Dec 042017
 
Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner has been on a goal-scoring pace not seen at UAH in over a decade. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Some statistical analysis as we hit the halfway point of the season:

• The 6-9-1 overall record may not seem like much, but it is the Chargers’ best 16-game start since the 2005-06 season, when they started 8-7-1.

• UAH is only 1-7-0 on Fridays, with the lone win coming against last-place Alaska Anchorage at home. The Chargers are 5-2-1 on Saturdays, with the two losses coming against non-conference foes Notre Dame and Cornell on the road and both currently ranked in the top six. Five of the eight series this season have been win-loss splits, including the last three weeks.

• The Chargers are scoring 3.30 goals per game in WCHA play, second in the league behind Minnesota State (3.80). UAH is tops in power play efficiency in conference games at 25.0 percent.

• Josh Kestner has 10 goals in 16 games this season, already a career high for him and more than his team-leading nine goals last year. He’s the first Charger to reach double-digit goals at this point of the season since both Jared Ross and Bruce Mulherin did it in the 2004-05 season. Kestner is third in the WCHA in overall goals scored and first in power play goals with five. Nationally, Kestner is 19th in goals per game (0.62) and tied for fourth in power play goals (five).

• Now that Jordan Uhelski has played over 1,500 career minutes at UAH, he qualifies for ranking in the program’s all-time leader boards. His .907 save percentage would be sixth all-time and fourth in the modern Division I era, just behind Cam Talbot (2007-10). His 2.81 goals against average would edge him over Steve Briere (1997-2000) for fourth all-time and second in the modern Division I era (behind Scott Munroe’s 2.76).

• For those of you who still care about goaltender win-loss records, Uhelski already has 12 career victories in two seasons, matching Carmine Guerriero’s four-year total. Uhelski has made 33 starts, while Guerriero made 72. Uhelski is getting more goal support now that the Chargers are scoring about a half goal per game more than last season, and about 1.5 goals per game more than Guerriero’s first season (2013-14).

Recruiting update: Last week, UAH received a commitment from Drew Lennon, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman playing for the Lone Star Brahmas in the NAHL. Lennon, who is originally from Illinois, has played junior hockey all over the continent these past few years. After starring with Rocky Mountain Roughriders U16 AAA team in 2014-15, he went on to play for the Connecticut Oilers in the EHL in 2015-16, and the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL last season. Drew is known for his strong defensive play and skating ability. His size and reach make him difficult to play against, and he’s yet to reach his offensive ceiling. Through 27 games this season, he has two goals and five assists, but has a goal and three assists in his last eight games, so he’s starting to heat up.

Bauer Neudecker signed his National Letter of Intent with UAH, so he’ll be a member of the 2018-19 freshmen class. He has five points in 17 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, the same team the produced UAH captain Max McHugh.

Tyr Thompson, another forward expected in the 2018-19 recruiting class, has been playing at a near point-per-game pace this season (31 points in 29 games) for his Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL) squad. Thompson and Neudecker headline what is shaping up to be another solid recruiting class for Coach Corbert and his staff. — Asher Kitchings

WCHA media poll: The Chargers are currently sixth in the latest WCHA Media Poll, conducted by Tech Hockey Guide. UAH fell a spot from fifth after the Chargers split at Northern Michigan over the weekend.

UAHHockey.com has a vote in the poll, which has a representative covering each WCHA program.

Nov 202017
 
Christian Rajic

Christian Rajic (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Charger forward Christian Rajic was named the WCHA Rookie of the Week for his three-goal performance in UAH’s 5-3 win over Lake Superior State on Saturday.

Rajic’s hat trick was the first by a UAH freshman since Jared Ross did it against Bemidji State on March 9, 2002. The Oakville, Ontario native is one of four freshmen to have hat tricks in Division I this season.

Rajic has six goals on the season, tying him for second on the Chargers and sixth in the WCHA. His total of nine points puts him fifth among WCHA freshmen.

