Sep 252016
 

Some statistical tidbits to look out for as the 2016-17 season starts in just one week:

Top UAH scorers since the 2007-08 season
G A Pts
Andrew Coburn 21 33 54
Chad Brears 19 27 46
Max McHugh 19 26 45
Brandon Roshko 3 42 45
  • Junior Max McHugh may be the Chargers’ most potent scorer in a decade. He has 19 goals and 45 points in his UAH career, leading all active Chargers in just two seasons. McHugh has the third-most goals and third-most points in the last nine seasons.
  • Four players have a shot to catch and pass the all-time UAH record for career games played, which is 137 by Joel Bresciani (1999-2003). Brent Fletcher, Cody Marooney, and Brandon Carlson, at 105 games played each, can catch Bresciani if they play 32 of UAH’s 34 regular-season games this season (plus any postseason play). Matt Salhany, with 103 games played, could also catch Bresciani.
  • Matt Larose

    Matt Larose

    UAH has two senior goaltenders, Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero, for the first time since the 1986-87 season (Barry Friedman and Jim Mitchell).

  • Guerriero has played 3,911 minutes in his UAH career, which is fourth-most in school history. He is 747 minutes (about 13 full games) from catching Mark Byrne (1999-2003) for third place. Guerriero’s .914 save percentage is second in UAH’s modern Division I history and third all-time.
  • Should the Chargers make the WCHA playoffs, the first game will be the 1,000th varsity game in UAH’s hockey history. The Jan. 7 game against Minnesota State will be the Chargers’ 500th varsity home game.
  • Freshman Austin Beaulieu of Coral Springs will be UAH’s second player from Florida and first since Mike Dalton (1982-86). Freshman Sean Rappleyea of Sayre will be UAH’s second player from New Jersey and first since James Kodrowski (1998-2000).

WCHA.tv packages available: The 2016-17 edition of WCHA.tv, the WCHA’s online streaming platform, is ready for ordering with a number of packages available.

The full-league season pass is $104.99, which gives you live and on demand access to every WCHA team’s home game this season. If you only want to see the Chargers, the single-team season pass is $89.99 and includes all 28 conference games.

For UAH fans who will be at all the home games and therefore only need to see the road games online, there is a new single-team road pass. You get all of the Chargers’ 14 WCHA road games for $44.99.

Monthly and nightly passes are also available. Visit WCHA.tv for more information.

Promotional schedule unveiled: UAH announced the 2016-17 hockey promotional schedule on Monday.

Opening night is Friday, Oct. 21 against Lake Superior State, when UAH schedule magnets will be given away. Military Appreciation Weekend is Nov. 11 and 12 against Alaska, when all veterans and active military personnel receive free admission.

UAH hockey trading cards will be given away on all Saturday games.

Sep 202016
 

The Chargers were picked to just miss the WCHA playoffs this season by the coaches and media, selected to finish ninth in both preseason polls released Tuesday during the league’s preseason media teleconference.

Last season, UAH finished in last place with a 5-17-6 conference record, falling four points short of a playoff berth. UAH head coach Mike Corbett, now in his fourth season at the helm, says it is time for the Chargers to “turn the corner.”

“Our group has taken a lot of punches over the course of the last three years,” Corbett said. “Some well deserved. But we’ve taken a lot of punches and yet my guys have gained a lot of experience playing North Dakota, St. Cloud, and Colorado College, along with the WCHA schedule because every night it’s a battle. My team and I have grown together over the course of the last three years.”

Seniors Brent Fletcher and Matt Salhany, along with junior Max McHugh, who led the Chargers in scoring the past two seasons, will be the Charger captains this season.

“Those guys are leading us,” Corbett said. “Our two goaltenders, Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero, and Brandon Carlson and Regan Soquila, our seniors: Those are the guys will be leaning on heavily. They’ve seen it all in college hockey, from a program that folded to a team that was not very good in their freshman year, moving up into the WCHA, being in every game, giving ourselves a chance to win.

“We’ve got a full complement of Division I players in our lineup right now. To me, the biggest thing is to be able to add depth.”

The top eight teams in the WCHA make the playoffs, which have a new twist: All playoff games will be held at the rinks of the higher seeds, with best-of-3 quarterfinals and semifinals, and a single-game championship.

WCHA games will also be worth three points in the standings, with an extra overtime of 3-on-3 hockey for five minutes following the traditional 5-on-5 overtime, and a shootout if the game is still tied after that. Winners get three points for a win in regulation or the 5-on-5 overtime, two for a win in 3-on-3 OT or the shootout. Losers in the 3-on-3 OT or the shootout get one point.

