the bottom of the WCHA in this category (besting only Lake Superior), but as we wait patiently for the offense to catch up, the improved defense really helped the Chargers be competitive.

The rise of sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero was a big part of that, of course. His .928 save percentage this season was the fourth best in UAH history and second in the modern Division I era, putting him among the top 20 in the country (currently 14th with others’ conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament to go). His 2.56 goals against average was fifth best in UAH history and third in the Division I era.

But it goes beyond just Guerriero. The Chargers still allowed a lot of shots this season (37.58 shots on goal allowed per game, next to last in Division I), but they also blocked a ton. Brandon Carlson finished the season with 94 blocked shots, currently 2nd in the country. Four Chargers are among the nation’s top 100 defensemen in blocked shots, including Frank Misuraca (69), Brandon Parker (61), and Graeme Strukoff (56).

Power play efficiency: 2013-14: 12-137 (8.8%); 2014-15: 19-124 (15.3%); Change: +6.5%

UAH was dead last in Division I on the power play last season, but found its way to the middle of the pack in the WCHA in 2014-15. The Chargers had the fewer power play opportunities in the WCHA this season, but when they got one, they got aggressive, and it showed. McHugh became even more of a threat, scoring five of his 12 power play goals on the season.

Penalty kill efficiency: 2013-14: 117-166 (70.5%); 2014-15: 164-201 (81.6%); Change: +11.1%

Considering the Chargers were by far the worst on the penalty kill in 2013-14, this was arguably the aspect of UAH’s game that improved the most. The Chargers had the most shorthanded situations in 2014-15 — they were the third-most penalized team in Division I at 15.8 penalty minutes per game — and while the kill percentage is only eighth-best in the WCHA, it feels like night and day.

They had their rocky moments (allowing three power play goals at Air Force negating a 3-0 UAH lead, and six power play goals in a 11-1 drubbing at Michigan Tech during the regular season), but also had impressive streaks: Opponents were 2-for-40 from Nov. 15 (Lake Superior was 0-for-10) to Dec. 14, including a stretch of 17 straight penalties killed, and a string of 19 straight kills from Feb. 13-21.

So the numbers may not be great, but they show the improvement this club made over the season. And there’s so much potential to get better. And that means more wins. Get excited for 2015-16.

Mar 142015
 

A light exists in Spring
Not present on the year
At any other period—
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary fields
That science cannot overtake
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn,
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

— Emily Dickinson, “A light exists in spring”

I won’t presume to speak for Michael, but come for the past four seasons, we’d hit the first weekend in February and I’d just kind of be done with the season.  In those four years, UAH won just nine Division I games.  If you remove those four seasons from consideration, the worst four-year stretch for the Chargers in Division I comes in the team’s first four years at 45.  If you limit it to modern D-I, it’s 36, but five of those 36 wins make possible both of UAH’s NCAA tournament appearances.

I don’t think that anyone reading these words needs much of a reminder, but UAH went 2-35-1 last year, setting an NCAA record for most losses in a Division I season.  That record is likely to stand until the NCAA again increases the number of games to be played, because UAH used Alaska exemptions to add four games to their schedule.  But if you’ll remember, that team never quit, even though you’d have understood if they had.  They won their second game in their 35th contest of the season.

This team certainly never quit, too.  Did they give up 77 shots on goal last night to Tech in an amazing, epic game?  They sure did.  If you had told me at noon on Friday that UAH wouldn’t score a goal all weekend, I would’ve believed you.  The Chargers scored one goal in their last trip to Houghton.  And if you’d told me that the Huskies wouldn’t score more than one goal in a period, I’d have thought that the Chargers had a shot at winning one of those games.  But if you’d told me that sophomore goaltender Carmine Guerriero (Montréal, Qué.) would have to make 118 saves on the weekend, well … that wouldn’t sound like UAH was in those games.

That happened.

It’s playoff hockey, and strange things can happen, but it’s safe to say that the Chargers are huge underdogs in this series. UAH is the seventh seed, and Michigan Tech is the second seed.

All-time series: The Chargers are 0-6 all-time against the Huskies, and are 0-4 in Houghton. UAH was blown out in both games there in late January this season by scores of 5-0 and 11-1. In 2013-14, the Chargers lost 4-1 and 10-4 at Houghton. That’s a combined score of 30-6 for the Huskies on their home ice.

Coach Corbett famously went around town writing 16-1 the week after the Tech debacle.

We had no idea how new it would be.

UAH had a harder time tonight, taking seven minor penalties after just nine the night before in twice the time.  (Freshman forward Brennan Saulnier‘s [Halifax, Nova Scotia] major penalty and game misconduct count as two separate penalties.  Saulnier’s third game misconduct of the season resulted in a one-game suspension from the NCAA.)  Where the Chargers were perfect on the PK on Friday night — which seems obvious — they were human on Saturday, allowing two power play goals that proved to be the difference in the game.

The troika of senior forward Blake Hietala (Houghton, Mich.), senior forward, co-captain, and WCHA player of the year Tanner Kero (Hancock, Mich.), and sophomore forward Tyler Heinonen (Delano, Minn.) combined for both power play markers.  Hietala pleased the home fans in his final game, scoring the game-winning goal, his fifth of the year at 14:35 of the first.  The Huskies struck again 4:43 into the second, with Kero also going out in style with his 19th geno.

The only time that Guerriero (42 saves) looked moderately human was on freshman defenseman Mark Auk‘s (St. Clair Shores, Mich.) goal, a point shot that fluttered through traffic but that Garrison Guerriero had been flinging into the corner all weekend.

