Hoof Beats: The wait continues

An update on UAH-to-Atlantic Hockey: There is no update.

June was the month in which we we’re expecting Atlantic Hockey to deliberate expansion and potentially inviting UAH into the conference. It is now July, and we still do not know when the final answer will come down.

UAH suspended the hockey program back in May because it couldn’t get an answer on conference affiliation in time.

Recent developments may have made the wait even longer. Atlantic Hockey member Robert Morris stunned college hockey on May 26 with the announcement that it was cutting it’s men’s and women’s programs. Efforts to save the programs are under way, but RMU administrators appear unwilling to listen. Now RMU players are have high-profile legal representation ready for a possible showdown with the university.

If the Colonials don’t come back, Atlantic Hockey will drop to 10 teams for this coming season. The league now has to scramble to put a schedule together, meaning it’s possible that the topic of UAH will be put on the backburner.

Outside of the possible extra delay, it’s unclear how the RMU situation affects UAH’s chances of getting into Atlantic Hockey. UAH is by no means a simple replacement for RMU. Atlantic is back to an even number, although adding UAH and Long Island, provided both check the boxes acceptable to the league, would put it at 12.

For now, we keep on the lookout for a decision. Meanwhile…

WCHA closes up shop: The men’s WCHA, after 70 seasons as a significant part of college hockey’s history, officially announced its dissolution on July 2.

The demise of the WCHA men’s league was expected after seven schools announced they were leaving the conference two years ago. The schools have formed the new CCHA, which begins play this fall.

UAH, which joined the WCHA in 2013, was “granted their request to depart the league earlier this summer,” according the news release. UAH submitted its intention to leave the league in the fall of 2019.

That left representatives from the remaining two schools, Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks, to vote on dissolving the men’s WCHA. Fairbanks plans to play on as an independent, while Anchorage continues to raise funds in an attempt to resurrect its program.

The WCHA will continue on as a force in women’s college hockey.

Transfer update: Because NCAA hockey rosters are close to being finalized (if they aren’t already), movement from the transfer portal has slowed to a trickle with many UAH players still trying to find places to play for this season.

Matthew Jennings, a forward who was coming to UAH after three years at Ohio State, will go to St. Thomas instead.

Goaltender George McBey, who played one period for the Chargers this season as a freshman, will get a new start at Division III Milwaukee School of Engineering.

David Fessenden landed on a new team (New Hampshire) before UAH suspended the program for 2021-22. Tyrone Bronte announced he was transferring to Michigan Tech about a week after the program suspension.

Corbett to Quinnipiac: After one season as an assistant coach at Robert Morris, former UAH head coach Mike Corbett will join Rand Pecknold’s staff at Quinnipiac following the folding of RMU’s program. Corbett was the Chargers’ head coach from 2013-20.


Hoof beats: Chargers pick up two from portal

UAH has picked up two student-athletes through the NCAA transfer portal, but has lost its top goaltender from this season.

On Friday, defenseman Dominick Procopio announced his was joining the Chargers after three years at UMass Lowell. The Grosse Pointe, Mich. native played 41 games for the River Hawks, but only two this season, collecting an assist. Procopio played 31 games as a sophomore in 2019-20, garnering a +4 rating and seven blocked shots.

Before going to Lowell, Procopio played for the Shreveport Mudbugs of the NAHL, coached by now UAH associate head coach Karlis Zirnis.

On April 10, Ohio State forward Matthew Jennings announced he was transferring to UAH after three seasons. Jennings is a native of Buford, Ga., the same as graduating senior Connor Wood.

Jennings played in seven games this season with the Buckeyes before suffering a season-ending injury in January. He was co-winner of the team’s most improved player award in the 2019-20 season, scoring two goals and an assist in 29 games.

However, goaltender David Fessenden, established himself as the Chargers’ No. 1 netminder in his sophomore season, is transferring to New Hampshire. Fessenden posted a .910 save percentage and a 2.94 goals against average in his sophomore season at UAH.

The Grand Forks Herald reports that forward Quinn Green has also entered the transfer portal. Green was tied for third on the team in scoring as a freshman with six points on three goals and three assists.

The NCAA is now allowing first-time transfers to change schools without sitting a year. Along with allowing an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, the NCAA transfer portal has been busy in many sports, and hockey is no different.

Kestner shines in Finland: UAH alumnus Josh Kestner keeps striking gold in the pros with TPS in Turku, Finland.

Kestner scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the game-winner Monday in TPS’s 3-2 win over HIFK (Helsinki), which advanced TPS to Finland’s Liiga semifinals.

