Hoof Beats: WCHA unveils uncertain schedule

Normally we would have a little fun this time of year talking about the release of the upcoming season’s schedule, but what is normal these days?

The WCHA unveiled its 2020-21 conference schedule on Wednesday, although it’s unknown when college hockey will actually be played again.

The COVID-19 pandemic still putting sports in America on hold indefinitely, so consider the schedule tentative.

WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson told the Bemidji Pioneer that the league is developing potential models in case adjustments are needed. The season may not start if schools are continuing distance learning into the fall.

Most of the WCHA schools released their full schedules, but UAH was not one of them. UAH is opting to wait for more certainty before officially releasing its schedule.

We do know some things about 2020-21, however. The Chargers would play 18 home games, with four non-conference games in addition to the 14 WCHA games. Twelve of the 18 at the VBC would come before Christmas.

The two non-conference teams visiting will be UMass Lowell and Omaha, both of which UAH visited to start last season.

With everything obviously subject to change, here is the 2020-21 UAH hockey schedule so far:

Oct. 9-10 vs. UMass Lowell
Oct. 16-17 vs. Omaha
Oct. 23-24 at Ferris State
Oct. 31-Nov. 1 vs. Alaska
Nov. 6-7 vs. Michigan Tech
Nov. 13-14 vs. Bowling Green
Dec. 4-5 vs. Bemidji State

Dec. 11-12 at Alaska
Jan. 1-2 at Lake Superior State
Jan. 8-9 vs. Minnesota State
Jan. 22-23 at Alaska Anchorage
Jan. 29-30 vs. Ferris State
Feb. 5-6 at Michigan Tech
Feb. 12-13 vs. Lake Superior State
Feb. 19-20 at Northern Michigan
Feb. 26-27 at Bowling Green

Latta transfers to Lowell: The Chargers lost their promising rookie from last season, and might see him on the opposing bench this fall.

Josh Latta, who lead the Chargers in scoring as a freshman last season, announced on April 22 that he was transferring to UMass Lowell.

Latta had seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 2019-20. Two of those assists game in the season-opening series at Lowell, which UAH lost 5-1 and 3-1.

If a new transfer rule gets passed by the NCAA, or if Latta receives a waiver, he could be eligible to play for the River Hawks this coming season. That would mean he would face his former Charger teammates on Oct. 9-10 at the VBC.

Recruiting updates: Aidan Flynn, a forward from Spring Hill, Tenn. who is expected to join the Chargers in 2021, is moving up to the AJHL. He signed with the Lloydminster Bobcats on Monday.

Flynn had 40 points in 53 games with the Nashville Jr. Predators last season.

On April 10, UAH got a commitment from Jacob Franczak to join the Chargers this fall. The foward from Edmonton scored 18 goals and 43 points in 53 games with Sherwood Park of the AJHL.

Franczak would be the third forward from Edmonton and Sherwood Park in this recruiting class, joining William Zapernick and Jarred White.

Speaking of Zapernick, the CBC did a feature on him and his friend, Brown University recruit Matthew Kinash, on how they are preparing for college hockey while self-isolating during the pandemic.

Long Island going D-I: In a move that took literally almost everyone in college hockey by surprise, Long Island University announced last week that it was planning to establish a Division I men’s hockey program to begin play this fall.

The timing raises many questions. Schedules for this season are essentially already done, and as stated before, it’s not a given that the 2020-21 season will start on time. LIU, which started a women’s hockey program last year, has no coach, no players, and no established place to play yet.

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Hoof Beats: Kestner, Saulnier contribute at ECHL All-Stars

Two UAH alumni participated in the ECHL All-Star Classic in Wichita, Kan., on Wednesday.

Both Josh Kestner of the Toledo Walleye and Brennan Saulnier of the Rapid City Rush were on the Western Conference team, which lost to the Eastern Conference 4-3 in the championship game.

The event featured four teams (Western Conference, Eastern Conference, and two teams from the host Wichita Thunder) playing a 3-on-3, round-robin tournament with a running clock and rally scoring. The teams were seeded based on total goals for the semifinals and championship.

Kestner scored a goal in the Western Conference’s first and third games, and one in the semifinals. Saulnier scored two goals in the semifinals. Bouth had a total of four points on the night.

Kestner also participated in the accuracy shooting competition of the skills challenge. He finished third out of four participants by hitting all four targets in 15.48 seconds.

Kestner has 42 points in 36 games for Toledo this season, leading the Walleye and putting him ninth in the ECHL. He’s tied for eighth in goals scored with 18.

