Oct 052017
 

Where: Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame, Ind.
When: Friday, 6:35 p.m.; Saturday, 6:05 p.m. (CDT)
Watch: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Chicago+

Charger update: UAH begins its 39th hockey season (33rd as varsity) looking to improve its record for a fourth straight year and get back into the WCHA playoffs. This series at Notre Dame will be the first of four road trips to start the season.

Huntsville senior Josh Kestner returns as UAH’s leading scorer from last year (9 goals-13 assists-22 points), and he’s expected to be the go-to guy to spark the Chargers’ offense, especially with Max McHugh (8-11-19) out with an injury for the time being.

Head coach Mike Corbett says the Chargers will be relying on an improved defensive corps, led by Kurt Gosselin (9-9-18), Cam Knight (3-16-19), and Brandon Parker (6-9-15). Jordan Uhelski is expected to be the starter in net (2.78 goals against average, .906 save percentage).

Friday will be UAH’s 1,000th varsity game.

About the Fighting Irish: Notre Dame reached the Frozen Four last spring, falling to eventual national champion Denver. The Irish compiled a 23-12-5 overall record and a 12-6-4 record in its final season in Hockey East, reaching the tournament’s semifinals.

Now Notre Dame is in the Big Ten as an affiliate member for hockey only. The Irish were picked to finish second in their now seven-team league by the Big Ten coaches. Notre Dame is ranked No. 8 in both the USCHO.com and USA Today preseason polls.

Last week, Notre Dame defeated the U.S. NTDP Under-18 team 3-2 in a preseason exhibition.

Players to watch:
Andrew Oglevie (Jr., F, 21 goals-20 assists-41 points in 2016-17)
Jake Evans (Sr., F, 13-29-42 in 2016-17)
Jordan Gross (Sr., D, 10-22-32 in 2016-17)
Dylan St. Cyr (Fr., G, 2.74 GAA, .896 SV% with U.S. NTDP U-18 team in 2016-17)

Series notes: Notre Dame leads 10-6-0 since UAH became a varsity program in 1985. The last meeting was Jan. 10-11, 2014, at Notre Dame, with the Irish winning 7-1 and 5-0. UAH’s last win was 3-2 on Oct. 9, 2009, when Notre Dame was ranked No. 5. The Irish have won eight of the last nine meetings, including the 2007 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals, 3-2 in double overtime.

This week in the WCHA: All times are Central. Games featuring WCHA teams at home can be seen on WCHA.tv.

Friday, Oct. 6
UAH at #8 Notre Dame, 6:35 p.m.
#16 Union vs. Michigan Tech, 4:07 p.m. (Ice Breaker at Duluth, Minn.)
Ferris State at #20 Western Michigan, 6:05 p.m.
Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
#7 North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
#17 Air Force at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.
USA Under-18 Team at Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m. (exhibition)

Saturday, Oct. 7
UAH at #8 Notre Dame, 6:05 p.m.
#3 Minnesota/#6 Minn Duluth vs. Michigan Tech, 4:07/7:37 p.m. (Ice Breaker at Duluth, Minn.)
#20 Western Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
#9 St. Cloud State at #18 Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
#7 North Dakota at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.
#17 Air Force at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.

Oct 022017
 

How UAH will fare in its fifth WCHA season will depend on several factors.

Can they shore up its defense and goaltending? Will they overcome early injuries and spark the offense? Can they manage through a grueling road schedule? Could they post another improvement in their record and make a return to the playoffs?

Here’s a look at the 2017-18 University of Alabama in Huntsville Chargers.

Defense

Kurt Gosselin

The Chargers fell to the bottom of the WCHA in scoring defense last season, allowing 3.53 goals per game. As such, defense became a point of emphasis in the preseason.

That’s not to say UAH is devoid of talent on the blue line.

“One of the biggest things that we’re keying on is our ‘D’ group,” Corbett said. “Kurt Gosselin is an all-league player. We believe Cam Knight and Brandon Parker are two of the upper-echelon defensemen in this league. That’s going to be one of our areas of strength for our team.”

Gosselin, a junior who was a third-team all-WCHA player last season, was named to the preseason All-WCHA first team in the media preseason poll and received votes in the coaches poll. He tied for the team lead in goals with nine, including a hat trick of blue-line blasts against Ferris State.

