Hoof Beats: Restocking the roster

Recent events have the roster for the 2020-21 Charger hockey team getting a face-lift.

That’s to be expected after the program’s short-lived elimination. Returning players and incoming freshmen started to look for new schools to play for right after the announcement that the program was getting cut.

As of Thursday, June 11, six players on the roster have announced intentions to transfer to other schools: Josh Latta (UMass Lowell), Tanner Hickey (Arizona State), Liam Izyk (Boston College), Jack Jeffers (Lake Superior State), Max Coyle (Bowling Green), and Bailey Newton (Western Ontario). Latta, the Chargers’ leading scorer last season, announced his intentions to transfer before the program was cut.

The Chargers had announced a six-player incoming freshman class, but all but one, Ayodele Adeniye, changed their commitments to elsewhere. Three of them, Jacob Franczak, Connor Szmul, and Marty Westhaver, switched to the new program at Long Island University.

So far, UAH has received three new commitments, and they are showing tremendous upside (analysis by Asher Kitchings):

Conor Witherspoon, 5’11, 175, Metamora, Mich., Shreveport Mudbugs (NAHL) — The first recruit to commit to the Lance West-led Chargers this past Friday is just the kind of glue-guy we needed in this class. Conor is a well-liked, hard-working guy with a high hockey IQ who does a lot of the little things to help his team succeed. He’s quick to pucks and willing to go to the tough areas of the ice and be disruptive. More of a two-way, play-making forward, he was the second leading scorer on a defensively-strong Mudbugs squad, putting up a 52/5/30/35 slash line in his third full season of junior hockey. Conor will endear himself to the Charger faithful with his honest, all-around game. Conor was originally committed to Division III Norwich.

Tyrone Bronte, 5’10, 165, 1999, Melbourne, Australia, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (NAHL) — The first Aussie for the program was previously committed to arch-rival Bemidji State, but we’ll gladly take him off their hands. Bronte was a teammate of current Charger Adrian Danchenko’s in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and has played all over these past several years. He broke into elite youth hockey in Quebec, and then made stops in Ontario and Michigan before securing a spot in the NAHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the 2017-18 season, where – other than a cup of coffee with Omaha in the USHL – he’s been ever since. A playmaker, Bronte has good hands, solid speed and a quick, accurate release. One of the leading scorers in the NAHL before COVID-19 shut things down, Bronte was putting up more than a point per game with 12 goals, 36 assists and 48 points in 46 games played. West will want him to provide offense early and often next season. I doubt we’ll be disappointed. Look for him to bring the thunder from Down Under, folks!

Brian Scoville, 6’3, 215, 1999, Agawam, Mass., Langley Rivermen (BCHL) — Finally another defenseman to join Ayo Adeniye in this class, Scoville gave his commitment to West and UAH on Wednesday night. Scoville is a big, strong defenseman who was No. 27 on Neutral Zone’s list of the top-50 uncommitted 1999-born prospects. Like Bronte, he’ll have at least one familiar face in the locker room when he arrives in rising sophomore Daneel Lategan, a teammate of Scoville’s in Langley during the 2018-19 season. The western Massachusetts native has been on scouts’ radars for a long time, having been drafted by the vaunted Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL back in 2016 (quite an honor given how few Americans the QMJHL historically drafts) and previously committing to UMass (Amherst) as a freshman in high school. Extremely athletic, Scoville’s game has matured over the years, culminating in arguably his best season to-date in the BCHL with three goals, 21 assists, and 24 points in 53 games played (including playoffs). Along with Adeniye, he’ll bring some much needed size, strength and grit to the blueline next season. From the outset, these guys will be tough to play against. On top of all that, there’s more potential to be unlocked here, and it’ll be up to West and whoever his assistants turn out to be to unlock it.

Original Charger Bill Roberts dies: Bill Roberts, who played on the first UAH hockey club teams from 1979-82, passed away on June 6. He was 61.

Roberts, also known as “Big Bad Bill from Billy Goat Hill,” was the Chargers’ leading scorer in the inaugural 1979-80 season, scoring 70 points on 30 goals and 40 assists in 20 games. He had 88 goals and 138 assist for 226 points in three seasons, helping UAH win its first U.S. national club championship in 1982.

