2014 in Review, Plus-Minus

Okay, I hear you: “Coming up with a best-of-2014 list is easy when they won just four games in the calendar year.”  And, well, it is, especially when you’re the guy that wrote all four of those recaps (sorry, Michael).  But let’s do it anyway and then talk about a couple of other things.

5.  UAH 4, Air Force 2.  UAH’s first win in 2014-15 came a full month earlier than it did in 2013-14, and it was the first two-goal win over a Division I foe since December 2011 (#ClarkeSaundersForever).  The Air Force game has the classic blueprint for 14-15 Charger success: strong goaltending, a solid PK, and good puck possession.  UAH can win with just the first two, but having all three really helps.  That Air Force game always felt like a UAH win.

4.  Carmine Guerriero v. the world against Mankato.  Some of those saves were Bill Brasky quality.  I mean, this is my favorite tweet about that game:

3.  UAH 2, Bemidji 1.  The rivalry comes back when you start winning, especially when you win in their barn.  The minus here is that we settled on “#UnionJack” for tweets about Jack Prince when, well, “#ElloGuvnah” was the better choice.

2.  UAH 3, Ferris 2.  UAH led for the entire game, controlled it for long stretches, and took down a 2014 Hobey Baker finalist on his home ice.  That game may have been UAH’s most complete effort of the year, especially considering the quality of the opponent (even though Ferris is a step worse than ’13-14).

1.  UAH 5, LSSU 2.  I mean, it was a) the first UAH home win in nearly four years b) UAH hadn’t won by that kind of margin in quite some time c) IT WAS AT HOME.  That game was a domination with a perfect special teams night in the midst of the crazy run that the team had.  Plus …

I mean, we’re not Beliebers.

Here’s the favorite things that I liked for this year:

5.  The class of 2018 is solid, with players that could be on most any WCHA team.  This hasn’t been the case of late, and you can’t blame the kids.

4.  Everyone still works their butts off, even as the talent level rises.  Just ask Mel Pearson, who’s still pissed that the Bulldog Line of Doug Reid, Craig Pierce, and Brent Fletcher shut his top line down all weekend.  Keep complaining, Mel: the boys’ success is directly proportional to their effort, and locking lines down is a part of that.

3.  The coaching staff has been really great this year.  This is the first season that the Chargers have kept a consistent three-man group since 2008-10 (Danton Cole with Chris Luongo and John McCabe as assistants).  Mike Corbett looks to have taken all of last season’s lessons to heart and is even better than he was last year as a coach.  Gavin Morgan has yet one more year under his belt and damn well better be a head coach someday (but not anytime soon, Morgee).  Matty Thomas busts his butt on the recruiting trail (though the other two go out as well).  It seems like I’m always getting texts from Matty in a different town each weekend.

2.  Brandon Carlson is one hell of a hockey player.  The Chargers’ strength runs from the goal line out, but big #6 seems to be the cog to me.  We all know that he’s a ham, too.  USHL guys like Carlson, Max McHugh, and Jordan Uhelski choosing to come to Huntsville make the program better.  The US league is clearly the best Tier I junior league in the US, and in my book it’s right up there with the BCHL.


We're calling him CG35, and we're hope that he's okay with that.  (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

The man, the myth, the legend. (Credit: Todd Pavlack)

It’s Carmine Guerriero’s world, and we’re just living in it.

Things that I don’t like (and they’re not all UAH-related):

5.  I don’t like the fact that people still dog on the WCHA.  The league looks set to put three teams in the NCAA tournament after Tech, Mankato, and BG fight it out for the McNaughton Cup — four if the boys pull a 2010 rocketship ride behind a blazing hot goaltender.  (You laugh, but wouldn’t that be a hell of a story?)  That’s pretty good for a league full of teams that nobody wanted to confer with.

4.  WCHA.tv has been a bit of a mess this year, but it’s getting better, and half-season passes at $69.99 are very much worth it.  The WCHA’s Matt Hodson has assured me that “[w]e’ve been able to successfully implement multi-bit rate functionality, which minimizes buffering and enables HD-quality feeds (even with a less-than-optimal in-venue bandwidth), for 8 of our 10 venues. We are working hard with both of those institutions, and on the America One/Akamai back-end, to find a solution for the other two.”  There’s a longer bit from my conversations with Matt on the USCHO forum (done a few weeks ago).

3.  Giving is up, but attendance is flat.  I get that people like to see the home team win, and that it will take some wins to get more fans.  UAH has some very winnable games coming up, including this weekend’s contests against Anchorage.  It’s not unrealistic to think that UAH could split their remaining league slate at home — maybe it’s laughable, but it’s not unrealistic.  But will anyone be there to watch?  I’m hopeful that the usual up-tick in attendance comes now that pigskin has gone to hibernation.

2.  I don’t like the penalties, especially the majors.  UAH is fourth in the nation at 16.9 PIM/G, less than 1.0 PIM/G behind #1 Alaska.  With all the things to love about certain players’ games, the propensity to take bad penalties — especially two majors in the same game — really dims that for me.  Brennan Saulnier (67 PIM in 18 GP, 20% of the team total) and Chad Brears (41) could easily take 100 PIM this year.  Saulnier’s mark already eclipses all sinners’ PIM totalw from 2013-14 (Cody Marooney led the parade with 52).  No Charger has broken 70 since Graeme Strukoff (71) in his freshman year, and no Charger has broken 100 since Sebastian Geoffrion (115 in 2010-11).  Yeah, the UAH special teams units are the best in the nation, but when penalties cost Jack Prince ice time, we have problems.

1.  It’s freaking impossible to get a good UAH jersey.  This has been a complaint for years, and it just won’t go away — and now it’s worse now that UAH is in the WCHA and starting to play better.  People love the underdog!  People love the road blues!  And you just can’t get them.

Now, Michael made the case last year for more blue on the home jerseys, and I stand with him.  I know why this is the case, too: UAH uses black pants to keep from “looking like Smurfs” (no attribution) on the road, but we aren’t so flush with cash that we use blue pants at home.

All you can get on the concourse are the inferior home whites.  Some people have had access to the special grey jerseys that the ended the season with last year — I know this because I’ve seen “KESTNER 26” in the stands — but these aren’t generally available to the public.  You can get jerseys from Anchorage, Bemidji, BG, Ferris, and Mankato at the league shop, but the other half of the member schools don’t take advantage of this.  Furthermore, the UAH bookstore only sells what Athletics gives them, and it’s not been road blues.

UAH is leaving money on the table.  Hockey fans love jerseys (although few as much as Ryan Johnson).  We like wearing them to our team’s games.  We like wearing them to other teams’ games.  When I go to Nashville in February to watch the stRangers play the Preds, I will be proudly wearing my Cam Talbot black third from the Yale series his freshman year.  I paid $300 for that jersey.

I know that game-level jerseys run in the $70 range; sell at $200 and you’re making a great profit, and you could go cheaper on the quality and drop the cost.  We should be doing 2-3 special jerseys a year and doing an auction/purchase for each one: with 26 players and a profit margin of at least $130, that’s almost $9,000 if you’re just moving them for $200.  We should be selling old jerseys on the concourse during games, too, and we definitely should be selling the road blues both in person and online.

Now, I know that this doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and I know that UAH is a Division II school with a proportionally-sized athletic department.  Michael and I both know this because we’ve worked in Sports Information at different times.  We get it.  It would be unfair to overload anyone in the hockey office with this, because they have a lot going.  These kind of things would be so simple for a student worker to do — especially a student-athlete who is working on fifth-year money or work-study or what-have-you.  Design work requires professionals, but execution is grunt work.

Get on it, UAH.

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