Knight and Parker each blocked 56 shots last season. Knight led the squad with 16 assists, and Parker pitched in six goals.

It will help if the Chargers can improve on their penalty killing, which was last in the WCHA at 78.5 percent.

“Everybody in our league primarily tries to play a puck-possession game, and a lot of it depends on your ‘D’ core as far as I’m concerned,” Corbett said. “We feel at this point in time with roughly three seniors [Parker, Cody Champagne, and Richard Buri] and three juniors [Gosselin, Knight, and John Teets] in our night-to-night ‘D’ core that we believe we can do a lot of positive things starting with them.”

UAH has two sophomore defensemen, Connor James and Sean Rappleyea, and only one incoming freshman defenseman, Huntsville native Teddy Rotenberger.

Goaltending

Jordan Uhelski

Last season was a surprise between the pipes for the Chargers. Both experienced seniors, Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose, struggled. The bright side was that Jordan Uhelski, who hasn’t played a regulation minute between the pipes his first two seasons, posted solid numbers (2.78 goals against average and .906 save percentage) in 23 games and 20 starts.

“We had roughly an 89 percent save percentage last year,” Corbett said. “We know at the Division I level that just doesn’t cut it, especially in our league.”

Uhelski, now a senior, will naturally be the No. 1 coming in, backed up by two freshmen that Corbett feels can help right away.

Mark Sinclair joins the Chargers after helping lead the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) to the championship round of the Western Canada Cup.

“Mark has shown very well in the preseason that he’s able to come in and contribute in net for us,” Corbett said. “We’re excited about that.”

Josh Astorino was the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s top goaltender with a .936 save percentage for the Georgetown Raiders.

Offense

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner

Once again, the question for the Chargers is whether they can score more goals. UAH was ninth in the WCHA last season at 2.18 goals per game. They also didn’t fare well on the power play, converting only 10.8 percent of opportunities.

It won’t be easier as the Chargers are already battling key injuries in the preseason, including senior center Max McHugh, who will be out to start the campaign. McHugh was second on the team with eight goals and tied for second with 19 points last season, and at 64 career points has been UAH’s most productive scorer in a decade.

“Unfortunately we’ve had some injuries to our centers, so we’re hoping to get them back by once the conference season starts,” Corbett said. “Some of our freshmen whom maybe we didn’t expect to come in and contribute as much as we wanted them be big contributors will have to step up and fill up a little bit of those minutes playing down the middle.”

UAH still has the services of last year’s leading scorer Josh Kestner, who will be key in his final season with his hometown team. Kestner had a breakout season in 2016-17 with nine goals and 22 points.

“Josh Kestner is one of the players that the media needs to watch,” Corbett said. “He’s one of those kids that shoots the puck very well and he’s a natural goal scorer. We have to find ways to be able to get him the puck and put him in position to put pucks in the net for us.”

Another key returning player is senior Brennan Saulnier, who had six goals last season and participated in the Montreal Canadiens development camp over the summer. Junior Hans Gorowsky scored seven goals last season, two of them shorthanded.

Also returning are juniors Madison Dunn, Tyler Poulsen, and Adam Wilcox; and sophomores Austin Beaulieu, Jordan Larson, and Brandon Salerno.

As for the freshmen forwards who may see extra time because of the injury bug, Corbett has five to choose from.

Connor Merkley is a big left winger that plays a good 200-foot game,” Corbett said. “We’re probably going to put him in our top six to start and he’s going to get an opportunity to play some of those minutes right off the bat. He’s an older player we feel can contribute.

Andrew Dodson is another one. [Both he and Merkley] played at Carleton Place, a very successful junior team. These are kids with dynamite character who know how to win.

Christian Rajic, who played at Oakville, Ont., is another young man we believe will come here and play some serious minutes from the start of the year.”

The other newcomers are Connor Wood and Levi Wunder. Wood is from Buford, Ga., giving the Chargers five players from the Southeast, the most UAH has ever had as a varsity program.

Schedule

There’s no such thing as a short road trip or home stand this season. The schedule starts with eight on the road, then six at home, then 12 on the road, then eight at home.

“[The schedule] is something we’ve broken down,” Corbett said. “It’s a little bit like an NFL season, the four quarters of the old NFL. We’re all or nothing: We’re either going to be all at home or all on the road.”

