October 7th Lineups

Here are tonight’s lineups:

Jamie Easton – Neil Ruffini – Chris Fairbanks
Sebastian Geoffrion – Justin Cseter – Keenan Desmet
Mac Roy – Alex Allan – Vince Bruni
Brice Geoffrion – Cody Dion – Joe Koudys

Matt Baxter – Ryan Burkholder
Nickolas Gatt – Curtis deBruyn
Mat Hagen – Tom Durnie

Clarke Saunders
CJ Groh
Johnny Griggs

Starters have not been announced.

Gameday Interview: Ferris State

We’re going to try to do this for every home game, and hopefully some away games if we can work out the technology. Here’s UAHHockey.com’s gameday interview with the UAH Hockey coaching staff:

[audio:http://uahhockey.com/wp-content/audio/20101007-coaches-pregame.mp3]

Some brief notes from the coaches’ luncheon:

  1. Clarke Saunders will start tonight’s game.
  2. Cody Campbell is ineligible to play due to his NCAA eligibility clock having expired. Campbell attended British Columbia Institute of Technology for one full-time term in 2005, which started his NCAA eligibility clock. Campbell was playing junior B hockey at the time, and he worked, played hockey, and took classes all at once. This proved to be a hefty load, so he stopped going to school full-time after the one term. The next season, he got some ice time with Burnaby Express in the BCHL, and it was 2007-08 before Dennis Williams made initial contacts that ended up bringing him to Huntsville. As Campbell was not a true degree-seeking student and only attended one full-time term, UAH is hopeful that the NCAA will do right by him and reset his eligibility clock. As of now, Campbell is ineligible but is still working hard in classes and on his conditioning with the hopes that the NCAA will overturn its ruling.
  3. Lasse Uusivirta is ineligible for this weekend because the NCAA clearinghouse is not fully satisfied with his secondary school transcripts from Finland. The main issues are in translation and that Finnish secondary transcripts do not delineate when students take which courses, which is a standard practice in the US. Uusivirta’s family is working with his secondary school and UAH to satisfy the clearinghouse’s concerns, and everyone is hopeful that Lasse will be eligible to play next week.

There is no official word yet as to who will play and who will sit tonight. When we have that information, we will pass it along. You will also want to follow UAH Hockey on Twitter for pre-game, in-game, and post-game commentary from us. As soon as we have a line chart, we will put that information out to the public.

How to follow the game tonight if you’re not in Huntsville: Ferris State will have their audio feed from their radio broadcast [Real Audio Player required], and there is always the pay-per-view video option for 22 UAH Hockey broadcasts in 2010-11. Steve Moulton typically provides play-by-play for the B2 feed, but he will be out for Friday night and you will be stuck with my terrible p-b-p skills then. Also, there’s always UAH Hockey live stats.

Hope to see you at the rink, but if not, please keep in touch with us here at UAHHockey.com.

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Your 2010-11 Chargers: The Defensemen

Having looked at the goalies, let’s turn our eyes to the young men who help keep pucks away from them in the first place: the defensemen.

Photo credit: Will Nickelson

The Chargers are led by their gritty captain, Ryan Burkholder. As we noted in our rundown of the captains for 2010-11, Ryan has just two assists in three years in the blue and white. What “Burky” may lack in offensive production, he more than makes up for in defensive ability and character. Like Scott Kalinchuk before him, Ryan is a quiet leader of his team, taking players aside to reinforce the coaches’ instructions during practice. I watched the Chargers practice this morning, and one thing that struck me is that Ryan was totally locked in during any instruction from Coach Luongo. His attention didn’t waver a whit, and that focus is definitely shown by his play on the ice. Ryan is also a good student, with a GPA in excess of 3.0, which is no small feat at UAH.

Photo credit: Nick Franklin

Matt Baxter brings a wealth of experience to the ice, serving as one of the team’s alternate captains for this season, his final one in a Charger uniform. Known to his teammates and coaches as “Jim”, Baxter combines size, skating ability, and a strong left-handed slapshot to provide the Chargers with solid blueline play as well as sparking the offense. What I always notice about Jim is that he keeps working. Baxter will be leaned on for his leadership on and off the ice this season, as the Chargers graduated Dave Nicoletti, Brennan Barker, and Brandon Roshko from last year’s defensive corps. As previously noted, Baxter is an excellent student, with a 3.5+ GPA while majoring in psychology and sociology.