A graveside service will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, June 12th, at Maple Hill Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Friends of UAH Hockey, c/o Bryant Bank, 320 Pelham Ave., SW, Suite 100, Huntsville AL 35801-5051.

Podcast talk: UAH hockey had a presence on podcasts this week.

Incoming freshman Ayodele Adeniye appeared on the Redvolution Rampage podcast to discuss race in hockey, the barriers for players of color and efforts to help grow the sport.

Charger alumni Cam Talbot, Karlis Zirnis, and Tony Guzzo went on the Running Poles Podcast to discuss how the program was saved.

UAHHockey.com writer Michael Napier appeared on the College Hockey SW Weekly show to talk about the history of the UAH hockey program, where it is now and what’s ahead.

New NCAA overtime rules proposed: Overtime rules are on the way to being simplified across college hockey.

On June 5, the NCAA men’s and women’s ice hockey rules committee proposed that overtime becoming 3-on-3 if a game is tied after 60 minutes.

Currently, all NCAA games go into a five-minute, sudden-death overtime period playing regular 5-on-5, with the result being a tie if no one scores. Most conferences, including the WCHA, have an extra overtime period of 3-on-3 to determine which team gets a extra point in the league standings. The proposal would bypass the 5-on-5 period in all conferences.

Also in the proposal, a three-person shootout could be used in conference games or for in-season tournaments to decide which team advances. Currently in WCHA games, a sudden-death shootout occurs if no one scores in the 3-on-3 overtime.

In regular-season non-conference games, the result of the game would be a tie if neither team scores in the overtime period.

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.

# # #

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

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


UAH hockey to play this season after reaching fundraising goals

After a furious fundraising effort over four days, the University of Alabama in Huntsville varsity hockey program will, as we say, charge on.

Thanks to a GoFundMe fundraiser, T-shirt sales, and a massive publicity campaign, UAH alumni were able to raise the $500,000 by the 5 p.m. CT Friday deadline set by the university to keep UAH hockey alive for the 2020-21 season.

“The total amount of more than $750,000 in private dollars will allow the Chargers to continue to compete at the Division I level during the 2020-2021 season,” according to a UAH statement. “This total philanthropic contribution is the largest athletic campaign contribution in the history of UAH.”

Last Friday, UAH announced that it was cutting the hockey program due to financial concerns exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, two of the program’s top alumni and benefactors, Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikitis, spoke with UAH president Dr. Darren Dawson, athletics director Dr. Cade Smith, and faculty athletics representative Dr. Brent Wren.

The UAH officials told Wolitski and Sofikitis that $750,000 would need to be raised by the close of business Friday for the university to resume the program.

The cause was championed across several media outlets across the nation and across hockey. UAH alumnus and Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot contributed to the effort, as well as Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome.

Wolitski and Sofikitis will each contribute $125,000 to complete the $750,000 goal.

Dawson has committed funds from the university to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. “We are thankful and gratified from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey,” said Dawson in the statement.. “We are hopeful that this support will translate into a sustainable funding model that will allow the UAH hockey program to rise again to high levels of success.”

Now that the Chargers will play this season, the next step is stabilizing the program for the long term.

In a “state of the union” call Thursday with hockey alumni and boosters, Wolitski and Sofikitis outlined a goal to establish a $2 million yearly budget, with 25 percent coming from the university and 75 percent from outside sources.

An advisory council of alumni and local business owners would help the university manage the hockey program. They must collaborate on a 5- to 10-year plan philanthropic funding model, establish the structure of the program going forward and help secure a place in a conference, specifically the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), which starts in the 20201-22 season.

The council would also utilize the alumni network to recruit corporate sponsorship, recruit fans, and support the student-athletes with opportunities after their hockey careers are complete.

“The university is fully committed to the upcoming season,” said Smith in the statement. “The university will work with the supporters of the UAH hockey program and a newly formed Hockey Advisory Board to develop a plan that will allow the Chargers to thrive in 2021-2022 season and beyond.”

“UAH is committed to building a world-class D-I hockey program with a permanent conference home that will allow the Chargers to continue past the 2020-2021 season.”

Hoof Beats: Chargers sport five jerseys, including ’96 throwbacks

The UAH locker room at the Von Braun Center, displaying the five sweaters the Chargers will wear this season.