In conference games only, Rajic is tied for ninth in scoring with eight points and tied for third in goals with five.

“Blackout” coming Friday: Friday’s series opener at the Von Braun Center against Ferris State will be a “Black Friday Blackout.”

Charger fans are encouraged to wear black at the game. The first 500 fans will receive a free black UAH hockey T-shirt and the next set of UAH hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Puck drop for both Friday and Saturday night is 7:07 p.m. Kids 12 and under get free admission to both games, and all home games this season, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.

 

Nov 082017
 

The Chargers have completed the first quarter of their season, with all eight games on the road against tough competition.

It started with two losses at No. 8 Notre Dame, which is now ranked No. 6 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Then a split at then-No. 15 Michigan Tech. Then two losses at Cornell, which has moved up to No. 14. Then a trip across the country last week to Arizona State, where the Chargers forged a split.

Mike Corbett

UAH head coach Mike Corbett (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Although they only won two of the eight games, UAH head coach Mike Corbett found positives they can build on moving forward.

“I like where we’re at,” Corbett said. “We probably had one stinker game in there where I thought we didn’t compete, but in reality three of the four series were against top 20 teams and I’ll put a paycheck that Cornell will be in the top 10 in two weeks. Obviously, the competition was good.”

It will help that the Chargers will spend the next three weeks at home (finally). UAH hosts Alaska Anchorage this weekend for the home opening series, followed by Lake Superior State and Ferris State the following two weeks.

“Homecoming weekend is to establish a good home presence, get people in the building this first weekend of the year and get them excited about hockey since we’ve been on the road,” Corbett said. “We can also cure our wounds a little bit. We’re a little road weary.”

That home presence has been lacking the past couple of years. Out of the Chargers’ nine wins last season, only two were at the Von Braun Center. UAH was 6-20-6 the last two seasons at home.

“We’re also trying to establish a little bit of home ice advantage for us,” Corbett said. “A lot of times we played well, the only bad thing is the home team lost.

“We’re watching Anchorage and what they’re doing and some of their tendencies, but we’re still establishing our identity as a team right now. We’re playing five or six freshmen up front, and they’re getting more and more comfortable every weekend and we need them to chip in a little bit more. The focus is going to be on us over the course of the next three weekends.”

Defensively, the Chargers have given up 3.5 goals per game so far this season, ninth in the WCHA.

“We’ve all got to be come better defensively,” Corbett said. “We’ve done a good job of minimizing shots on goal for the most part. We’re in that 25 to 32 range, which is similar to most teams in the country.

“Now we need our goaltending to be 90 or 91 percent on a consistent basis. The biggest thing is we need to eliminate some of those bombs that end up in the back of your net. It’s not just our defensemen, it’s our team defense.”

The goaltenders have posted a combined .886 save percentage so far, with senior Jordan Uhelski starting six games and freshman Mark Sinclair starting two. Uhelski was in net for the Chargers’ two wins.

“I think right far as our goaltending is that they’re still neck-and-neck,” Corbett said. “Jordan played very, very well in the two games he’s won, but we need consistency in our net. You got both guys who we like and believe can do the job, and now it’s going to be who wants to step up and grab that job.

“We’d like to ride one goaltender, but not until one of them consistently starts playing at the level we believe they can. To put it nice and simple, just make the saves he needs to make.”

Offensively, UAH has had to deal without playing two top centers, Max McHugh and Jordan Larson, who will both remain out for some time.

Brennan Saulnier

Brennan Saulnier (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

Meanwhile, Brennan Saulnier has four goals already this season, tied with fellow senior Josh Kestner for the team lead. Saulnier has always shown what he can do with the puck, but has also been known to rack up penalty minutes.

“A lot of people criticize him for his play, but we love his fire, ” Corbett said. “We’re re-channeling that fire.

