Chargers’ 2018-19 schedule released with 16 home games; season begins Oct. 6

Christian Rajic

Christian Rajic and the Chargers open WCHA play against Lake Superior for Homecoming on Oct. 26-27. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

UAH and the WCHA released their 2018-19 schedules on Wednesday. The Chargers will play their 34th varsity season and 40th overall with 36 regular-season games, with 16 at home.

The schedule is much more balanced in terms of home and away than last season’s, which had two long road trips and two long home stands. In addition to the 28-game WCHA schedule, UAH will play eight non-conference games against six opponents.

UAH starts the season at their closest NCAA opponent, Miami, in Oxford, Ohio, on Oct. 6-7. The Chargers last faced the Redhawks toward the end of the 2011-12 season, and in the 2010 NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals before that.

UAH visits two more teams from the NCHC in Colorado the following week. First, the Chargers go to Colorado Springs to take on Colorado College on Oct. 12, then visit Denver to play the Pioneers on Oct. 13. UAH head coach Mike Corbett and assistant coach Gavin Morgan are Denver reached the NCAA tournament last season as NCHC tournament champion.

“Once again we have a very tough non-conference schedule,” Corbett said. “We need to be ready to put ourselves in position to help our league with some non-conference wins.”

The Chargers have their home opening series on Oct. 19-20, hosting Arizona State in a non-conference battle of the Sun Belt. Last season, UAH split a series with the Sun Devils in Tempe. ASU, the newest Division I program, is an independent.

Homecoming is the following weekend as UAH faces Lake Superior State to start WCHA play. Michigan Tech, which won the WCHA playoff championship in March, comes to Huntsville on Nov. 2-3 to complete a six-game home stand.

The Chargers make their only trip to Alaska with a visit to Fairbanks on Nov. 16-17. After Thanksgiving, UAH hosts Bowling Green on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, followed by trips to Bemidji State and Michigan Tech heading into the holiday break.

UAH will play in the Catamount Cup at Vermont just before New Year’s. The Chargers will face the host Catamounts on Dec. 28 and NCAA tournament participant Northeastern on Dec. 29. UAH’s only other appearance in the holiday tournament was in the 2009-10 season, when the Chargers finished in third place.

It’s conference play the entire second half of the season. The Chargers begin 2019 hosting Ferris State on Jan. 4-5, then go to Lake Superior State the next week. UAH hosts both Alaska schools to finish off January.

The Chargers will face a tough final stretch. They go to WCHA regular-season champion and NCAA tournament participant Minnesota State on Feb. 1-2, then host WCHA playoff finalist Northern Michigan on Feb. 8-9. After a week off, UAH will need to withstand the Dawg Pound of Ferris State and the Bleacher Creatures of Bowling Green to finish the regular season.

“We have some good rest dates and will have to win some games on the road down the stretch,” Corbett said.

Official releases: UAH | WCHA

2018-19 UAH Hockey Schedule

Home games in bold.
* WCHA game.

Oct. 6-7 at Miami
Oct. 12 at Colorado College
Oct. 13 at Denver
Oct. 19-20 vs. Arizona State
Oct. 26-27 vs. Lake Superior* (Homecoming)
Nov. 2-3 vs. Michigan Tech*
Nov. 16-17 at Alaska*
Dec. 1-2 vs. Bowling Green*
Dec. 7-8 at Bemidji State*
Dec. 14-15 at Michigan Tech*
Dec. 28 at Vermont (Catamount Cup)
Dec. 29 vs. Northeastern (Catamount Cup)
Jan. 4-5 vs. Ferris State*
Jan. 11-12 at Lake Superior*
Jan. 18-19 vs. Alaska Anchorage*
Jan. 25-26 vs. Alaska*
Feb. 1-2 at Minnesota State*
Feb. 8-9 vs. Northern Michigan*
Feb. 22-23 at Ferris State*
March 1-2 at Bowling Green*
March 8-10 WCHA Quarterfinals (best-of-3)
March 15-17 WCHA Semifinals (best-of-3)
March 23 WCHA Championship
March 29-31 NCAA Regionals
April 11 & 13 NCAA Frozen Four (Buffalo)

Hoof Beats: Updates on Talbot and other Charger pros

Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers finished a disappointing season on Saturday, missing the Stanley Cup playoffs after a run to the Western Conference final a year ago.

The former Charger (2007-10) had a career-low .908 save percentage and a career-high 3.02 goals against average in 67 starts, compiling a 31-31-3 record with one shutout.

Josh Kestner has played three games for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies during his amateur tryout, scoring a power play goal. The playoff-bound Marlies finish the regular season on Sunday.