The UAH locker room at the Von Braun Center, displaying the five sweaters the Chargers will wear this season. (Photo by UAH Athletics)

UAH revealed the jerseys the Chargers will wear in the 2015-16 season in a photo of their Von Braun Center locker room on Tuesday.

The Chargers will wear five different sweaters this season:

  • Home white: A couple of alterations were made to the white jerseys the Chargers wore the last two seasons. The shoulder yoke is now blue, and the blue stripe on the sleeve and waist is thicker.
  • Road blue: Unchanged.
  • Alternate gray: Unchanged.
  • Alternate black: Black version of the road sweater, with a blue shoulder yoke like  the one on the home white.
  • Throwback: For the first time in program history, the Chargers will wear throwback jerseys. These are the home whites to honor the 20th anniversary of the 1995-96 NCAA Division II national champions.

Michael’s opinion: The home whites look better simply because there is more blue, but I still think there’s too much black with “UAH” and the player number for my taste. I’m thrilled we still have the glorious road blues, because I don’t care much for the alternate blacks at all, although I bet I’m in the minority.

The 1996 Division II national champions. (Photo by UAH Athletics)

The 1996 Division II national champions. (Photo by UAH Athletics)

The throwbacks honoring the 1995-96 Chargers aren’t exact replicas. The throwbacks have the red stripe on the waste along the bottom of the sweater, whereas it was sandwiched between blue stripes in the original. The holes in the word “Alabama” were filled in with red 20 years ago, but not in the throwback (this is an improvement, in my opinion). Also, the number and “C”/”A” on the front suggest the throwback will have the same font as the other current jerseys, not the font from the original. Still, it’s great to see the effort to honor the undefeated national champions in this way. It should stir great memories for longtime UAH fans.

Guerriero on CHN’s All-America team: College Hockey News named UAH’s Carmine Guerriero to its preseason All-America team on Tuesday. The junior was selected as the second-team goaltender.

“Had a .927 save percentage last season while facing more shots per minute than any goaltender in the country. Edges out [Michigan Tech’s] Jamie Phillips and [Boston College’s] Thatcher Demko, who had offseason hip surgery and may miss the early part of the season.”

Chargers on TV: UAH’s home game with Alaska on Jan. 8 will be televised by American Sports Network, select affiliates of the Sinclair Networks Group and on several regional sports networks around the country.

The game is one of two WCHA contests ASN will broadcast as part of a deal to televise 30 college hockey games this season. The deal also includes Hockey East, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and ECAC Hockey.

UAH picked to finish 8th in WCHA preseason polls

At least the Chargers are expected to make the playoffs this time.

The WCHA preseason coaches and media polls were released during the league’s media teleconference Monday, and UAH finished eighth in both polls.

“We’re still building our foundation, but I like what our foundation is right now,” UAH head coach Mike Corbett said. “We brought in a few extra players to bring depth to our program.

“As for the polls, they’re great. They’re motivational. They’re going up on our board, and we’re going to continue to use them as motivation. Respect is something you’ve got to earn day to day. We did some nice things last year, but now we’ve got to earn it all over again.”

The Chargers were picked to finish last in their first two seasons in the WCHA. UAH did finish last in 2013-14, but finished eighth last season to earn its first WCHA playoff berth, where the Chargers swept at Michigan Tech in two games. The first game was three-overtime thriller, won by the Huskies 1-0 as Carmine Guerriero made a WCHA-record 76 saves.

Guerriero did receive a vote in each poll for preseason all-WCHA. “He’s the guy who carried the load last year,” Corbett said. “With our added depth and the experience the players have gotten in our league, he doesn’t have to make 40 (saves) a night, but the great thing for us is we know he can.”

In the coaches poll, Minnesota State was the clear favorite to win the MacNaughton Cup again, getting eight first-place votes. Bowling Green and Michigan Tech got each of the other two first-place votes.

Minnesota State also took first in the media poll, but did not get a majority. The Mavericks had 12, Michigan Tech had nine, and Bowling Green got eight.

UAH opens the season on Oct. 9-10 at Propst Arena against Connecticut. The WCHA schedule begins two weeks later at home against Alaska Anchorage.

