Youthful Chargers raise talent if not expectations

Both the coaches and media have UAH finishing just out of the WCHA playoffs this season, picking the Chargers to finish ninth in the standings. The WCHA coaches and media polls were released Wednesday during the conference’s preseason teleconference.

The Chargers have a lot of freshmen on a club that won eight games last season and finished eighth in the league. That leaves a lot of uncertainty.

But UAH head coach Mike Corbett is high on this recruiting class, quite possibly the highest-rated since his tenure began in 2013.

“I like their speed, and we’ve also added a little bit of size,” Corbett said “We’ve got some guys in the 6-0 to 6-2 range that can get up and down the rink.

“There’s guys who have played a lot of junior hockey who can not only contribute in college hockey but also be leaders for our team.”

Returning players such as senior Austin Beaulieu and junior Christian Rajic will also provide that leadership, Corbett said.

Junior goaltender Mark Sinclair, who posted two shutouts last season, will be very important with several underclassmen on the back line. “It’s great when you have a guy back there you can trust,” Corbett said.

A more in-depth preview on this year’s Charger squad will come in the next two weeks. The season starts on October 5 with UAH visiting UMass Lowell.

Minnesota State was easily the top pick in both polls, getting all 10 first-place votes in the media poll and nine in the coaches poll (because coaches couldn’t vote for their own team).

The Mavericks won both the regular-season and playoff championships last season, and three stars from that team return to make the preseason All-WCHA team (player of the year pick Marc Michaelis, forward Parker Tuomie, and goaltender Dryden McKay).

Bowling Green was picked second in both polls, while there was some fluctuation from third to eighth place.

2019-20 Mankato Free Press WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll:
1. Minnesota State (9 first-place votes), 90 points.
2. Bowling Green (1), 82.
3. Bemidji State, 63.
4. Northern Michigan, 61.
5. Michigan Tech, 59.
6. Lake Superior State, 58.
7. Alaska, 39.
8. Ferris State, 36.
9. UAH, 30.
10. Alaska Anchorage, 20.

2019-20 WCHA Preseason Media Poll:
1. Minnesota State (10), 100.
2. Bowling Green, 89.
3. Northern Michigan, 72.
4. Michigan Tech, 68.
5. Bemidji State, 62.
6. Lake Superior State, 57.
7. Ferris State, 37.
8. Alaska, 27.
9. UAH, 26.
10. Alaska Anchorage, 12.

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Season tickets, BLC memberships for 2019-20 on sale

Season tickets and Blue Line Club memberships are now on sale for the 2019-20 season.

Lower bowl reserved and ice-level suite season tickets are worth $208 for 14 home games.

A Flex Pack of 10 reserved tickets that can be redeemed at the Von Braun Center box office for any games you wish cost $120.

The Blue Line Club, UAH hockey’s booster program, has new levels this season. At least two season tickets with access to the VBC hospitality room are included with each Blue Line Club membership, which starts at $500. Higher levels include free access to coaches’ lunches, parking passes, and UAH President’s Council membership.

Kids 12 and under can become members of the Corbs Kid’s Club. For $30, kids receive a season pass, a T-shirt, a hockey team photo, and a schedule poster.

Supporters can order season tickets or BLC memberships in two ways:

Refer to the brochure for more information or contact Jason Rucker at Jason.Rucker@uah.edu or 256-824-6584.

The Chargers’ home opening series is on October 25 and 26 against Minnesota State. UAH opens the 2019-20 campaign on October 5 at UMass Lowell.

Recent home schedule changes: The series against Bemidji State has been moved from Jan. 10-11 to Jan. 9-10, with both games starting at 7:37 instead of 7:07. The Feb. 29 home finale against Bowling Green is now at 3:07 matinee start.

Hoof Beats: Summer pro signings continue

Cam Talbot is back in Alberta after signing a free agent contract with the Calgary Flames.

The Flames are the fourth NHL team for the former Charger goaltender, who turned pro in 2010. Talbot has a 138-112-24 record with a 2.60 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in 288 career NHL games.

Last season, Talbot had a 3.36 GAA and .893 save percentage in 31 games with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to Philadelphia in February. He made only four appearances three starts with the Flyers.

“Coming here, I want to prove that I still have a lot of hockey left in me and there’s no better team to do it with than this one,” Talbot told the Calgary media on Saturday.

Meanwhile, other UAH alumni were signing minor-league deals.

Josh Kestner is returning to the AHL after signing a one-year deal with the Grand Rapids Griffins. In his first full pro season, Kestner helped the Newfoundland Growlers win the ECHL Kelly Cup last season with 22 regular-season and nine playoff goals.

Matt Salhany will return to the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL. Salhany, who finished his UAH career in 2017, scored 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 58 games.