Saulnier has 14 goals and 14 assists for 28 points in 36 games with Rapid City.

Forward commits: UAH received a commitment from Connor Szmul, a forward with the Chippewa Steel of the NAHL last Thursday (Jan. 16).

Szmul, rated 3.75 stars by recruiting site Neutral Zone, has 38 points (18 goals, 20 assists) with the Chippewa Steel of the NAHL this season. He’s a 5-foot-8, 155-pound left-hand shooter from Castle Rock, Colo.

While the Chargers got Szmul, they lost another forward recruit on the same day. Joey Baez of the NAHL’s Lone Star Brahmas switched his commitment to Army West Point.

Currently, UAH is expecting a six-member class joining the program this fall.

Holiday Hoof Beats

We’re hoping you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season while the Chargers are on break. Here are some UAH hockey news and notes heading into 2020.

Skate with the Chargers on Monday, December 30 from 5-7 p.m. Charger hockey players will be at Skating in the Park at 300 Church Street in downtown Huntsville.

In the classroom: The Chargers finished a strong fall semester, posting a 3.443 grade point average.

Charger commit Mosley shines: Ryland Mosley, a forward with Carleton Place of the CCHL, had an impressive showing at the World Junior A Challenge earlier this month.

The Arnprior, Ontario native, who will join UAH next season, had two goals and three assists in six games to help the Canada East squad reach the gold-medal game and earn a spot on the all-tournament team. Canada East lost to Russia 2-1 in overtime to take the silver medal.

Hockey prospects and recruiting site Neutral Zone gave Mosley’s performance an “A” grade:

“Mosley was the heart-and-soul guy for Team Canada East. The returning player was named captain, and gave a full effort in every game. He was in on the forecheck, battled to win pucks, and used in all special teams situations. His work ethic and detailed play stuck out. He scored his team’s only goal against the powerful USA team in the semi-finals.”

White to join 2020-21 class: UAH received another forward commitment for next season on Sunday when Jarred White made his annoucement.

Through 34 games this season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the AJHL, White has 42 points on 23 goals and 19 assists. The Crusaders are 32-3 this season.

The Chargers currently have six known commitments planning to join the program next season.

This week in the WCHA: Not much action as most teams stay on holiday break, including the Chargers. Interesting holiday tournament action abound for the teams that are playing.

Saturday, December 28
Lake Superior State vs. #13 Providence, 3 p.m. (Catamount Cup at Vermont)
#2 Minnesota State vs. St. Cloud State, 4 p.m. (Mariucci Classic at Minnesota)
Bemidji State at Minnesota, 7 p.m. (Mariucci Classic)

Sunday, December 29
#2 Minnesota State vs. Bemidji State or Minnesota, 4 or 7 p.m. (Mariucci Classic third place/championship)
Bemidji State vs. #2 Minnesota State or St. Cloud State, 4 p.m. (Mariucci Classic third place/championship)
Lake Superior State at Vermont, 6:05 p.m. (Catamount Cup)

Monday, December 30
Michigan Tech vs. #18 Michigan State, noon (Great Lakes Invitational at Detroit)
Ferris State vs. Michigan, 3 p.m. (Great Lakes Invitational at Detroit)
Miami at #11 Bowling Green, 6:37 p.m.

Tuesday, December 31
Ferris State vs. Michigan Tech or #18 Michigan State, 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. (Great Lakes Invitational third place/championship)
Michigan Tech vs. Ferris State or Michigan, 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. (Great Lakes Invitational third place/champioship)

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.

Future Chargers making strides in season’s first half

It’s been a while since we checked in on our recruits, so at the halfway point of the junior hockey season, here’s where they’re at:

Adrian Danchenko

Adrian Danchenko

Adrian Danchenko, forward, 6’2, 195, 1999, Palm City, Fla., Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (NAHL) – A sure-fire bet for the 2019-2020 incoming class having signed his NLI, Danchenko got off to a scorching start for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after barely missing the cut in Dubuque (USHL) with three goals, six assists, and nine points in his first six games. He’s cooled somewhat since, but has still put up a solid 26/7/10/17 slash line to date. Scouts laud the Floridian for his great size, good speed, balance, and nose for the net. His stature will certainly be a welcome addition to a UAH squad that’s often quite a bit smaller than the opposition. With legitimate potential still left to be unlocked, the junior hockey vet could develop into a true power forward at the Division I level.