“These new changes with the playoff format and the overtime changes, and the NHL nets, will make for an exciting and fantastic year,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said.

“We are concentrating on making the existing WCHA as strong as it can be for our member institutions. We want to be proactive and progressive.”

2016-17 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll 

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Bowling Green (8) 89
2. Michigan Tech (2) 79
3. Minnesota State 71
4. Ferris State 70
5. Northern Michigan 54
6. Bemidji State 48
7. Lake Superior State 44
8. Alaska Anchorage 29
9. UAH 23
10. Alaska 21


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: 
Gerald Mayhew, Sr. F, Ferris State (7 votes)
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Parker Tuomie, F, Minnesota State (4 votes)
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan
F Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green (tie)
F Corey Mackin, Ferris State (tie)
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Matt Roy, Michigan Tech
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green

2016-17 Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll 

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Bowling Green (15) 251
2. Michigan Tech (6) 239
3. Minnesota State (5) 236
4. Ferris State (2) 218
5. Northern Michigan 161
6. Bemidji State 144
7. Lake Superior State 106
8. Alaska 68
9. UAH 56
10. Alaska Anchorage 50


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: 
Gerald Mayhew, Sr., F, Ferris State
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Cameron Clarke, D, Ferris State
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan
F Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Matt Roy, Michigan Tech
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green

UAH’s Max McHugh received votes for WCHA player of the Year. UAH’s Connor James and Austin Beaulieu received votes for WCHA Rookie of the Year.

Geof Morris and Michael Napier of UAHHockey.com participated in the media poll. Here are our ballots:

Geof Morris’s ballot:

  1. Bowling Green
  2. Michigan Tech
  3. Minnesota State
  4. Ferris State
  5. Northern Michigan
  6. UAH
  7. Bemidji State
  8. Lake Superior State
  9. Alaska Anchorage
  10. Alaska

Preseason All-WCHA:
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Sean Walker, Bowling Green
F Tyler Heinonen, Michgan Tech
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Max McHugh, UAH
Player of the Year: Chris Nell, Bowling Green
Newcomer of the Year: Austin Beaulieu, UAH


Michael Napier’s ballot:

  1. Bowling Green
  2. Michigan Tech
  3. Minnesota State
  4. Ferris State
  5. Northern Michigan
  6. Bemidji State
  7. Lake Superior State
  8. UAH
  9. Alaska
  10. Alaska Anchorage

Preseason All-WCHA:
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Sean Walker, Bowling Green
F Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan

Player of the Year: Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
Newcomer of the Year: Parker Tuomie, Minnesota State

Aug 312016
 

The NCHC said no today to expansion bids from Arizona and Minnesota State.

The word on the street is that the Alaska situation is a concern, although not a primary one.

This obviates the recovery for a 7-team WCHA that I proposed the other day, but an 8-team WCHA would have some travel issues as well.  The question is going to be very simple: if the Alaska schools drop Division I athletics at both campuses, will the WCHA be comfortable with an 8-team scheduling matrix?

Eight teams drives you to play your seven opponents home-and-away: Huntsville every year, Bemidji every year, everyone every year.  Do you add two teams to ameliorate that travel?  You’d consider it, but who could come aboard?  The exit fee to leave the NCHC is $1.5MM per Brad E. Schlossman, and that means that you’re not going to see Western Michigan and Miami come back to a league that would look increasingly like the old CCHA.  [Also not happening: WMU and MU for BSU and MSU.  This isn’t a Yahoo! college hockey fantasy league.]

What about Arizona State?

Good question!  I know that the WCHA really wanted to get a name school into the league, and even with an uncertain arena situation (see the first link up top from CHN), it may be a good fit for the league.  I noted earlier today that the WCHA may want to get them and make it hard for them to leave.  While it may look bad to add a geographical outlier like the Sun Devils, the matter of fact is that a 9-team WCHA that loses the Alaska schools but adds Arizona State can easily put in a system where you generally don’t play in Tempe and Huntsville every year, the biggest flight for most schools.

Would the WCHA want to add Arizona State and another team to go stay at 10 teams?

That’s a big maybe.  Robert Morris is probably the most sensible option, as you can make UAH-ASU a scheduling pair and make BGSU-RMU a travel pair.  From Sunday:

BGSU-RMU: The two schools aren’t terribly far apart, and Ohioans largely hate Pittsburgh.  Also, losing the pairing with UAH keeps their travel costs down.  Keeping BGSU is key for the health of the league — probably moreso than any other team.

The resulting geographic pattern isn’t a terrible one:

WCHA - Alaskas + ASU + RMU

What if the Alaska schools survive?  Will Arizona State get in anyway?

