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*

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On-campus arena could transform UAH hockey

Charger hockey games on campus? Could this actually happen?

What has been a pipe dream for many UAH supporters may become a reality if the university’s master plan, presented to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on April 12, is approved in June.

UAH wants to develop 58 acres it bought in 2017. The land sits on the western side of Sparkman Drive across from the Bevill Center.

The development is student-focused, offering housing, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial amenities designed to give UAH a “college town vibe” similar to The Strip at the University of Alabama or Toomer’s Corner at Auburn.

At the heart, however, is a new multi-purpose facility that would be the new home for UAH hockey, basketball, and volleyball. The facility would also host events and contain a performing arts theater.

For UAH hockey, such a move would be a game-changer for a program that just seven years ago was on the verge of shutting down. It would be the surest sign of the university’s long-term commitment to the program.

With the new facility being in walking and biking distance (via a proposed pedestrian bridge across Sparkman Drive), more students could attend to give UAH hockey games more of that college atmosphere.

An on-campus home for hockey has been mentioned in five-year plans before, but this is the most detailed plan to date. Along with an actual artist’s rendering, this feels serious.

Still, it won’t seem real until there are shovels in the ground, and we’re a ways from that event. First, the plan must be approved by the UA System Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on the plan during t its next meeting on June 6-7 in Tuscaloosa.

UAH chief of staff Ray Garner said on Friday that the project would take five to seven years to complete.

The multi-use facility could be funded by a private-public partnership, according to UAH president Dr. Robert Altenkirch.

The project has drawn rave reviews from Dr. Darren Dawson, who was unanimously approved by the UA Board to succeed the retiring Altenkirch. Dawson will take over as UAH’s ninth president sometime this summer.

UAH athletics director Dr. E.J. Brophy said the plans are in preliminary stages and it’s too soon to reveal further details and speculate its potential impact on Charger hockey and UAH athletics in general, but he said they are very excited.

The arena likely will be smaller than the Von Braun Center’s to better fit UAH’s needs. Other on-campus facilities in the WCHA average around 4,000 seats.

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Season ends with playoff loss to Minnesota State

The Chargers couldn’t get over the hump that is Minnesota State to extend their season.

UAH lost 4-1 on Saturday in Mankato, Minn., losing the best-of-three WCHA quarterfinal series in a sweep.

The Chargers finish the 2018-19 season with an 8-28-2 record.

Minnesota State (29-7-2), looking to lock down an NCAA tournament at-large bid, will host the WCHA semifinals next week.

BOX SCORE

The Chargers simply cannot afford to give the fourth-ranked Mavericks a head start on the scoreboard, but that’s what happened.

Jack Jeffers committed a high sticking penalty at 15 seconds, and Reggie Lutz slams home a goal on the power play at 1:44.

Minnesota State went up 2-0 at the 8:57 mark when Parker Tuomie deflected a Charlie Gerard pass past Mark Sinclair while driving to the net.

Hans Gorowsky, who had a couple of breakaways on Friday, had another late in the first, but once again he was denied by MSU goaltender Dryden McKay.

The Chargers did not help themselves with penalties in the second period, and MSU eventually extended its lead to 3-0 with another power play goal by Lutz, who had a wide open net with 5:35 left.

Minnesota State then pounced again a minute later, as Marc Michaelis, who scored two twice in game one, scored on a drop pass to make it 4-0.

And that basically was the death knell for UAH’s tough 2018-19 season. The Chargers had a rough 1-14-0 start to the campaign, but started to cobble some wins together in the second half to put them in the WCHA postseason.

With 9:44 left in the third, Adam Wilcox nixed the shutout with his third goal of the season, assisted by Connor Wood.

UAH had plenty of opportunities on the power play, but went 0-for-7 Saturday and 0-for-11 in the series. Minnesota State went 4-for-11 on the weekend.

UAH is now winless in the last 30 meetings (0-26-4) against Minnesota State dating back to 2002. MSU is 18-0-2 against UAH since the Chargers joined the WCHA in 2013-14.

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Mavericks take series lead on UAH with two major goals

Goals on separate major power plays were the difference as No. 4 Minnesota State defeated UAH 3-1 on Friday in the opening game of the WCHA quarterfinal series in Mankato, Minn.

Connor Merkley scored for the Chargers in the second period to pull within one, but MSU clamped down and held UAH to two shots on goal in the third.

Game 2 of the series is Saturday at 4:07 p.m. Central Time. The game was pushed up three hours ahead of a winter storm expected to hit southern Minnesota Saturday night.

BOX SCORE

Minnesota State (28-7-2) put the Chargers off balance at the start and it lead to the first goal of the game. A wide open Walker Duehr cleaned up a rebound, snapping the puck past Mark Sinclair at the 5:09 mark of the game.

That was the only blemish on Sinclair’s record in the period, as he made some clutch saves to keep UAH (8-27-2) within one.

The Chargers started to get their bearings as the first period wore on, and began to get a few looks on Maverick goaltender Dryden McKay.

UAH was dealt a blow early in the second period, when Andrew Dodson elbowed Jack McNeely near his face in a corner of the UAH end. After a lengthy video review, officials determined that it was contact to the head, ending Dodson’s night with a game misconduct and putting the Mavericks on a major power play.

Minnesota State would get one goal by Marc Michaelis about a minute into the five-minute advantage to take a 2-0 lead.

The Chargers withstood the rest of the power play, and then got three power plays of their own in the second. UAH would not convert, although they did allow the Chargers to keep the puck away from the high-powered Mavericks.

But UAH did eventually cut MSU’s lead to 2-1 with 3:32 left in the second. Connor Merkley poked in a rebound under McKay on Dayne Finnson’s shot up the middle for his third goal of the season. Madison Dunn earned his 10th assist of the season on the play.

Sinclair had to come up big to keep it a one-goal game at the second intermission, making big saves on Michaelis and Reggie Lutz in the final half-minute.

The Chargers did not give themselves much of a chance to find the equalizer early in the third period. Brandon Salerno had a hooking penalty, and after UAH killed that one, Kurt Gosselin drew a five-minute major (but no game misconduct) after his high stick hit the face of Lutz.

It was on the Mavericks’ second major power play of the night that Michaelis struck again with his second goal of the night and extended their lead to 3-1 with 14:34 remaining. Minnesota State was 2-for-5 combined on the man advantage.

After that, the Mavericks basically pinned the Chargers, who couldn’t get hardly anything going offensively. They also peppered Sinclair, who finished with 32 saves.

For the game, MSU outshot UAH 35-13.