“He’s matured, and he sees that he’s a senior and there’s a leadership position for him on our team. And with Max and Larson out, we need him to be a point producer, focused and dialed in to be an offensive threat every time he’s out on the ice.”

Tyler Poulsen has also started strong with three goals in seven games. Christian Rajic has made an early mark as a freshman with two goals and two assists.

Kurt Gosselin and Cam Knight continue to contribute from the blue line with four and three assists, respectively. Gosselin remains a scoring threat himself with two goals.

The power play is ahead of last year’s pace at 15.4 percent, but it recently had a stretch of 23 straight opportunities without a goal before breaking through in Saturday’s win at Arizona State.

“Against Cornell we hit the post three times,” Corbett said. “Early on against Arizona State, we had a little trouble getting in the zone and set up. But we’re moving the puck pretty well.

“You want to score a goal on the power play, but the biggest thing you want to do is, worst-case scenario, is giving you positive momentum. Even during the 0-for-23 stretch, it was  more frustration because we hit posts, missed some backdoor plays, got pucks flubbing off some guys’ sticks, and not because they’re not ready. We were still getting opportunities and it was continuing to provide momentum for us. It wasn’t demoralizing for our team.

“We’ve made a few tweaks here and there in the zone, putting guys in different situations, so we’re still kind of figuring it out a little bit.”

On the flip side, the penalty kill has been struggling at 73.9 percent. The PK was pivotal in the two wins, however, at 92.4 percent.

“Hans Gorowsky is our only returning penalty killer,” Corbett said. “We had to retrain Madison Dunn, who’s doing a good job and getting it. We didn’t have (Adam) Wilcox in the first weekend to be able to play some additional minutes on the penalty kill, and he’s a quality penalty killer who knows what he’s doing.

“It’s not your standard penalty kill that not a lot of kids coming from juniors are used to. To be able to get them thinking how we need them to think is going to take some time.”

That includes Levi Wunder and Andrew Dodson, two freshmen who are getting minutes on the penalty kill.

“With everything that we’ve had to deal with in the WCHA in the course of my four years is, you have got to distribute minutes. So we’ve got to be able to get some of those freshmen in on the special teams.”

The Chargers will use the time at home to rest up and build some cachet, because the next road trip is even longer and more grinding. Three straight road trips before an off week for Christmas, and then “hell starts”: Three straight weeks on the road, starting at Bemidji, then directly to Fairbanks and Anchorage.

“Once again, it’s about managing our team,” Corbett said. “We want to put ourselves in position for that last stretch of games in the fourth quarter (when UAH plays its last eight games at home), that we’re knocking on the door for the playoffs.

“We’re going to have to take care of our home rank, the old .750 at home and .500 on the road. We started out .500 on the road in the WCHA, so we have a good start and we’ve got games at hand. We’ve got to take care of those games at hand right now, especially at home.”

Nov 062017
 

The Chargers are finally playing at home this weekend, and there will be a lot going on.

UAH hosts Alaska Anchorage at the Von Braun Center this Friday and Saturday, with puck drop at 7:07 p.m. both nights.

Homecoming is this weekend, and all UAH alumni get free admission. The homecoming king and queen will be announced at Saturday’s game.

Military Appreciation Weekend is presented by AUSA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin and the UAH Office of Research and Economic Development. Military service members, veterans, Army civilians and their families can get free general admission with their military ID.

Soldiers are enlisted during last year’s Military Appreciation Weekend. (UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

The first 500 fans on Saturday receive a free camo rally towel. During the first intermission on Saturday, there will be a mass enlistment of Soliders into the Army.

In addition:

  • Free general admission will be available to all kids 12 and under, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport.
  • The first 500 fans at Friday’s game receive a free set of UAH Hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Blue Line Club luncheon: The first Blue Line Club luncheon is Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus. Terranova’s will be catering an it is free to Blue Line Club members.

Alaska Anchorage coach Matt Thomas and UAH coach Mike Corbett will be on hand to talk about this weekend’s series and their respective programs.

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.