Photo credit: Will Nickelson

Tom Durnie has battled to get in the lineup his first two seasons, playing just 38 games in that span. “Durns” will be called upon to step up this season with half of the defensive corps being freshmen. The keys for Durnie are to play within himself and to utilize his reach effectively to disrupt the opposing offense’s flow down low. Tom has all the tools and needs to play consistently; I feel that he will make huge strides this season.

Photo credit: Geof Morris

Curtis deBruyn was a great addition to the Charger defensive corps in 2009-10, playing 32 games and scoring a goal and six assists. deBruyn plays within himself and does the smart thing, which you can see in the box score as he’s taken just 14 PIM in his college career. Despite playing for a 2009-10 team that had a -16 goal differential, deBruyn finished -2 for the season. Selected by his teammates as an alternate captain for this year, what I’ve noticed in watching practice for the last week is that deBruyn is a vocal leader on the ice.

Photo credit: Geof Morris

Lasse Uusivirta is the second Finnish player in as many seasons to come to play his college hockey in Huntsville. Uusivirta means “new stream”, and he promises to bring a scoring touch from the blueline. In 118 games for the Espoo Jr. Blues U20 team, Lasse was 36-41–77 and captained his team last season. Having watched him in practice, I expect Lasse to log plenty of minutes this season, including time on the power play. He seems to have a deft scoring touch from the outside, and I feel like he has a good feel for the game. There are always concerns about how a player will adjust to the speed of the college game, and freshmen will, of course, make freshman mistakes. My gut feeling, though, is that Lasse will be just as important to the team as deBruyn was last season. For the record, you pronounce it “Oo-see-VEER-tuh”—or at least that’s how I’ve heard it from teammates.

Photo credit: pointstreak.com

Mat Hagen is the smallest of the Chargers’ freshman defensemen, listed at 6’0″, 185. From what I’ve seen in practice, Hagen is a good skater with decent hands. He seems to be a bit slow at times to move the puck offensively across the blue line, which will certainly bite him in the college game, but he seems coachable and should learn quickly what he needs to do to be successful at this level. In 62 games played for the Kanata Stallions in 2009-10, Hagen scored three goals and 28 assists, which bodes well for him to be an offensive contributor for the Chargers going forward.

Photo credit: pointstreak.com

Nickolas Gatt comes to Huntsville from the Topeka Roadrunners of the North American Hockey League, where he scored two goals and 14 assists in 54 games. More importantly, Gatt finished +18 on the season, which indicates that he should be a solid addition for the Chargers defense. Listed at 6’3″, looks like he will fill out from his current 195-lb frame as his college career continues. Gatt has made strides in the week of practices I’ve watched, and I expect that he’ll be in the mix for a spot on the Chargers’ third pair.

Trevor Conrad is a big, bruising defenseman, 6’0″-215. He first caught my eye in practice by absolutely creaming Sebastian Geoffrion in the corner. Conrad looks to fill the role of the punishing defender, but he is working on his overall game in practice. As with Hagen and Gatt, Conrad promises to be in the mix defensively this season. All three will get on the ice based on their work in practice, and I’ve seen all of them give a good effort. Oh, and for the hockey fight fans amongst you, Conrad is the man in black …

[Ed.: I had Mat Hagen’s height wrong, and also had his incorrect junior team listed for 2009-10. I regret the error. –GFM]

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Your 2010-11 Chargers: The Goalies

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Cam Talbot is now playing professionally, having given up his final season of eligibility. This comes as no surprise to anyone around the program. Talbie, thanks for three great years. We will be watching your professional development. Blake MacNicol’s eligibility is up.

Where does that leave the Charger netminding staff? Here’s your answer:

The Incumbent

#31 Johnny Griggs

Photo credit: Doug Eagan

Johnny Griggs may not have seen any game time on the ice for the Chargers in 2009-10, but he does have a year of coaching under his belt, knows the defense that will be in front of him, and knows what the coaching staff expects of him. Also, it’s not like he was a slouch of a goalie in juniors: Johnny was third in Goals-Against Average in the Central Junior Hockey League (ON) in 2008-09, with an .898 save percentage. While Johnny is listed as a product of the Cumberland Grads, a check of his player card indicates that he was playing for the league’s power, the Pembroke Lumber Kings. When I look at the 2008-09 stats for the Lumber Kings, I see that Johnny was the better goalie in their season-starting tandem: 15-4-1, 5 SO, 2.09GAA, .913SV%. There’s obviously a difficulty adjustment between Junior A and NCAA Division I—just go look at Talbie’s stats as a freshman—but I think Johnny has the capacity to be a solid goaltender for the Chargers next year.