UAH opens the season with an 8-game road trip comprising of its entire non-conference schedule and a trip to Michigan Tech to start WCHA play. It starts this Friday at No. 8 Notre Dame, which made Frozen Four last April. Also included are visits to Cornell, another NCAA tournament team, and Arizona State.

The 12-game road swing, which runs through all of December and most of January, is particularly tough. The Chargers go to Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, and Minnesota State in back-to-back-to-back weeks. After a week off for Christmas, it’s on to Bemidji State. Directly from Bemidji, the Chargers go to Alaska, where they’ll spend two weeks playing series at Fairbanks and then Anchorage.

“It’s just more cost effective for us to do that,” Corbett said. “We’re going to have kids who are not going to be on campus for roughly 5 1/2 weeks, because they are going to go home for Christmas after our Mankato series. It’s going to be a unique situation, so we have to manage that.

“One thing we do a good job of is the communication with our players, and they are going to have to communicate with us on how they are feeling, not just how they’re practicing, but their energy levels. That three week stretch through Christmas is going to be big.”

Once that mega-trip is over, the Chargers can stay at home for the rest of the regular season, which could help their playoff push. They’ll need to play better at home, however, as they were 2-10-2 at the Von Braun Center last season.

Conclusion

The outlook doesn’t look great if you go by the preseason media and coaches’ polls, which have the Chargers finishing ninth in the WCHA standings and missing the playoffs for the third straight year. Perhaps that’s to be expected when there are a number of questions that need answering.

Still, UAH has improved its record each year since joining the WCHA, if only slightly each time. Corbett says the Chargers are committed to continue that improvement and build that solid foundation within the program by growing fan and alumni involvement.

“We just want to continue that uptick. Do we wish it was faster? Sure. Am I patiently impatient? You bet your butt I am. But we just want to continue doing it the right way. And it’s not easy by any means.

“Some of those ties we’ve got to turn into wins. Those one-goal loses, we’ve got to turn them into ties and wins. Can it be frustrating at times? Sure, but we don’t let that affect us. We’re a positive group here. We keep looking at those positive things, understanding that those things are going to come if we continue to do things the right way around here.”

Sep 252017
 

Kurt Gosselin (Photo by UAH Athletics)

The UAH Chargers were picked to finish ninth in the WCHA this season, according to both the media and coaches preseason polls released Monday.

The Chargers just missed the WCHA playoffs with a ninth-place finish last season.

Both the media and coaches’ polls were identical in ranking the teams. Minnesota State, which returns many of the major players in their league-leading offense, is the overwhelming favorite, with defending MacNaughton Cup champion Bemidji State in second.

In the media poll, UAH’s Kurt Gosselin was named to the preseason all-WCHA first team. Gosselin, who was named all-WCHA third team at the end of last season, received votes for preseason all-WCHA among the coaches.

The media poll was conducted by Geof Morris of UAHHockey.com. The coaches’ poll was conducted by Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press.

2017-18 UAHHockey.com WCHA Men’s Preseason Media Poll
First-place votes in parentheses.

  1. Minnesota State (12), 137 pts.
  2. Bemidji State, 115
  3. Michigan Tech (1), 110
  4. Bowling Green (1), 108
  5. Ferris State, 81
  6. Lake Superior State, 62
  7. Northern Michigan, 59
  8. Alaska, 43
  9. UAH, 36
  10. Alaska Anchorage, 19

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year:
Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State

Preseason All-WCHA First Team:
Mitch McLain, Sr., F, Bowling Green
Marc Michaelis, So., F, Minnesota State
Corey Mackin, Jr., F, Ferris State
Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State
Kurt Gosselin, Jr., D, UAH
Michael Bitzer, Sr., G, Bemidji State

Preseason All-WCHA Second Team:
Gerry Fitzgerald, Sr., F, Bemidji State
C.J. Seuss, Sr., F, Minnesota State
Joel L’Esperance, Sr., F, Michigan Tech
Mitch Reinke, So., D, Michigan Tech
Mark Auk, Sr., D, Michigan Tech
Atte Tolvanen, Jr., G, Northern Michigan

Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically by position): Forwards – Kyle Bauman, Sr., Bemidji State; Gavin Gould, So., Michigan Tech; J.T. Henke, Sr., Lake Superior State; Max Humitz, So., Lake Superior State; Brad McClure, Sr., Minnesota State; Tyler Spezia, Sr., Bowling Green. Defensemen – Clint Lewis, Sr., Minnesota State; Alec Rauhauser, So., Bowling Green; Joe Rutkowski, So., Ferris State; Collin Saccoman, So., Lake Superior State; Ian Scheid, So., Minnesota State; David Trinkberger, So., Alaska Anchorage; Zach Whitecloud, So., Bemidji State; Justin Woods, Sr., Alaska. Goaltenders – Justin Kapelmaster, So., Ferris State; Olivier Mantha, Sr., Alaska Anchorage; Jason Pawloski, Jr., Minnesota State.