In nine playoff games this season, Kestner has eight points on five goals and three assists.

Kestner won Liiga’s “Golden Helmet” award last month for his regular-season play. Each team has one player wear a gold helmet in each game where he is the team’s leading scorer, and Kestner won the league award for wearing gold the most: 56 games. He was first in Liiga in game-winning goals (9), second in power-play goals (12), third in goals (24), and third in points (49).

Here is the game-winning goal that sent TPS to the semis:

Tennessee State considering hockey: The Nashville Post reported on April 26 that Tennessee State will soon announce conducting a feasibility study on starting an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program, according to sources.

TSU, which is in Nashville, would be the first HBCU (historically Black college and university) to create a Division I hockey program if the study proves that a hockey program would be viable. Sources say TSU would enter a partnership with the Nashville Predators.

The Tigers would easily be the closest Division I opponent for UAH and only the second program in the Southeast.


UAH faces Falcons in home-and-home

UAH (3-12-1, 3-7-0 WCHA) vs. Bowling Green (17-8-1, 6-5-1)
WHERE: Wednesday, Slater Family Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Ohio; Sunday, Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Ala.
WHEN: Wednesday, 6:07 p.m.; Sunday, 3:07 p.m.
WATCHFloHockey.tv (subscription)
LISTEN: Penalty Box Radio (Sunday)

UAH has an actual home-and-home series. Only in this strange season could it happen.

The Chargers play Bowling Green this week, with the first game in Ohio on Wednesday night and the second game in Huntsville on Sunday afternoon. Because UAH is not very close to any other NCAA program, having a home-and-home series isn’t practical. Then again, this season, shortened and shaken-up by COVID-19, has been anything but practical.

Wednesday’s game at Bowling Green is the third and final stop on UAH’s long road trip. The Chargers headed to Ohio directly from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where they visited Northern Michigan and Lake Superior last week.

Sunday is likely UAH’s final home game of the season, and the final game at the Von Braun Center for seniors Connor Merkley and Connor Wood.

The Chargers are coming off a series at Lake Superior State that they would like to have back. They held a 1-0 lead in both games, with the Lakers rallying for a 2-1 win on Friday (scoring the game-winning goal with 9.2 seconds left in regulation) and a 4-1 win on Saturday.

Bowling Green is ranked 13th in this week’s USCHO.com poll and 14th in the USA Today/USA Hockey coaches poll. The Falcons had been in a rut in recent weeks, as their 6-2 win on Sunday snapped a five-game winless streak. They come into their final regular-season series in second place in the WCHA standings, nine points behind Minnesota State.

The Falcons have one of the top offenses in the WCHA, led by three senior forwards: Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruse (10 goals, 19 assists, 29 points), Cameron Wright (12-14-26), and Connor Ford (12-12-24).

Goaltending has also been strong for Bowling Green. Senior Eric Dop (2.24 goals against, .924 save percentage) has been the No. 1, starting the last four games and 17 overall, but sophomore Zack Rose has been posting good numbers as well (1.86, .914).

Bronte named league’s top rookie again: Tyrone Bronte earned his third WCHA rookie of the week award on Monday.

The freshman from Melbourne, Australia had three points in the Chargers’ four games last week. He scored a goal and an assist at Northern Michigan and had another assist at Lake Superior State.

Bronte’s 13 points leads the Chargers and is second in the WCHA for freshman. He leads the league and is 11th nationally among freshmen in points per game (0.81).

Bemidji series pushed a day: The Chargers’ final regular-season series at Bemidji State next weekend has been moved back a day. The games are now scheduled for Saturday, March 6 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, March 7 at 2 p.m.

The series was originally scheduled for January 15-16, but was postponed to March because of COVID-19 protocols.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central.

Tuesday, February 23
#18 Lake Superior State at #20 Michigan Tech, 1:07 p.m.

Wednesday, February 24
UAH at #13 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.

Thursday, February 25
#19 Bemidji State at #3 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

Friday, February 26
#18 Lake Superior State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #20 Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.

Saturday, February 27
#20 Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
#3 Minnesota State at #19 Bemidji State, 6:07 p.m.

Sunday, February 28
#13 Bowling Green at UAH, 3:07 p.m.

Tuesday, March 2
#18 Lake Superior State at #19 Bemidji State, 6:07 p.m.

Wednesday, March 3
#18 Lake Superior State at #19 Bemidji State, 4:07 p.m.

Photo Gallery: UAH vs. Bowling Green, Feb. 24, 2018

Photo Gallery: UAH vs. Bowling Green, Feb. 23, 2018