Press release: UAH Hockey program reinstated

The following is a press release from the alumni group that led the effort to save the UAH hockey program.

UAH Hockey Program Reinstated with Fundraising Efforts Led by UAH Hockey Alumni

Huntsville, Alabama – Alumni, UAH Hockey, and college hockey supporters locally and around the world successfully raised the funds needed to reinstate the University of Alabama in Huntsville NCAA Division I hockey program. A total of $870,022 was raised in four days – exceeding the goal by $120,000.

Sheldon Wolitski, Taso Sofikitis, and current NHL goaltender Cam Talbot (all UAH Hockey alumni and the program’s key boosters) want to thank UAH President Dr. Darren Dawson for the opportunity to keep the UAH Hockey program alive, and Ron Gray and the entire University of Alabama System Board of Trustees for their guidance and support throughout this process. Additionally, they look forward to working alongside UAH Athletic Director Dr. Cade Smith to build a consistent and competitive D-I hockey program that will bring national and international notoriety to the university.

“Securing the funding is the first step. We know there is more work ahead, and we are committed to creating a strategic plan to ensure the long-term success of the program,” says Wolitski. Wolitski and Sofikitis plan to look at the structure that was put into place between UAB and its alumni to save and transform the UAB football program as a point of reference.

Wolitski, Sofikitis, and other key advisors look forward to earning an opportunity to discuss UAH’s conference potential for the 2021-2022 season.

Funds were raised via a GoFundMe campaign and T-shirt campaign. As of 6:30 AM CT on May 30, the GoFundMe campaign raised $537,220 and $32,802 from the T-shirt campaign. UAH Hockey alumni donated an estimated $255,000 of that total.

Separate from the GoFundMe campaign, both Wolitski and Sofikitis contributed $125,000 each. Combined, UAH Hockey alumni contributed an estimated $505,000 to save the program. Sixty-five percent of UAH Hockey player alumni donated to the campaign as well as many former student-athletes’ parents, siblings, children, and family members. A special thank you to Derek Puppa, a UAH Hockey alumni, for his $20,000 donation and to an anonymous donor of $50,000 (separate from the GoFundMe campaign) in honor of Fred Hudson, a pioneer of youth hockey in Huntsville.

We would also like to thank Joe Ritch, the founder and first coach of the UAH Chargers Hockey team who built the very program that we fought for this week.

What started out as a grassroots effort to save our home team went beyond anything we could have imagined. The support we have received from the hockey community across the world has been nothing short of amazing. We did the unimaginable – TOGETHER AS A TEAM. And it’s as a team that we will move forward with the future of UAH Hockey.

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The group would also like to thank people with ties to the NHL for their support of the cause:

Donors
Cam Talbot
Dylan Strome
Mark Recchi
Chris Mason
Brian Burke

Social Media:
Patrick Kane
Brandon Carlo
Paul Bissonnette
John Buccigross
Ryan Kennedy

NHL Radio:
Scott Laughlin
Gord Stellick

Fast fundraiser established in attempt to save UAH hockey

This week will determine if the UAH hockey program can stay alive.

After Friday’s announcement that UAH was eliminating the hockey program, reaction has been swift, especially from hockey alumni who criticized the timing and the lack of transparency.

On Monday, after top benefactors spoke with UAH administration, including UAH president Darren Dawson and athletic director Cade Smith, a fundraising campaign has begun in an effort for the Charger hockey to continue.

To save UAH hockey, $1 million will need to be raised by 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, May 29 to continue the program.

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been established to raise half of it. If the $500,000 goal is reached, a group of donors willing to cover the remaining balance.

If this campaign is successful, an advisory committee of hockey alumni, local business leaders and major donors would be formed. This committee would advise Dr. Dawson and the athletic department on securing a long-term commitment to hockey at UAH and secure a spot in the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

If the campaign is not successful, donations will be fully refunded.

For more information, follow the Save UAH Hockey Twitter account at @saveuahhockey.

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.

Hoof Beats: Awards given at banquet; Frenchy Open set

Chad Brears

Chad Brears was this season’s Charger of the Year. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

On Thursday, the Chargers held their end-of-season banquet at Spragins Hall, honoring the 2015-16 squad and looking forward to next season.

The Chargers’ Most Valuable Player was Max McHugh. The sophomore led UAH in points for the second straight season, scoring 22 points on seven goals and 15 assists.

Senior Frank Misuraca was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second time. The alternate captain was second on the club with 63 blocked shots. He had an even plus-minus rating and scored one goal with four assists for five points.

The Freshman of the Year was Adam Wilcox. In 33 games played, Wilcox was tied for the team among freshmen with four goals, including one power play and one shorthanded tally. He finished with nine points on the season.

The Charger of the Year award, which goes to the player who exemplifies what it means to be a UAH Charger, went to Chad Brears. The senior and alternate captain from Cold Lake, Alberta led the Chargers in goals this season with nine, and was third on the team in assists (10) and second in points (19). He also led UAH in plus-minus (+6).

Sign up for the Frenchy Open: The 2016 UAH Hockey Frenchy Open will tee off at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 25 at Hampton Cove Golf Course.

The golf tournament is the program’s biggest summer fundraising event. The tournament layout will be a four-player scramble with prizes going to the top three teams. Raffle and door prizes will be available.

Register online to reserve your spot. Registration per player is $150, which includes 18 holes of golf, a cart, a UAH Hockey shirt and hat, refreshments, and dinner. Full four-player teams can register for $600.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, can call 256-824-2485 or email Nick Laurila.

In addition, there will be an UAH alumni hockey game at the Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex in Huntsville on June 24 at 7 p.m.

“The Frenchy Open” is named after Charger left wing 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. Plante worked at the front office of the Florida Panthers and became the athletic marketing director at UAH. A memorial scholarship is awarded in his honor to the Charger hockey player who demonstrates leadership, sportsmanship, and team spirit, and who participates in community and university volunteer service.

Rappleyea commits: Sean Rappleyea of South Amboy, N.J. committed to the Chargers for the 2016-17 season last week. The defenseman was an alternate captain this past season for the Ottawa Jr. “A” Senators of the Central Canada Hockey League.

This past season, Rappleyea led the Senators in 35 assists in addition to three goals scored. The CCHL Defenseman of the Year was scored a goal and eight assists in 16 playoffs games as the Senators reached the CCHL championship series.

UAH ’96 retro game-worn jerseys to be auctioned

UAH will be auctioning off this season’s game-worn 1996 replica jerseys during Friday and Saturday night’s games against Alaska Anchorage at the Von Braun Center.

Winners of the auction will receive the jerseys after the season ends, as the Chargers will continue to wear them throughout the 20th anniversary of the 1995-96 Division II national championship team.

Bidding for the jerseys will end at the start of the second period Saturday night. Payment will be required at the end of the auction for the winners. Jerseys will not be given out Saturday night.

The Chargers host Alaska Anchorage to open WCHA play on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. The 1995-96 NCAA Division II champions will be honored during the first intermission on Saturday. The first 500 kids 12 and under at Saturday’s game will receive a free 1996 replica kids jersey.