I’m going to bet yes, and I think that they’d look at add a 12th (e.g., RMU) to keep a core in the arc of the Midwest in order to keep travel costs down for schools that aren’t far-flung.

There’s a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous.  I did a lot of work on this the other night, and I’m sure that I’ll do more. But I’ll probably be pulling it off this site and onto another one.

Aug 282016
 

Now to be clear, we want none of these things to happen, but it’s entirely possible that Minnesota State may leave the WCHA (a stronger bet now that Arizona State is angling for a slot in the NCHC) and that the Alaska schools don’t survive the chopping block.  What comes next?

At that point, the WCHA is a 7-team league: four teams in Michigan (Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior, and Ferris State), and one each in Minnesota (Bemidji State), Ohio (Bowling Green), and Alabama.  That league looks something a bit like this, geographically:

Midpoint, 7-team WCHA

The only thing that league would have going for it would be a killer postseason tournament on a frozen Lake Michigan (or, failing that, one of those crazy Space-X rocket-landing barges flooded with an ice sheet).  A 7-team league would be a hard sell, because the only sensible scheduling mechanism, a 24-game league schedule where you play each team home-and-away, would be brutal on travel for six small schools and Bowling Green.  That’s a league that the Falcons would try to quickly exit if no new teams come in.  It’s also a modestly-upgraded College Hockey America.

But what if another shift in tectonic plates involves some Eastern teams on the western edge of things?  I’m specifically thinking of three schools who have had success in Atlantic Hockey, two of whom were previously in the CHA: Niagara, Robert Morris, and RIT.  Here’s what a geographic footprint with those teams looks like:

Raiding Atlantic Hockey

Now Niagara has been down on its luck the last three seasons, losing 20+ games in each of those campaigns.  RIT has faded a little bit, too, but they’re consistently a solid team.  Lastly, RMU has been scorching hot since the demise of the CHA, winning at least 17 games in every campaign.

Here’s how you make that setup work.  Remember that the WCHA has had a 28-game league schedule for 10 teams: one team you play as a travel pair, and the other eight alternate in a two- or four-game fashion.  Here are your sensible pairings:

  1. UAH – Bemidji.  Neither team has another WCHA team in their state or a neighboring one, the two are rivals, and the Beavers aren’t going to horn in on a rivalry with Tech, the team closest to them.  This is the toughest travel pairing in the league, but someone is going to lose out in any deal like this.
  2. Tech – Northern.  This is an established pairing from the current WCHA setup.
  3. Lake – Ferris.  This is also an established pairing.
  4. BG – RMU.  The two schools aren’t terribly far apart, and Ohioans largely hate Pittsburgh.  Also, losing the pairing with UAH keeps their travel costs down.  Keeping BGSU is key for the health of the league — probably moreso than any other team.
  5. Niagara – RIT.  The two NY schools make sense to put together, especially for those snowy upstate winter weekends.

Pairing UAH and Bemidji also puts teams into a situation where it’s rare that a team will have to make both trips in a season — just once in every four seasons.  Even better, you can do your two-game/four-game flip on the pairings: UAH plays Tech four times and Northern twice, then flips the next season, etc.  That lowers travel costs pretty significantly for everyone save Bemidji and UAH, who unfortunately (for them) don’t fit into any other league.

Let’s do a thought experiment with Bowling Green as the key.  Say it’s the Falcons’ year to travel to Pittsburgh, Huntsville, Tech, Niagara, Ferris, Rochester, and the Soo.

Bowling Green Travel 2018-19

Those all look like bus trips to me.


Losing Minnesota State, Alaska, and Alaska-Anchorage while adding Niagara, RIT, and Robert Morris moves the WCHA from WCHA Lite to CCHA Lite.  Better still, Bowling Green owns the rights to the name of the CCHA.  If we’re going to lose Mankato, I propose that we sell the NCHC the name WCHA and revive the CCHA name.  Half of the league’s teams have a CCHA pedigree (counting Tech’s brief presence in the league), and the CCHA is strongly associated with Michigan and Ohio, if not these schools.  Playing closer to the middle of the country may allow the W(C)CHA to get non-conference games with the schools in that area.  (Emphasis on may.)

If the WCHA loses the Alaska schools, they are on the knife edge of being able to schedule a far-flung league, even one without the long trips to the 49th.  Playing a 28-game league schedule with eight teams means that everyone travels everywhere else in a season.  The Michigan and Ohio teams have to be unenthusiastic about that.  Yes, you travel to Huntsville three years in four, but that’s better than going to Alaska three years in four and twice once every four.

