West officially takes over as head coach

It didn’t take too long for the “acting” tag to be removed, as Lance West was named UAH’s head hockey coach on Wednesday.

After over 20 years in the business, West finally is a permanent Division I head coach.

“I have spent 18 years either playing or coaching with the program, and I am very aware of and share the passion of our alumni and fan base for UAH hockey,” West said in UAH’s press release. “The challenges that lie ahead are tough, but I am excited to work together with the young men, staff and The University that have committed to making this a successful program.”

West, who was an assistant for the Chargers the last two seasons, was named the acting head coach on June 3 after the resignation of Mike Corbett.

Since then, West has been rebuilding the roster, which has seen significant turnover since the May 22 announcement that the program was cancelled. Several players have transferred even after the program was reinstated on May 29.

One of the biggest transfers was revealed Wednesday. Michigan Tech announced that Mark Sinclair, UAH’s top goaltender the last two seasons, will play his senior season with the Huskies.

Sinclair is the ninth player to transfer from UAH, including six of the seven top point-scorers from last season. Including five graduating players, UAH has lost 14 players.

West has been busy finding players. So far, 12 have committed to play for the Chargers this fall (pandemic permitting). Only one, Ayodele Adeniye, was on this spring’s original recruiting class before the program was cancelled and reinstated.

West served as an assistant coach for UAH for seven seasons under Doug Ross from 2000-07. The Chargers won two College Hockey America regular season championships (2001 and 2003) and one tournament championship (2007) during that time.

Then West moved to Fairbanks, becoming an assistant with the Alaska Nanooks for nine years. He was the interim head coach in 2017-18, recruiting many of the players who helped the Nanooks earn a winning record last season.

West was a Charger winger from 1991-95. He scored 45 goals and 68 assists for 113 points, tying him for 15th in UAH varsity history.

West becomes the Chargers’ sixth varsity head hockey coach, and the first UAH alum to be head hockey coach.

Recent commitments:

Jonah Alexander, a forward from Toronto, was a first-team OJHL all-star after a 78-point season with the St. Michael’s Buzzers.

Josh Corrow is a defenseman from New Port Richey, Fla. He was most recently the alternate captain for the Whitecourt Wolves of the AJHL, notching 15 assists in 57 regular-season games.

Noah Finstrom, a forward from New Baltimore, Mich., spent the last two seasons with Jamestown of the NHL. He had 42 points in 54 games with the Rebels last season.

Quinn Green from West Chicago comes to Huntsville after back-to-back 39-point seasons with Topeka of the NAHL.

Michael Heneghan, a defenseman, had 37 points in 48 games with the Northeast Generals (NAHL) last season. Neutral Zone had him ranked 30th among uncommitted players born in 1999 and 174th in North America.

Derek Krall is a goaltender from Crofton, B.C. He had a .917 save percentage and 2.62 goals against average in 30 regular-season games with the Powell River Kings of the BCHL.

Nick Michel of Waconia, Minn. had seven goals in 32 games with Janesville of the NAHL last season.

Bennett Stockdale, a right wing from Ottawa, switched his commitment from Division III Geneseo to UAH. The alternate captain for Johnstown (NAHL) had 42 points in 50 games last season.

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. 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.

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.


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)