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.

UAH needs to be prepare for the WCHA’s looming demise

College hockey realignment is happening again. Is UAH ready?

On Friday, seven WCHA schools announced they plan to break away and form a new league that would begin play in the 2021-22 season, leaving UAH, Alaska, and Alaska Anchorage. Barring getting a handful of new members, the conference’s days are effectively numbered.

The “Runaway Seven” are tired of having to travel to Alabama and/or Alaska (sometimes twice) every year, even though UAH, UAA, and UAF were providing them subsidies. They are also tired of UAH and the Alaska schools dragging the league down, wanting to play with members who display “a level of institutional investment that demonstrates significant commitment to their hockey programs and facilities.”

It was inevitable, when you think about it. The current WCHA was a forced marriage of leftovers from the WCHA and CCHA following the formation of the NCHC, and UAH. Bowling Green is the biggest of the lot, the only full Division I university. This setup was going to tax budgets and schools were going to be unhappy.

UAH interim athletics director Dr. Cade Smith, who took over for E.J. Brophy last month, released a statement on Monday, saying the news came without warning and that the university is “committed to hockey, and we want to do what it takes to give our program what it needs to be successful.”

I do not doubt Dr. Smith, but the administration must step it up to make UAH attractive to potential conference suitors.

Last year, I wrote about how the UAH hockey program had improved since joining the WCHA, but risked stagnation without a proper boost in support.

I listed a number of areas of focus, from increasing marketing and promotions (a notorious problem), raising the recruiting budget, growing booster club membership, increasing student involvement, and improving media production.

Since then, the Doug Ross Hockey Suite and a brand new weight room opened last fall thanks to the generosity of UAH hockey supporters.

However, those same issues are still prevalent, especially compared to the many peers in the WCHA. And, whatever you think of his coaching record, puts Mike Corbett at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and reduces UAH’s image in the eyes of the WCHA and the college hockey world.

Going forward, UAH has the potential to be in good shape with the proposed multi-use facility that would be Charger hockey’s new on-campus home. However, that’s still just an idea that certainly won’t be ready by 2021 and it’s unknown whether the looming breakup of the WCHA will affect the project.

For now, UAH must expect to go above and beyond what was necessary to get into the WCHA in 2013.

A critical factor: Who UAH hires as its next athletics director.

Brophy is no longer the AD, being reassigned within the university. Smith, who is also the Charger volleyball coach, is serving as AD on an interim basis. UAH probably won’t hire a permanent AD until Brophy’s contract expires next year.

UAH might consider posting the position right away.

Dr. Darren Dawson, who recently became UAH’s new president, will be making the hire. Dawson succeeded Dr. Robert Alterkirch, who made the decision to save the hockey program in 2013 and was the proponent of the proposed new arena.

Optimally, UAH needs someone with administrative experience in hockey, someone who knows the college hockey landscape and has trust within it, and someone who will find innovate ways to raise funds, increase student and community involvement.

The current and future leaders of UAH athletics must see the potential and act on it.

UAH hockey simply can’t be an independent program again. In this round of musical chairs, just getting by isn’t going to cut it.

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7 schools announce plan to exit WCHA

Well, here we go again.

On a Friday afternoon news dump, seven WCHA schools — Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Northern Michigan — announced their intentions to create a new men’s hockey conference, leaving UAH, Alaska, and Alaska Anchorage behind.

The new league would begin play in the 2021-22 season, meaning the current WCHA would still play together in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

As of Friday evening, there has been no comment from UAH reacting to the announcement. WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said the league “will work to assure that any members that do withdraw do so in accordance with WCHA Bylaws.”

Even after the dust settled on the NCAA Division I realignment in 2013, when UAH joined the WCHA, rumblings persisted that conference shifting would happen again.

The primary reason for the change is in the second paragraph of the joint press release from the seven schools on Friday:

“They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”

In other words, they don’t want to fly to Alaska or Alabama all the time.

According to a source close to the UAH hockey program, former athletics director E.J. Brophy did not adequately support UAH as a member of the WCHA.

The source said trips to Huntsville are cheaper than to Minnesota or to and from Michigan for many of the seven teams that are leaving. Brophy’s administration also did not listen to staff warnings about the WCHA potentially breaking up and did nothing to prepare or manage UAH’s image as a league partner.

Brophy was reassigned earlier this month. Dr. Cade Smith has been named the interim athletics director, likely until Brophy’s contract expires next year.

The source indicated that UAH hockey should be OK in the short term, particularly if the program gets a WCHA payout once the seven schools leave. It will also help if the new permanent athletics director has hockey experience, which should be a priority.

The new A.D. will have to take the lead in finding a new conference home for UAH hockey. That hiring will fall on new president Dr. Darren Dawson, who took over from the retiring Dr. Robert Altenkirch this month.

The hockey program is in a more stable position than it was in its last conference search in 2012, after Altenkirch saved the program from cancellation after a grass-roots campaign. The WCHA unanimously accepted UAH on January 17, 2013 and started league play that fall.

UAH indicated a commitment to hockey in April by announcing plans to build a on-campus, multi-use facility that would be the new home for hockey, basketball, and volleyball.

The facility and the overall Executive Plaza mixed-use development, presented by Altenkirch to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees in April, was added to the UAH master plan in June following committee approval.

That could help put UAH in position to promote itself to a league that could take them in, although the options are unclear at this early stage.

UAH could try to convince the seven schools who are planning to leave the WCHA that the Chargers would give their new league a nice even eight members. UAH could try to join another existing conference, but or a league that hasn’t been conceived yet. Anything would be pure speculation without a study of feasibility at this point.

At any rate, the future of Charger hockey is uncertain, but if UAH plays its cards right and gets the right people, the program can move forward and grow.

Development added to master plan; AD Brophy reassigned

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees physical properties committee has approved the addition of the Executive Plaza mixed-use development to the UAH campus master plan. The approval came at the board meetings in Tuscaloosa on June 6.

The development would include a multi-use facility that would become the new on-campus home for UAH hockey, basketball, and volleyball.

“The next step will be to hire a master developer who will be responsible for recruiting companies and organizations to locate in the development,” according to UAH spokesman Ray Garner. “You can expect a development timeline of several years. The burgeoning Huntsville market will drive the types and pace of the development going forward.”

The development will move forward with a new athletics director.

Dr. E.J. Brophy, who was UAH’s A.D. since 2011, has been reassigned within the university. The news was first reported by WAFF’s Carl Prather.

Sources say the move was decided months ago. Brophy will remain with UAH until his contract expires next year. An interim athletics director has not yet been named.

No official reason has been given or announcement has been made. Brophy’s name has been removed from the UAH athletics web site.

Kestner a champion: Former Charger Josh Kestner helped the Newfoundland Growlers claim the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions.

The Growlers defeated the Toledo Walleye in six games, finishing the series with a 4-3 victory on June 5. Kestner had a goal and an assist in the clincher.

Kestner finished the ECHL playoffs with nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 21 games.

The Huntsville native missed Game 3 of the finals after being hit in the head with an elbow in Game 2.

Teets named Academic All-District again: UAH defenseman John Teets earned his second Google Cloud Academic All-District At-Large Team honor on May 22.

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.