If you’re interested, I’ve developed the CCHA Lite Schedule Format (PDF) of my thinking for this.  I used the template of the home / away / home & home setup of the current WCHA, substituting UAH and BSU for UAA and UAF (figuring that the schedule had worked out for the long travel), RMU for UAH (making the shorter trip for the Falcons), and NU and RIT for BSU and MSU (keeping an in-state pair of schools a bit removed from the rest of the league paired together).  I think that this works pretty well, at least for a start.

There are two pretty big IFs here, but they’re realistic, and if they come to fruition, the WCHA needs to be ready.

Aug 212016
 

These are grim days for college hockey in Alaska, as UAA and UAF hockey look to be on the chopping block in a period that UAA athletic director Keith Hackett called “very, very trying times” on Thursday.  The University of Alaska system released a report on Thursday that seeks to confront the potential complete general fund cut in athletics across the system.  The report’s options aren’t crystal clear, but I’ll give the rundown as I best understand it:

  1.  Athletics at either Fairbanks or Anchorage could have a complete cut — or both could be cut altogether.  These cuts are driven by a $50MM shortfall in the UA system that would likely cut General Fund contributions to Athletics by 50% in FY 2020 from FY 2016 levels and remove those contributions altogether by 2025.  College Hockey News reports that UAA will have to trim $1.7MM from its budget by July 2017 after already absorbing a $1MM cut last year.  UAA’s hockey operating budget is $1.9MM per Hackett, while the News Miner reports that UAF hockey costs are around $2.1MM.
  2. The UA system might approach the NCAA with a consortium model for athletics, with some sports playing in Fairbanks while others play in Anchorage.  This would allow UAF to keep skiing and rifle while UAA could keep basketball.  The issue with this is that teams would play under the Alaska banner, but students seeking to play these sports would have their academic choices limited by their sport assignment.  The two schools are 300 miles apart, so one can’t argue that playing and studying could be separated easily.  The two schools field teams in 23 sports, and the cuts would be down to “10+”, the NCAA minimum for Division II.  Ice hockey, skiing, and rifle are not sanctioned at the Division II level.
  3. Both schools would drop to Division II, ending the Division I-only programs and having all competition in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.  The expensive sports — mainly hockey — would be replaced by less-expensive ones (1/3 – 1/2 the cost) per the Alaska Dispatch News.

CkCeEkTVEAEQko4

All is not bleak:

Hackett, though clearly frustrated by the impact budget cuts handed down by the Legislature will have on athletics, was quick to say that nothing in the report is finalized and actions by the Board of Regents aren’t limited to just those options.

“Everything is on the table, but there is no decision about programs at this time,” he said.

UA President Jim Johnsen released a statement:

“There is a lot to think about here with the options presented, but I am particularly pleased that these groups have stepped up, stayed with the charge, and generated not only what I asked them to evaluate, but they have put forward some innovative ideas to realign university resources.”

Graeme Strukoff looks toward the net from the point with Doug Reid low in the slot.  (Photo credit: Chris Brightwell)

Graeme Strukoff looks toward the net from the point with Doug Reid low in the slot. (Photo credit: Chris Brightwell)

If there’s a school that understands this situation, it’s UAH.  Alabama doesn’t have the same kind of fiscal problems that the State of Alaska does, but a $25MM cut was levied for the most recent budget by the Alaska state legislature and signed by the governor.  That decision is driving these cuts, which are not limited by any means to just athletics — academic programs are on the block as well.  All of this reminds me of a lot of the rumblings that I’ve heard from Tuscaloosa about how the programs shouldn’t try to compete and that UAH should keep athletics costs down.  I don’t think that this attitude has prevailed — UAH has added lacrosse, so cost containment overall wouldn’t appear to be an issue — but dividing and conquering has always seemed to be the way of the Alabama system.

It’s also very clear that state apportionments to education have steadily dropped over the last 20 years.  I remember when I was an undergraduate at UAH (I started 19 falls ago) that UAH’s general fund was sourced around 50% from money from Montgomery; for FY 2015, it was 21.3%.  (Note, that page is a rolling entry, so if you look at this in three years, the numbers will be different.)

It’s a difficult time for public higher education.  Our three schools have high travel costs due to being geographic outliers. We nearly lost our program; it would be a tragedy if UAA and/or UAF lost theirs.  With two of the three options ending hockey for at least one campus, this is pretty grim.  I don’t really see a reading of this where neither program is lost unless the general fun cuts come from other areas.  It feels very much like one program will go down, and I honestly expect both to be axed.

Public comment on Pathways has been sparse, especially in support of athletics.  Alaskans who love hockey, get out and make your voice heard — don’t confine your frustration to the USCHO Fan Forum.