Feb 262018
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

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Feb 252018

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.

Eight Chargers to be honored at Senior Night

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Feb 212018

Eight will be playing their final games at the Von Braun Center as UAH Chargers this weekend. They will be honored before Saturday afternoon’s home finale for Senior Night against Bowling Green.

Richard Buri
Richard Buri (Nitra, Slovakia) has six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 101 games as a defenseman. Buri has a career-best 39 blocks this season for a total 134 in his career.  Buri made the WCHA all-academic team in 2015-16 and was a WCHA scholar-athlete in 2016-17.

Cody Champagne
Cody Champagne (Brookfield, Conn.) has played 128 games as a defenseman. He has two goals and seven assists in his UAH career. Champagne leads this year’s team with 53 blocked shots, with a four-year total of 155. Champagne made the WCHA all-academic team in 2015-16 and was a WCHA scholar athlete in 2016-17.

Josh Kestner
Josh Kestner (Huntsville, Ala.) has 40 career goals at UAH, the sixth most in the Chargers’ modern Division I era. Twenty of those have come this season, the most in 13 years, to lead the WCHA. Kestner, an alternate captain, leads UAH in goals and points for the second straight season. Kestner made the WCHA all-academic team in 2015-16 and was a WCHA scholar-athlete in 2016-17.

Captain Max McHugh (Edgewood, Wash.) has 28 goals and 39 assists for 67 points in his UAH career. McHugh led the Chargers in scoring in his freshmen and sophomore years with 23 and 22 points, respectively. McHugh made the all-WCHA rookie team in 2014-15, when he set the UAH modern Division I record for goals by a freshman with a team-leading 12. McHugh is a three-time WCHA scholar athlete.

Brandon Parker
(Faribault, Minn.) has played 134 games at UAH, fifth all-time. The defenseman has nine goals and 40 assists for 49 career points. This season, the alternate captain has six assists. Parker has blocked a total of 213 shots. He is a three-time WCHA scholar-athlete.

Tyler Poulsen
Tyler Poulsen
(Arvada, Colo.) is a junior who will be finishing his eligibility with a breakout season, tallying 14 assists (leading the team) and 23 points (second on the team). Poulsen has career totals of 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 83 games played.

Brennan Saulnier (Halifax, Nova Scotia) has 21 goals and 34 assists for 55 points in four years at UAH, including a career-best eight goals this season. He was named the WCHA offensive player of the month for October 2015 for scoring six goals in five games. Saulnier has 325 penalty minutes, fifth all-time at UAH.

Jordan Uhelski
Jordan Uhelski (Flint, Mich.) has become one of the WCHA’s top goaltenders this season. Taking over the No. 1 job in his junior year, Uhelski has a goals against average of 2.88 (fifth all-time at UAH, second in the modern Division I era) and a .909 save percentage (fifth all-time and third in the D-I era) in 50 games played. Uhelski made the WCHA all-academic team in 2015-16 and was a WCHA scholar-athlete in 2016-17.

Individual photos by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography. Seniors photo by Doug Eagan/UAH Athletics.

Thomas goes to Washington: UAH assistant coach Matty Thomas will become the new hockey director and under-18 coach of the Washington Little Capitals, the youth club announced on Friday.

Thomas has spent the last five seasons as an assistant to head coach Mike Corbett and the Chargers, coaching defensemen and penalty kill units.

Blue Line Club luncheon: The last Blue Line Club luncheon of the season will be this Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall. Several UAH seniors and coach Mike Corbett will discuss this weekend’s final home series against Bowling Green. Terranova’s will be catering.

Playoff watch: Win would secure berth for UAH

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Feb 182018
Charger celebration

Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography

A win and they’re in. That’s what the Chargers can do to clinch a playoff spot this weekend when they host Bowling Green at the Von Braun Center.

Here’s what we know about the WCHA playoff picture heading into the final week of the regular season:

  • Minnesota State needs just one point against Bemidji State to win the MacNaughton Cup as regular season champion and take the No. 1 seed.
  • Northern Michigan and Bowling Green will also host quarterfinal series.
  • The 4-5 matchup is set: Bemidji State will host Michigan Tech in the quarterfinals.

That leaves playoff spots six through eight up for grabs. For more detail on all the WCHA races, including probabilities, check out The WCHA Playoff Prediction Blog.

Pts Record 3/SO^ Final week
6 UAH 30 9-15-2 1 H vs BGSU
6 Alaska 30 9-15-2 1 H vs UAA
8 Ferris State 28 9-16-1 0 H vs LSSU
9 Lake Superior 27 8-15-3 0 A vs FSU

^ 3-on-3/shootout points after ties.

