Season delayed as Chargers prepare and look for a league

The restart of Charger hockey is officially on hold because of COVID-19.

In a joint statement on Thursday, all Division I conferences announced that there will be a delay to the 2020-21 college hockey season due to the pandemic. Each conference will announce its own plans for the season, with the WCHA unveiling its revised schedule later in the fall.

“With 10 teams in five states, WCHA member institutions are currently operating under multiple state, local, university system, institutional and NCAA COVID-19 mandates,” the WCHA said in its statement. “Delaying the start of the season will provide league and member administrators the opportunity to continue detailed discussions regarding the implementation of a return to play plan that addresses the diverse guidelines all WCHA institutions must adhere to and recognizes the rapidly-evolving medical and safety environments that exist today.”

“It would be tough for us to play before January,” UAH athletic director Cade Smith said. “We’ll go with whatever the WCHA decides.”

Smith said teams traveling in buses and airplanes and going into locker rooms spreading the virus is the big concern.

Most fall sports at UAH and its primary league, the Gulf South Conference, have been cancelled. Charger basketball will not start before January.

The Huntsville Havoc, which shares the Von Braun Center with the Chargers, won’t begin their SPHL season until December. Venue limitations and capacity at the VBC will need to be worked out, Smith said.

“The University of Alabama system requires all athletes be tested every week, which is stricter than the NCAA guidelines,” Smith said. “How do we trace positives, how do we quarantine — these have taken much of administrative bandwidth.”

Smith said out of 150-160 tests this week, there were only eight positives. He feels that the protocols are working, and UAH head coach Lance West says his players are doing what needs to be done.

“The guys have been good at handling and protecting themselves and others,” West said. “They are preparing themselves as well as they can for when they can go.

“It’s been the hardest on the freshmen,” West said. “Their social interactions are limited and they are away from home. The veterans have been good at keeping them focused on what they can do as opposed to what they expected to do when they got to college.

“If you want to play, there are certain things they have to give up and choices they have to make.”

The Chargers are expected to have 13 freshmen this season, according to our commitment list, as West and his staff worked to build back the roster following the cancellation and restoration of the program. UAH is expected to announce the full roster soon once everyone has been cleared.

“That’s just the situation we were dealt,” West said. “We accepted the challenge together and found a way to get it done. You’ll see a team of hungry guys with something to prove.

“Everyone has a piece of where we’re headed. We will empower the guys that will set the tone for the future of the program. When we hit the ice, we will have the old-school, simple mentality of getting better every day.”

Meanwhile, the search for a conference home for the 2021-22 season continues. The primary target is now the Atlantic Hockey Association.

“I had a good call with the commissioner of the AHA (Robert DeGregorio, Jr.) about a month ago,” Smith said. “He laid out everything. I sent him a letter of interest, trying to gain an audience with their league about the application process.”

Atlantic Hockey currently has 11 teams, meaning UAH could become the 12th.

Smith says we could know by the time the Chargers play their first game this season, whenever that is, whether UAH has landed a spot in the conference.

The other option, the Central Collegiate Athletic Association, is now a long-shot at best. The CCHA announced the addition of the St. Paul-based University of St. Thomas as its eighth team on July 29, and it appears the new conference, comprising of seven WCHA programs, will be satisfied with eight entering its first season in 2021-22.

Hoof Beats: UAH announced the addition of former Charger goaltender Carmine Guerriero to the staff last Friday.

Guerriero played in 77 games for the Chargers from 2013-17. His .910 career save percentage was second best in UAH’s modern Division I era and fourth best all-time. His 3.19 career goals against average was fifth best in the D-I era and ninth all-time.

Last season, Guerriero was a volunteer goaltending coach at St. Lawrence.

Another former UAH netminder, Scott Munroe, has been named a player development coach at Total Package Hockey of Phoenix. Munroe, who played at UAH from 2002-2006, is the schools all-time leader in save percentage (.918) and helped the Chargers win the College Hockey America regular-season title in 2003.

Around the WCHA: Alaska Anchorage was given a chance to save its program after the Board of Regents voted Thursday to cut it following this season. The Seawolves must raise $3 million — two years of operating expenses — by February for the Board to consider reinstating the team. … The Alaska Nanooks team was quarantined as of August 30 after a player tested positive for COVID-19 following an on-campus gathering.