Peyton Francis

Peyton Francis

Peyton Francis, forward, 5’11, 160, 1999, Oakville, Ont., Carleton Place (CCHL) – The long-time Charger commit is having another solid season with Carleton Place in the CCHL. A quick, speedy center with good offensive instincts, Francis continues to put pucks in the back of the net even as the quality of play in the CCHL continues to rise. Plotting 14 goals, nine assists, and 23 points in 35 games, he’ll look to build on his solid first half and help his team maintain its first-place divisional standing. Francis frequently wins races to pucks and beats defenders wide on the rush, so the goals and points should continue to come. I expect him to play at a point-per-game pace down the stretch.

Aidan Flynn, forward, 5’11, 150, 2002, Sping Hill, Tenn., TPH Thunder (U16 AAA) – The youngest Charger commit is a versatile, two-way forward who’s continuing to impress and grow as a hockey player. Scouts love his makeup, hockey sense, and elite acceleration. Neutral Zone had this to say about him recently: “He is very sound in all facets of the game. Always in position, always making the right decision, providing support, chipping in offense, killing penalties. He is a ‘glue’ kind of player and can do it all. Really like his skill level as well as his intelligence and overall demeanor.” With these kinds of rave reviews, he’ll be one to follow in the coming years as he charts his path to Huntsville through junior hockey.

Ryland Mosley

Ryland Mosley

Ryland Mosley, forward, 5’10, 185, 2000, Arnprior, Ont., Carleton Place (CCHL) – A teammate of fellow commits Peyton Francis and Ayo Adeniye, Ryland Mosley’s game remains on an upward trajectory. After scoring over 100 points in 70-plus games in the CCHL2 last year, Mosley had a relatively slow start to the season, but has since been on an absolute tear with 26 points in his last 22 games. He’s cemented himself on Carleton Place’s top line and recently played for Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge in Alberta. If he keeps this up, it’s possible that the skilled, playmaking winger will be called on to come to UAH a year early. Regardless, it’s clear that Mosley has the mind and skating ability to one day be a top-six forward in college.

Joey Baez

Joey Baez

Joey Baez, forward, 5’8, 165, 2000, Tampa, Fla., Lone Star (NAHL) – After starting the season with Johnstown, Baez was traded to Lone Star where he’ll be counted on to contribute offensively for a relatively young NAHL squad. He’s always had above-average speed and puck skills, so I think we’ll begin to see him compile points at a much higher rate than his current 16/4/3/7 totals would suggest. Baez is sure to get more consistent playing time and experience with Lone Star, which bodes well for his anticipated arrival on campus.

Ayo Adeniye, defenseman, 6’4, 190, 1999, Columbus, Ohio, Carleton Place (CCHL) – The sole defenseman currently committed to UAH is really coming into his own in his first year of junior hockey. Maintaining the strong Carleton Place-UAH pipeline, Adeniye is a hulking blueliner with tremendous upside. He’s extremely athletic, moves well for his size, and competes hard. After acclimating to the speed of the junior game, he’s really taken off with eight points in his last 13 games, bringing his year-to-date stats to 37/3/10/13. Most importantly, though, he leads the league in plus/minus for defensemen at a staggering +23, so Adeniye is clearly taking care of his own end and making things happen. With time and top-level coaching, he’s only going to continue to get better. This kid has pro potential on down the line.

David Fessenden

David Fessenden

David Fessenden, goaltender, 6’6, 240, 1998, Parker, Colo., Northeast (NAHL) – A massive tender from Colorado, Fessenden has been plying his trade for the Northeast Generals in the NAHL for the past 3 seasons. The Generals have been one of the weaker teams in the league during that timespan, so Fessenden typically sees a ton of pucks each game. As a result, his present .902 save percentage and 3.45 goals-against average don’t really tell the whole story. Often having to make a number big saves on a nightly basis to keep his squad in it, Fessenden has developed an aggressive style in net. Using his imposing frame, he’s regularly at the top of his crease for shots, which helps him sustain solid rebound control. He’ll have to hone his aggression at the next level, but given his size, strong character, and positioning, he could very well be playing pro hockey at some point in the future.

Outside of Fessenden and Danchenko, it’s difficult to say who will all be a part of the incoming 2019-2020 freshman class. With everyone else having at least one more year of junior eligibility, it’ll depend on how each player develops and the number of new commitments the coaching staff is able to reel in. Losing at least three defensemen and four forwards to graduation suggest that we’ll see several guys commit before long. Stay tuned.