2015-16 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Minnesota State (8) 89
2. Bowling Green (1) 79
3. Michigan Tech (1) 78
4. Bemidji State 61
5. Alaska 55
6. Ferris State 51
7. Northern Michigan 49
8. UAH 29
9. Alaska Anchorage 27
10. Lake Superior State 22

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: Tyler Morley, Alaska
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Corey Mackin, Ferris State
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
G Jamie Phillips, Michigan Tech
D Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech
D Casey Nelson, Minnesota State
F Tyler Morley, Alaska
F Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
F Bryce Gervais, Minnesota State

Carmine Guerriero received one vote for Preseason All-WCHA.

2015-16 Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Minnesota State (12) 265
2. Michigan Tech (9) 263
3. Bowling Green (8) 250
4. Bemidji State 184
5. Alaska 164
6. Ferris State 142
7. Northern Michigan 138
8. UAH 88
9. Lake Superior State 54
10. Alaska Anchorage 47

Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: Bryce Gervais, Minnesota State
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Stephen Baylis, Bowling Green
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
G Jamie Phillips, Michigan Tech
D Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech
D Casey Nelson, Minnesota State
F Tyler Morley, Alaska
F Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
F Bryce Gervais, Minnesota State

Carmine Guerriero received one vote for Preseason WCHA Player of the Year. Jetlan Houcher received one vote for Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year. Guerriero and Max McHugh each received one vote for Preseason All-WCHA.

Geof Morris and Michael Napier of UAHHockey.com voted in the media poll. Here are our ballots:

Geof’s ballot:

  1. Bowling Green
  2. Minnesota State
  3. Michigan Tech
  4. UAH
  5. Alaska
  6. Bemidji State
  7. Northern Michigan
  8. Ferris State
  9. Lake Superior State
  10. Alaska Anchorage

Player of the Year: Carmine Guerriero, UAH
Newcomer of the Year: Stephen Baylis, Bowling Green
Preseason All-WCHA:
G Carmine Guerriero, UAH
D Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech
D Casey Nelson, Minnesota State
F Tyler Morley, Alaska
F Max McHugh, UAH
F Teddy Blueger, Minnesota State

Michael’s ballot:

  1. Michigan Tech
  2. Bowling Green
  3. Minnesota State
  4. Bemidji State
  5. Alaska
  6. Northern Michigan
  7. UAH
  8. Ferris State
  9. Lake Superior State
  10. Alaska Anchorage

Player of the Year: Jamie Phillips, Michigan Tech
Newcomer of the Year: Brett Boeing, Michigan Tech
Preseason All-WCHA:
G Jamie Phillips, Michigan Tech
D Shane Hanna, Michigan Tech
D Casey Nelson, Minnesota State
F Tyler Morley, Alaska
F Alex Petan, Michigan Tech
F Bryce Gervais, Minnesota State

More from Mike Corbett on the media teleconference:

  • On defense: “On defense, we played three freshman most of the year. Frank Misuraca had a breakout season. We’re going to have some good legs back there and be able to move the puck a little bit more, and not weather as many storms as we’ve had to the past couple of years.”
  • On offense: “Up front, we’re led by Max McHugh, a sophomore. He made the all-rookie team last year. He’s come back we feel a step faster and stronger. Our scoring, everyone is going to have to chip in, and Max is one who’s going to be skating against others’ top lines most nights. I like the kids we have up front. I think we’re going to be able to score a few more goals.”
  • On recruiting: “We’re not the sexiest program out there. We know that. We might not get a lot of help from junior coaches. But there’s plenty of players out there. And more than anything, getting kids who are up to the challenge of building this program. It’s easy to put on the jersey. It’s not easy to build a program and be the underdog every day. It’s not easy to get disrespected a lot of times. You’ve got to get strong mental kids who have that fire in their eyes, and I think we’ve got that with the kids that are coming in.”
  • On impact freshmen: “I think the guy who comes in with the pedigree is Jetlan Houcher, who scored 85 goals in juniors. He’s more of a shooter, and I think we’re going to be able to put Jetlan in a position to do what he does. We still have room on the depth chart to do that right now. With as many freshmen as we have, part of our recruiting was giving them the opportunity to be the players they want to be. Kurt Gosselin … is going to be able to add offense to the backline for us. When the puck is kicked low to high, he’s going to be able to make plays. He’s going to be able to improve our power play and help our offense 5-on-5.”