Staying with Salhany in Adirondack is Hans Gorowsky, who signed a one-year contract with the Thunder. Gorowsky scored two goals in four games with the Thunder after 12 goals in his senior season with 12 the Chargers.

Tyler Poulsen has re-upped with the Rapid City Rush of the ECHL. In his first full pro season, Poulsen had 15 goals and 15 assists in 57 games.

On Tuesday, Brennan Saulnier also signed with Rapid City. Saulnier spent last year in Sweden, scoring 30 points in 11 games for Division 2 IFK Munkfors and seven points in 17 games for Division 1 Morrums GolS.

In the coaching ranks, Jay Woodcroft, who played for UAH from 1996-2000, agreed to a contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers through the 2021-22 season to coach their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield. Woodcroft led the Condors to the Western Conference regular-season title and their first AHL playoff berth.

Corbett on bench for U.S. U-17s: UAH head coach Mike Corbett will be on the staff for the United States at the 2019 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament next month in Germany, USA Hockey announced on Monday.

Corbett will assist Alaska-Anchorage coach Matt Curley along with Ohio State’s Dave Caruso and USA Hockey’s Rich Hansen.

The Five Nations Tournament, which will take place in Füssen, Germany from August 12-17, will also include teams from Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany.

Teets named Academic All-American: Senior John Teets was named to the CoSIDA All-America At-Large Second Team on June 24.

Teets, who joined the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers after finishing his senior season with the Chargers, earned a 4.0 GPA majoring in finance.

Teets played all 38 games for the Charges this season, earning six points and blocking 55 shots.

Hoof Beats: Recruiting and pro updates, Frenchy Open set

There’s been a lot of news coming out of Huntsville lately – most of which has centered around a new arena – and lost in the shuffle has been a strong trio of commitments for the upcoming 2019-2020 season:

Daneel Lategan, F, 6-1, 180, 1998, Cape Town, South Africa, Langley Rivermen (BCHL). Yeah, you read that right, UAH received a commitment from a hockey player born in South Africa. Although he played his minor and junior hockey in Canada, this has to be a first for UAH hockey. Cool backstory aside, Lategan is a freakin’ hockey player. He’s a kid who’s gone from playing Midget AA a few years back to playing in Canada’s top junior A circuit (outside of major junior) due to sheer tenacity, mental toughness and a consistent commitment to getting better. That’s no small feat and speaks volumes about his character. So it should come as no surprise that his game exudes those traits that led him to a D-I commitment. Lategan is extremely aggressive and physical, regularly dishing out big hits as the first one in on the forecheck. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas and do the little things that help make a team successful. The scouts at Neutral Zone had this to say about him:

All in all, Lategan is solid recruit whose game is trending upward. After scoring just five goals and five assists in 49 games in 2017-2018, he put up a 61/20/20/40 final slash line, which was good for third on the team. Given his history, I’m hopeful he’ll rise to challenge once again and be a lineup regular from day one.

Tanner Hickey, D, 5-10, 175, 1999, Leduc, Alta., Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL). Hickey committed to UAH on the same day as Lategan, making April 11 a marquee day for the 2019-2020 recruiting class. I’m really excited about Hickey. He’s a right-handed shot and comes from a hockey family. His brother played at Boston University and is Buffalo Sabres draft pick (who, coincidentally, was a teammate of former Charger Kurt Gosselin with the AHL’s Rochester Americans this past season), so he knows what it takes to play big time college hockey. Scouts laud him for his heady two-way play, speed/edges, quick shot and strength for his size. “Hicks” can put up points, as evidenced by his 11 goals, 12 assists, and 23 points in just 39 regular-season games for the 2018-2019 season, and is also said to be a leader in the dressing room. Quality pick-up for Coach Corbett and his staff. Should slot in to lineup right away.

Lucas Bahn, D, 5-10, 170, 1999, Hendersonville, Tenn., West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL). The former University of New Hampshire commit recently decided to play his college hockey closer to home when he gave his commitment to UAH in late April. An alum of the Nashville Jr. Predators hockey program, Bahn has played all over the continent these last few years. After playing a couple of years of Midget AAA for the vaunted Skipjacks Hockey Club in Pennsylvania, he played a season in the USHL split between Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa, and then went out to British Columbia for 2018-2019. Bahn is very athletic with a lot of upside. Moving the puck and generating offense from the back end are his strengths, and you’ll notice him right away for his skating ability. Check out this clip to see what I’m talking about:

As he continues adds weight and gets stronger, his game should grow by leaps and bounds. Expect Bahn to push for playing time early, and put a few extra butts in the seats for UAH home games with friends and family making the short trek down to see him don the blue and white. 