The New Guys

#32 CJ Groh

Photo credit: Geof F. Morris

CJ Groh committed to UAH on Tax Day in 2009 for this upcoming season. A ’90 goalie from Cincinnati, Ohio, CJ bounced around a little bit in juniors this year. CJ signed while being with the NAHL’s Springfield Jr Blues, where he had excellent statistics: 6W-6L-4OTL, 1 SO, 2.66 GAA, .918 SV% this year, 15W-15L-3OTL, 4SO, 2.62 GAA, .917 SV% in 2008-09. In the 2009 NAHL playoffs, he did yeoman’s work in keeping his team in games: 1-3, 2.09 GAA, .947 SV%. That’s all you can ask of a kid, right?

Now, it’s easy to look at his 2009-10 stats with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks—3W-5L-2OTL, 1 SO, 4.14GAA, .876 SV%—and go, “Oi … he took a step back at a higher level of competition.” But a scout sent us the following, from a much longer email that was quite effusive in its praise of CJ:

In Waterloo, if you take out his first and last games then his stats were pretty good, better then 5 or 6 #1s on other teams. His first game within 24 hours of him being traded up to Waterloo – arrived in Waterloo midnight on Thursday, boarded bus next morning at 8am and played that night without benefit of any practices. Last game came vs. a very hot USA U18 team that simply blasted Waterloo (both goalies allowed 5 goals in half game played). Waterloo had opportunity to pick up a young (92) goalie at the trade deadline so CJ was the odd man out – not as much because of performance but they knew he was going to school in the fall and they had a chance to get a kid for next year as well. But they purposely sent him to St Louis (and not back to Springfield) because they knew St Louis has legitimate shot at Tier II National title (3 time defending champs) and they have a goalie coach who would work them daily – something not even Waterloo could offer. His numbers since joining St. Louis have been very good.

So, let’s look at his body of work as a starting goalie in Waterloo: blown out in his debut [where it seemed that there were extenuating circumstances], an overtime loss where he saved 41-of-45, an overtime win where he stopped 31-of-34, an overtime loss where he stopped 31-of-35, two straight wins, including a shutout, and two losses where his team scored one goal for him. I look at that body of work and think, “That’s really no different than anything we saw Cam or Blake struggle with in 2007-08 or 2008-09.” Then, yes, CJ got traded back to the NAHL, this time to the St. Louis Bandits. CJ’s stats in St. Louis were excellent: 5W-1L-1OTL, 1 SO, 1.98 GAA, .910 SV%.

So don’t look at those Waterloo stats and freak out.

#33 Clarke Saunders

Photo credit: Doug Eagan

Clarke will play at University of Alabama – Huntsville

Third year Goaltender Clarke Saunders has accepted a NCAA DIV I athletic scholarship to the University Of Alabama- Huntsville located in Huntsville Alabama.

Clarke is a native of Brockville Ontario, he has been the Braves starter for three seasons, compiling a number of Individual records as well as backstopping a majority of the Braves League record 26 game winning streak. Saunders holds the Braves Career Records for Most Wins – 81, Lowest Goals Against Average – 2.71 Best Save % – .915 and single season Records for Most Wins – 31(09-10), also 2nd most wins – 29 (07-08), Lowest GAA – 2.31, Best Save % – .900 and is tied for Most Shutouts – 3.

After playing a large part in the Braves record breaking season and competing in the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian Championships, Clarke will join the Huntsville Chargers in the fall.

Clarke committed to UAH in April. He’s not the first Brockville Brave to don the Blue and White: he’s third behind Jason Hawes and Brennan Barker, who finished his junior career with the Penticton Vees. Sadly, not long after he committed, he hurt his knee:

In practice on Monday, Saunders just fell to the ice in trying to make a save. He went into the dressing room and two players had to carry him back out onto the ice for the team photo.

“I just went to make a sliding save and felt a lot of pain and I couldn’t really get up,” said Saunders in recalling the play.

It’s diagnosed as a tear in the cartilage in his right knee and it’s going to take a week or two to determine if it will heal from rest or will require surgery.

“I feel terrible for Clarkie. It’s his last year and he has this opportunity (Fred Page Cup) and an injury stops him from playing,” said Gill.

How It Will Play Out

I’ve watched practice a few times in the past few weeks, and all three goaltenders are getting ice time. It seems that Groh and Saunders get a skosh more time than Griggs, but it’s not a certainty at this point. I fully expect that the three will all see ice time early until one of them pulls ahead of the others with game performance.

Note: this post originally appeared on SaveUAHHockey.com in April. It has been slightly modified for our use here.