The Chargers are fighting Alaska, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State for the three remaining playoff spots. UAH and Alaska are tied for 6th with 30 points, Ferris State is in 8th with 28 points, and Lake Superior State is currently on the outside looking in with 27 points.

UAH only needs to finish ahead of one of those teams to make the playoffs.

Alaska hosts rival Alaska Anchorage, which is in 10th and eliminated from contention. Lake Superior State goes to Ferris State.

That LSSU and FSU play each other is important. If either team sweeps the other, the swept team can’t catch UAH, no matter what the Chargers do against Bowling Green.

If Ferris State and Lake Superior State split and UAH doesn’t get any points, then the Chargers are eliminated. FSU would have more points (31 to 30), and LSSU (who would tie UAH at 30 points) would win the “C” tiebreaker for having fewer conference losses (16 to 17).

But if UAH gets two points or more, it would be impossible for both FSU and LSSU to surpass the Chargers.

In summary, the Chargers are in if:

  • UAH gets two points or more against Bowling Green OR
  • Ferris State gets four points or more against Lake Superior OR
  • Lake Superior gets four points or more against Ferris State.

Or in even simpler terms: UAH gets a win, or Lake Superior and Ferris State do not split.

What about Alaska? Currently the Nanooks have the exact same conference record and points as the Chargers, and Alaska and UAH split the only two games played head-to-head. Alaska is thus in a similar situation: Lance West’s club needs only two points to secure a playoff berth, which is likely against Alaska Anchorage. Alaska has already beaten its hated rival four times (two conference and two non-conference) by a combined score of 19-8.

If the Chargers and Nanooks remain tied after the final games are played, Alaska would likely surpass UAH all the way at the “E” tiebreaker, which is points percentage against each WCHA team starting at the top. Alaska has a win over first-place Minnesota State, and UAH went 0-4 against MSU.

It should be an exciting final weekend in the WCHA, which, because not all teams make the conference tournament, sets itself apart from the other leagues in Division I.

WCHA final regular-season week schedule (all time Central):

Friday, Feb. 23
Bowling Green at UAH, 6:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska Anchorage at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 24
Bowling Green at UAH, 3:07 p.m.
Lake Superior State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
Bemidji State at Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.
Alaska Anchorage at Alaska, 10:07 p.m.

Playoff watch: UAH still 6th heading into bye week

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Feb 112018

Josh Kestner battles with Minnesota State’s Daniel Brickley. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

The Chargers have more work to do to get into the WCHA playoffs, but for now, all we can do is watch.

Despite being swept by Minnesota State this weekend, UAH remains in sixth place in the league standings as Alaska was also swept by Northern Michigan and Ferris State was idle.

The top eight make the conference playoffs, with the top four hosting best-of-3 quarterfinal series.p

UAH is off next weekend. The Chargers host Bowling Green on Feb. 23-24 to finish the regular season, looking to get back into the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Here’s what we know about the WCHA playoff picture with two weeks left in the regular season:

  • Northern Michigan, Minnesota State, and Bowling Green have clinched home-ice in the first round. One of these three will hoist the MacNaughton Cup as regular season champion.
  • Bemidji State and Michigan Tech have clinched playoff berths. These two are battling to have home-ice in the first round.
  • UAH, Alaska, Ferris State, and Lake Superior State are battling for the last three playoff spots.
  • Alaska Anchorage is eliminated from playoff contention.

Our focus is on the Chargers, so let’s see what’s left for them and the three teams they are jostling with:

Pts Record 3/SO^ Next week Final week
6 UAH 30 9-15-2 1 Idle H vs BGSU
7 Alaska 29 9-14-1 1 A vs BSU H vs UAA
8 Ferris State 28 9-14-1 0 A vs MSU H vs LSSU
9 Lake Superior 27 8-15-3 0 Idle A vs FSU

^ 3-on-3/shootout points after ties.

During the Chargers’ off week, UAH fans should root for Bemidji State (I know, I know) over Alaska and Minnesota State over Ferris State. We don’t know what UAH needs to stay ahead of Alaska and Ferris State until those series are played.

However, we have more certainty with Lake Superior State also idle this week. We only need UAH to finish ahead of one of these teams, and with UAH and LSSU only having two games left, we know that UAH gets in with these scenarios:

  • UAH gets at least four points against Bowling Green.
  • Ferris State gets at least four points against Lake Superior.

There’s a chance UAH gets in with only three points against Bowling Green, but both games would have to be ties AND Lake Superior cannot sweep Ferris State.