Tyler Poulsen scored a goal in two games for the ECHL’s Allen Americans, and was able to turn his amateur tryout contract into a pro contract. He is not on the Americans’ postseason roster.

Brennan Saulnier was released from his amateur tryout contract with the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators after three games.

Matt Salhany (2013-17) scored a goal and three points in 25 games for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.

Cody Dion (2010-11) had 12 goals and 24 points in 38 games for the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL.

On Tuesday, Graeme Strukoff (2011-15) signed with the Sydney Bears in Australia for the 2018 season.

Chargers in the Pros page

Chargers pick up transfer goaltender: Jake Theut, a goaltender from Northeastern University, will be a graduate transfer to UAH for next season.

Theut was the third goaltender for the Huskies this season, playing in two games. In 2016-17, Theut played in three games, getting a shutout in his only start.

Theut gives UAH three goaltenders this season. Mark Sinclair, who started five games this season, and Josh Astorino will be returning sophomores.

Club hockey returns: A student hockey club is being formed at UAH.

UAH has not had club hockey since 1985, when the original club team, created in 1979 and winners of club national championships in 1982, 1983, and 1984, was elevated to varsity status in preparation for the university to join the NCAA.

It’s not uncommon for schools with NCAA Division I or III varsity hockey programs to also have student club teams, although this would be the first such situation in the Southeast. The team will play other southern club teams in the American College Hockey Association (ACHA).

UAH students interested in playing can email the club at clubhockey@uah.edu. Off-ice memberships are also available.

West a finalist for Alaska job: UAH alum Lance West is a finalist for the head coaching job at Alaska.

West, an assistant with the Nanooks for nine seasons prior, was the interim coach this season after Dallas Ferguson resigned. Alaska was 11-22-3 overall and 9-17-2 in WCHA play, finishing in eighth place.

West played for the Chargers from 1991-95, scoring 113 points in 108 games.

Kestner makes Second Team All-WCHA

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Josh Kestner was named to the All-WCHA Second Team on Thursday, becoming the first Charger to reach that high in all-league honors.

Kestner tied the UAH modern Division I era record with 24 goals this season. The senior’s 32 points were the most by a Charger since the 2006-07 season. Kestner tied for the WCHA lead with 19 goals in conference play, while scoring a league-best nine goals on the power play.

Kestner finished his UAH career with 44 goals, sixth most in the modern Division I era.

It marks the second straight year a Charger made the all-WCHA teams. Kurt Gosselin became the first with third team honors last season, and Max McHugh made the all-rookie team for 2014-15.

Kestner signed an amateur tryout contract with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, the Maple Leafs’ top affiliate.

In addition, 15 UAH players made the 2017-18 WCHA All-Academic Team. These Chargers have a grade-point average of at least 3.0 for the previous two semesters, or an overall GPA of at least 3.0 for all terms:

Austin Beaulieu (So., F, Coral Springs, Fla.); Richard Buri (Sr., D, Nitra, Slovakia); Cody Champagne (Sr., D, Brookfield, Conn.); Hans Gorowsky (Jr., F, Lino Lakes, Minn.); Kurt Gosselin (Jr., D, Brighton, Mich.); Connor James (So., D, Wainwright, Alberta); Josh Kestner (Sr., F, Huntsville, Ala.); Cam Knight (Jr., D, North Reading, Mass.); Max McHugh (Sr., F, Seattle, Wash.); Brandon Parker (Sr., D, Fairbault, Minn.); Sean Rappleyea (So., D, Sayreville, NJ); Teddy Rotenberger (Fr., D, Huntsville, Ala.); Brandon Salerno (So., F, Toronto, Ontario); John Teets (Jr., D, Fairbanks, Alaska); Jordan Uhleski (Sr., G, Flint, Mich.); Adam Wilcox (Jr., F, Alpharetta, Ga.).

Experience with NMU gives UAH confidence heading into playoffs

UAH bench

The UAH bench celebrates the 4-2 win over NMU on Feb. 4. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

It’s no secret that UAH will be underdog going into the WCHA quarterfinal series at Northern Michigan.

If the regular season was any indication, however, an upset is not out of the question.

“We like our matchup,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “This is a team we’ve played 2-2, so we feel good about that. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper, but you know we can feel confident going into that weekend, knowing that this is a team we’ve beaten in the past.”

UAH and NMU played series in both Marquette and Huntsville this season, and both were splits. Each team had a one-goal win and a two-goal win, underscoring how close the matchups have been.