2017-18 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll
First-place votes in parentheses.

  1. Minnesota State (9), 90 pts.
  2. Bemidji State (1), 81
  3. Michigan Tech, 70
  4. Bowling Green, 67
  5. Ferris State, 59
  6. Lake Superior State, 51
  7. Northern Michigan, 40
  8. Alaska, 35
  9. UAH, 29
  10. Alaska Anchorage, 18

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: 
Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State
Marc Michaelis, So., F, Minnesota State

Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year:
Jake Jaremko, F, Minnesota State

Preseason All-WCHA Team:
Mitch McLain, Sr., F, Bowling Green
Marc Michaelis, So., F, Minnesota State
C.J. Seuss, Sr., F, Minnesota State
Daniel Brickley, Jr., D, Minnesota State
Mark Auk, Sr., D, Michigan Tech
Michael Bitzer, Sr., G, Bemidji State

Others receiving votes (listed alphabetically by position): Forwards – Gerry Fitzgerald, Sr., Bemidji State; J.T. Henke, Sr., Lake Superior State; Corey Mackin, Jr., Ferris State; Tyler Spezia, Sr., Bowling Green. Defensemen – Zach Frye, Sr., D, Alaska; Kurt Gosselin, Jr., Alabama Huntsville; Mitch Reinke, So., Michigan Tech; Ian Scheid, So., Minnesota State. Goaltender – Olivier Mantha, Sr., Alaska Anchorage.

Aug 222017
 

UAH announced eight signees for the 2017-18 season on Tuesday. Here are some tidbits about these new Chargers:

Josh Astorino (G, 6-2, 175): Astorino committed to UAH last month as one of two goaltenders in this year’s signing class. Astorino was the Ontario Junior Hockey League goaltender of the year with a 1.93 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

Andrew Dodson (F, 5-9, 180): Dodson played the last four seasons with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL. Dodson, who committed to UAH last winter, is the Canadians’ captain and leads the team with 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) last season.

Connor Merkley (F, 6-1, 190): Merkley was an alternate captain at Carleton Place last season, announcing his commitment to UAH in May. He was named to the CCHL Second All-Star Team last season with 66 points (29 goals) in 61 games.

Dodson and Merkley will reunite with UAH forward Jordan Larson, who played for Carleton Place from 2014-16.

Christian Rajic (F, 5-10, 165): Rajic played the last four seasons with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL, committing to UAH in 2016. He scored 124 points the last two seasons.

Ted Rotenberger (D, 5-11, 180): The eighth Huntsville native to play at UAH, Rotenberger comes home after a year with the NAHL’s Shreveport Mudbugs, who are coached by Charger alum Karlis Zirnis. With Josh Kestner, this will be the third time UAH will have two Huntsville natives on the roster. Rotenberger committed to UAH back in 2013 when he played for another UAH alum, Nathan Bowen, with the TPH Thunder AAA midget program.

Mark Sinclair (G, 5-11, 170): Sinclair had 2.59 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 45 regular-season games last season with Chilliwack of the BCHL. In the postseason, he had a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage in 23 games.

Connor Wood (F, 5-8, 180): Wood will be the fifth native of the state of Georgia to play for the Chargers, hailing from Buford (current UAH forward Adam Wilcox is from Alpharetta). Wood committed to UAH in 2014, and was also a product of TPH Thunder. He had 20 points in 48 games with Odessa of the NAHL last season.

Levi Wunder (F, 5-9, 165): Wunder was a teammate of Wood’s at Odessa last season, with six goals and 13 points in 35 games. He also scored eight points in 22 games with Lone Star.

The current UAH roster features 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. In addition to the eight freshmen, there are five sophomores, seven juniors, and seven seniors.

The 2017-18 season begins Oct. 6 at Notre Dame.