All three were needed for this class. Maybe we’ll hear another name or two added to the Herd in the coming months. — Asher Kitchens

Chargers in the pros: Two Chargers are still playing pro hockey as their teams continue to advance in their league playoffs.

Josh Kestner and the Newfoundland Growlers are in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference finals. Kestner scored in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Florida Everblades as the Growlers took a 2-0 series lead, giving him four goals and eight points in 13 playoff games this season.

The Western Conference finals of the ECHL features John Teets and the Tulsa Oilers, who are down 1-0 in their series against Toledo.

Matt Salhany and the Adirondack Thunder lost in the first round of the ECHL playoffs to Manchester, scoring two goals in five games. Cam Knight and the Fort Wayne Komets also lost in the first round to Toledo.

In the AHL, Kurt Gosselin had an assist but the Rochester Americans were swept in three games in the first round by the Toronto Marlies.

In other news, forward Madison Dunn signed a pro contract for the 2019-20 season with the Corsairs de Nantes, a Division 1 club in France.

Frenchy Open set: The 2019 UAH Hockey golf tournament fundraiser is set for Saturday, June 22 at the Hampton Cove River Course.

A pre-tournament social outing is Friday, June 21 at TopGolf in Huntsville.

Registration is $150 per individual and $600 per team. Hole and tournament sponsorships are available.

For more information, contact assistant coach Lance West at 907-322-3092 or westl@uah.edu.

The program’s biggest summer fundraiser is named for Jean-Marc Plante,
who died in 2001. Also known as “Frenchy,” the Laval, Quebec, native played for UAH from 1988-92, scoring 16 goals and 19 assists in 94 games.

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Chargers release 2019-20 schedule

UAH will face challenges inside the WCHA and out this coming season.

The 2019-20 schedule was released on Wednesday. It will be the 35th varsity season for UAH and 41st overall, the 21st season of the modern Division I era and the seventh in the WCHA.

The schedule features 34 games with 14 at home and 20 on the road.

The Chargers open the season with two road non-conference series, Oct. 4-5 at UMass Lowell and Oct. 11-12 at Omaha.

UMass Lowell (19-13-5) finished fourth in Hockey East last season. The Chargers last faced the River Hawks around Thanksgiving 2011 in Lowell, losing 3-0.

Omaha (9-24-3) struggled to a seventh-place tie in the NCHC last season. UAH and UNO had a tough series in Omaha in 2014, with the Mavs winning 2-1 in game one and scoring late to force a 3-3 tie in game two. Omaha also comes to Huntsville in 2020-21 for the first time since 1998.

“Again we have a strong non-conference and all on the road,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “The good thing is UML and UNO are the front end of home and home series. We have to do our part to help the WCHA and get some non-conference wins.”

Both UMass Lowell and Omaha return visits to Huntsville in the 2020-21 season.

The other non-conference series occurs Jan. 3-4 at North Dakota (18-17-2). The Chargers last visited Grand Forks at New Year’s of the 2015-16 season, when the Fighting Hawks won their eighth national championship.

WCHA action begins the weekend of Oct. 25-26 with UAH hosting league champion Minnesota State. The tough conference start continues the next weekend with a trip to Northern Michigan, which finished second last season.

“We have a very difficult WCHA schedule as we play four of the top five teams from last season four times,” Corbett said. “We are going to have to be prepared to play the top teams in the league, and compete hard. We will have our work cut out for us.”

Minnesota State hosts the Chargers on Feb. 21-22. UAH will play NMU all four times in November, facing off in Huntsville on Nov. 29-30.

The Chargers play third-place Bowling Green, their travel partner, and fifth-place Bemidji State, their longtime rival, four times. Bemidji comes to the VBC on Jan. 10-11, and BG finishes the regular season in Huntsville on Feb. 28-29.

The Chargers play three home series in the first half of the season, and four in the second half. UAH plays the last five weeks of the regular season, with three series at home for the stretch run.

2019-20 UAH Hockey Schedule
Home games in bold. * WCHA game.

All home games start at 7:07 p.m.

Oct. 4-5 at UMass Lowell
Oct. 11-12 at Omaha
Oct. 25-26 vs. Minnesota State*
Nov. 1-2 at Northern Michigan*
Nov. 8-9 vs. Alaska Anchorage*
Nov. 22-23 at Bemidji State*
Nov. 29-30 vs. Northern Michigan*
Dec. 6-7 at Bowling Green*
Dec. 13-14 at Ferris State*
Jan. 3-4 at North Dakota
Jan. 10-11 vs. Bemidji State*
Jan. 17-18 at Alaska Anchorage*
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 vs. Michigan Tech*
Feb. 7-8 vs. Alaska*
Feb. 14-15 at Lake Superior State*
Feb. 21-22 at Minnesota State*
Feb. 28-29 vs. Bowling Green*