The Chargers were nearly even in SOG in the second (11-12), all the more impressive for the Huskies having 1:14 of power play time.  And when Kero took a high-sticking penalty just :04 into the third period, you thought that the boys in blue might have had a shot.  But junior netminder Jamie Phillips (Caledonia, Ont., which we all know is a decent hockey town) picked up his second shutout of the weekend and sixth of the season, a result that you’d expect from the goaltender for the WCHA first team.

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

— Christina Rossetti, “Uphill”

“Of labor you shall find the sum.”  That’s very true of this team.  It’s important to remember that the Chargers quadrupled their win total in 2014-15.  Adding more than five wins is very difficult in college hockey.  If you think that UAH can add five more wins next year, that’s a good run at home ice.  Don’t you think that’s doable?  If you watched this weekend’s games and can forget the final six of the regular season, you can see that it’s there.  The defensive core is there, and they’re starting to make the good moves coming out of the zone.  The freshmen forwards show all the signs.

Every time I run into a player alumnus, we talk about the players on the team and how the talent level is rising.  They cannot stop talking about the freshmen, specifically guys like forwards Saulnier, Josh Kestner (Huntsville), and Max McHugh (Seattle, Wash.).  The freshmen tallied 61 points this season; UAH scored just 41 goals last year with 72 assists for 113 points.

Let’s talk about Guerriero for just a second.  Last year he was 1-17-0, 3.90, and .905.  This year, he’s 8-18-3, 2.56, and .928.  That .928 is the second-best in the Chargers’ Division I era, second behind Scott Munroe’s (2006, Moose Jaw, Sask.) .930 mark in 2004-05 and ahead of Cam Talbot (2010, Caledonia, Ont.)’s .925 in 2009-10; the mark is fourth all-time for UAH.  His .9184 career mark is .0001 behind Munroe and .0092 ahead of Talbot.

From a numbers perspective, Guerriero is on par with Talbot’s career progression from the big man’s sophomore to junior seasons — but he never had a rough freshman year like Talbot did (1-10-0, 4.63, .860).  Talbot’s record in 2008-09 was 2-16-3, and his final year was 12-18-3.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

— Langston Hughes, “Dreams”

For the last two years, it’s been about hanging on; next year, it’s going to be going forward.  I truly believe that this team can get home ice in 2016.  That took 29 points this year and 30 the year before; we had five last year and 15 this year.  Bemidji State went from last-in last year to home ice this year.  Four of the final six games were winnable — that would get UAH to 23.

Last year, UAH was outscored 166-41 (-3.29 G/GM); this year, 121-62 (-1.55 G/GM).  Last year, UAH lost by three or more goals 25 times; this year, just 12.

Hold fast to dreams / For when dreams go / Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow.

Dream big.  The worst appears to be behind us.  It took Danton Cole three years to get to double-digits in wins; it’s fairly certain that Mike Corbett will get there, too.

Mar 142015
 

UAH looks to stave off elimination tonight at 6 p.m. in Game 2 at Michigan Tech. Here’s some notes on last night’s epic playoff opener, won by the Huskies 1-0 in triple overtime.

Friday night’s game was the longest in UAH hockey history, and the second multiple-overtime game for the program. It was the second-longest in WCHA history and the seventh-longest in NCAA history. It would have been sixth-longest if UMass and Notre Dame hadn’t gone to five overtimes last week.

LONGEST GAMES IN UAH HISTORY
Time OTs Date Opponent Score Event
118:49 3 3/13/2015 Michigan Tech L 1-0 WCHA Quarterfinals Game 1
95:18 2 3/23/2007 Notre Dame L 3-2 NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal
72:31 1 3/11/2007 Robert Morris W 5-4 CHA Championship
72:30 1 3/15/2003 Bemidji State L 2-1 CHA Semifinal
69:12 1 3/16/2002 Wayne State L 5-4 CHA Championship
68:39 1 3/9/2007 Wayne State W 4-3 CHA Quarterfinal

 

Carmine Guerriero was phenomenal keeping the game scoreless as long as he could. He made 76 saves, the most in UAH and WCHA history, and 11 short of the NCAA record set by Notre Dame’s Cal Peterson in that 5OT game last week (UMass goalie Steve Mastalerz had 75 saves in that game). It was the fifth-most saves in NCAA history.

The WCHA’s previous record for saves in a single game was Kirk Daubenspeck, who had 75 saves with then-member Wisconsin against Colorado College on March 8, 1997.

Guerriero now holds two of the top three single-game save performances for UAH. He had 61 at Minnesota State on Feb. 15, 2014. Barry Friedman had the old all-time UAH record, stopping 62 against Geneseo State on Nov. 8, 1986.

MOST SAVES IN A GAME, NCAA HISTORY
Saves Goaltender School Date Opponent
87 Cal Petersen Notre Dame 3/6/2015 Massachusetts
78 Dick Greenlaw Rensselaer 12/14/1965 Boston U.
77 Rick DiPietro Boston U. 3/26/2000 St. Lawrence
77 Bill Halbrehder Minnesota Duluth 12/19/1964 Michigan
76 Carmine Guerriero Alabama Huntsville 3/13/2015 Michigan Tech

 

Guerriero’s scoreless streak of 118:48 was almost nine minutes short of the longest streak in UAH history. Mark Byrne holds the longest shutout streak of 127:42, set over three games to start the 2000-01 season. Guerriero almost broke it in one game.

Alas, the Chargers streak of allowing a goal now stands at 165 games since Cam Talbot’s last UAH shutout in 2010, and UAH has been shut out 41 times in that stretch.

In the two regular-season games at Michigan Tech on January 30-31, Guerriero allowed nine goals over 84:41. He played a bit better Friday.