In Marquette back in December, UAH had a 1-0 lead before losing 3-1, but rebounded the next night with a 3-2 victory.

“We were able to get a win out here and keep the game close here, but we are going to have to be able to get more shots on goal,” Corbett said.

Northern Michigan has a corps of dangerous scorers. Robbie Payne leads the Wildcats with 20 goals, and two others have 17, Troy Loggins and Darien Craighead. Centering on Loggins’ line is Adam Rockwood, who has 30 assists this season.

“The toughest thing is that they have good depth up front with Payne, Loggins, and Rockwood,” Corbett said. “They’ve got some guys who can definitely score up front. The biggest thing is being able to try to contain those guys. In the playoffs, your top players have got to be your top players. They’ve been banking on those guys all year and they’ve been coming through. We’ve got to be able to force their secondary guys to be able to score for them. That’s the biggest challenge for us.”

UAH will need big contributions from its top players as well, and that means Josh Kestner (21 goals) and Tyler Poulsen (nine goals and 15 assists).

“Their goaltender (Atte Tolvanen) has been an all-league goaltender and we’re going to have to be able to get to him,” Corbett said.

Kestner is one of six seniors who played in the Chargers’ last playoff series in 2015. In addition, Richard Buri, Cody Champagne, Max McHugh, Brandon Parker, and Brennan Saulnier were all freshmen who got playoff experience at Michigan Tech. UAH lost 1-0 in triple overtime and 3-0 in that series.

“(The seniors) have been on the stage,” Corbett said. “We had the three overtime game with Michigan Tech and I think they understand what it take to be able to play in the playoffs. Everything is magnified and everything’s going to be a little bit tighter and mistakes are magnified.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how dialed in we are at practicing certain things that we need to be able to work on. Their leadership is going to be important because they were the only group that played in the playoffs on our team.”

The Chargers will leave Wednesday night for Marquette by bus. They will stop for practice along the way. It’s a long trip (22 hours), and once again the Chargers will have to manage the fatigue.

“We’be been fatigued since our road trip,” Corbett said, referring to the stretch of 12 straight road games and three-week trip through Bemidji and Alaska around New Year’s. “It’s been tough for us to be able to put together back to back consistent efforts.

“We’re taking a 22-hour bus ride up to Northern Michigan and now we’ve got to be able to once again manage those levels of fatigue. The good thing is we get to take a few extra players and make sure that we’re putting the freshest guys on the ice we can.”

Jeffers committed for next season
By Asher Kitchings

UAH recently received another commitment for the 2018-2019 season. Jack Jeffers, a 6-foot-0, 180-pound forward from Oakville, Ontario, who is currently playing for the Markham Royals of the OJHL, will be joining forwards Tyr Thompson, Ben Allen, and Bauer Neudecker, and defensemen Drew Lennon, in the incoming recruiting class.

Jeffers was a teammate of current Charger Christian Rajic last season, and has really put everything together this year. He’s got four years of junior hockey under his belt, exceptional speed, and offensive instincts, which should allow him to acclimate to the college game quicker than most. More of a playmaker than a pure goal-scorer, Jeffers has put up 78 points in 53 games this season — well over a point per game.

As someone who was on NHL Central Scouting’s radar during his draft year, Jeffers is a welcome addition to this already strong crop of legitimate D-I recruits.

For a preview of this kid’s skillset, check out this short clip of a goal he scored in 2016 CJHL Top Prospects Game:

WCHA quarterfinals set: UAH goes to NMU

The Chargers will be the seventh seed in the WCHA playoffs, and will travel to second-seeded Northern Michigan for the best-of-3 quarterfinals.

The series begins Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Michigan. Game 2 is Saturday, and game 3, if necessary, is Sunday. All games are scheduled to start at 6:07 p.m. Central Time.

The Chargers and Wildcats split their four meetings this season. In Marquette on Dec. 1-2, NMU won 3-1 and UAH won 3-2, and in Huntsville on Feb. 3-4, NMU won 4-3 and UAH won 4-2.

UAH is in the WCHA playoffs for the second time since joining the conference five years ago, and the first time since 2015. That year, UAH, also the seventh seed, went to Michigan Tech and was swept by scores of 1-0 (in triple overtime, the longest game in UAH history) and 3-0.

The other WCHA quarterfinal pairings are: #8 Alaska at #1 Minnesota State; #6 Ferris State at #3 Bowling Green; #5 Michigan Tech at #4 Bemidji State.

The best-of-3 semifinals will be held Feb. 9-11 and the WCHA Championship Game will be Feb. 17 at the highest remaining seeds.