Hoof Beats: Stat pack and recruiting update

Josh Kestner

Josh Kestner has been on a goal-scoring pace not seen at UAH in over a decade. (Photo by Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography)

Some statistical analysis as we hit the halfway point of the season:

• The 6-9-1 overall record may not seem like much, but it is the Chargers’ best 16-game start since the 2005-06 season, when they started 8-7-1.

• UAH is only 1-7-0 on Fridays, with the lone win coming against last-place Alaska Anchorage at home. The Chargers are 5-2-1 on Saturdays, with the two losses coming against non-conference foes Notre Dame and Cornell on the road and both currently ranked in the top six. Five of the eight series this season have been win-loss splits, including the last three weeks.

• The Chargers are scoring 3.30 goals per game in WCHA play, second in the league behind Minnesota State (3.80). UAH is tops in power play efficiency in conference games at 25.0 percent.

• Josh Kestner has 10 goals in 16 games this season, already a career high for him and more than his team-leading nine goals last year. He’s the first Charger to reach double-digit goals at this point of the season since both Jared Ross and Bruce Mulherin did it in the 2004-05 season. Kestner is third in the WCHA in overall goals scored and first in power play goals with five. Nationally, Kestner is 19th in goals per game (0.62) and tied for fourth in power play goals (five).

• Now that Jordan Uhelski has played over 1,500 career minutes at UAH, he qualifies for ranking in the program’s all-time leader boards. His .907 save percentage would be sixth all-time and fourth in the modern Division I era, just behind Cam Talbot (2007-10). His 2.81 goals against average would edge him over Steve Briere (1997-2000) for fourth all-time and second in the modern Division I era (behind Scott Munroe’s 2.76).

• For those of you who still care about goaltender win-loss records, Uhelski already has 12 career victories in two seasons, matching Carmine Guerriero’s four-year total. Uhelski has made 33 starts, while Guerriero made 72. Uhelski is getting more goal support now that the Chargers are scoring about a half goal per game more than last season, and about 1.5 goals per game more than Guerriero’s first season (2013-14).

Recruiting update: Last week, UAH received a commitment from Drew Lennon, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound defenseman playing for the Lone Star Brahmas in the NAHL. Lennon, who is originally from Illinois, has played junior hockey all over the continent these past few years. After starring with Rocky Mountain Roughriders U16 AAA team in 2014-15, he went on to play for the Connecticut Oilers in the EHL in 2015-16, and the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL last season. Drew is known for his strong defensive play and skating ability. His size and reach make him difficult to play against, and he’s yet to reach his offensive ceiling. Through 27 games this season, he has two goals and five assists, but has a goal and three assists in his last eight games, so he’s starting to heat up.

Bauer Neudecker signed his National Letter of Intent with UAH, so he’ll be a member of the 2018-19 freshmen class. He has five points in 17 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, the same team the produced UAH captain Max McHugh.

Tyr Thompson, another forward expected in the 2018-19 recruiting class, has been playing at a near point-per-game pace this season (31 points in 29 games) for his Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL) squad. Thompson and Neudecker headline what is shaping up to be another solid recruiting class for Coach Corbert and his staff. — Asher Kitchings

WCHA media poll: The Chargers are currently sixth in the latest WCHA Media Poll, conducted by Tech Hockey Guide. UAH fell a spot from fifth after the Chargers split at Northern Michigan over the weekend.

UAHHockey.com has a vote in the poll, which has a representative covering each WCHA program.

Recruiting roundup: Star prospect Flynn commits to UAH

by Asher Kitchings

With junior hockey seasons set to begin, here’s a rundown on UAH’s current commitments:

Aidan FlynnAidan Flynn (6’0″, 155 lbs., forward from Spring Hill, TN): Flynn, born in 2002, is one of, if not the, youngest commit to UAH ever. He led his TPH Thunder U14 AAA team last season with 67 points in 57 games, and was the sole skater from that team to be selected for TPH’s U16 squad this year. At only 15 years of age, he’s already on NTDP, USHL, and OHL scouts’ radars. His combination of size, skating ability, and two-way play gives him a projectable upside that few in his age group possess. If he has a strong season, an invite to the vaunted NTDP Final 40 Camp is not out of the question. For those of you that don’t know, the United States NTDP (National Team Development Program) is the country’s premier training ground for elite U.S. hockey players at the U-17 and U-18 levels. The two teams are based out of Plymouth, Michigan, and play a schedule that includes USHL teams, NCAA Division I teams, and international competition. Its alumni include NHL superstars like Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, James van Riemsdyk, etc. UAH has never had a recruit who played for the NTDP. A commitment from a player of Flynn’s caliber and youth is a very positive signal for the program’s future.

Bauer Neudecker (5’8″, 194 lbs., forward from St. Louis Park, MN): With one of the best names in all of hockey, the 2016-2017 Mr. Hockey finalist for the State of Minnesota recently cracked the 30-man roster for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. His speed, versatility, and playmaking abilities will give him a great chance to stick with a squad that is perennial contender in the U.S.’s top junior circuit. I expect him to compete for a top-six role given the numbers he put up last season with his high school team (35 games/39 goals/34 assists/73 pts.) and with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL after his high school season ended (11/5/4/9). In the event he’s cut from Dubuque when they trim their roster to the league-mandated 23 (doubtful), he’ll probably head back to Fairbanks where he’ll be counted on to be one of the team’s top point producers. Regardless of where he ends up this season, his ability to pile up points will determine whether he heads to Huntsville in 2018-19 or 2019-20.

Hank Sorenson (6’1″, 190 lbs., defenseman from Plymouth, MN): The gritty, hard-nosed defenseman will be back with the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL this season. He’s the top returning rearguard for legendary Waterloo coach P.K. O’Handley after putting up a solid 41/4/10/14 slash line for him last season. He’ll undoubtedly be relied upon to play top-four minutes. From everything I’ve seen, he appears to be a lock in the 2018-2019 freshmen class. If he continues to develop, UAH may have to fend off other programs for his signature. Sorensen is one to watch closely throughout the season.

Tyr Thompson (6’0″, 185 lbs., forward from Sherwood Park, Alberta): Tyr, the son of one of the top up-and-coming coaches in North America, Rocky Thompson, was just traded from the team he played for the past two seasons, the Olds Grizzlys, to the Whitecourt Wolverines (both of the AJHL). He’ll be one of Whitecourt’s top forwards having played at an almost point-per-game pace last season. Like Neudecker, he’s a versatile playmaker that can be used in a variety roles up and down the lineup. I believe Tyr will be on campus for the 2018-2019 season barring something crazy happening.

Joey Baez (5’8″, 165 lbs., forward from Tampa, FL): The second-youngest of all UAH commits, Baez will be making the jump to junior hockey this year with the Johnstown Tomahawks in the NAHL. After tearing it up for one of the top youth programs in the country, the York Skipjacks, this season will be an important one for Baez’s development. He’s a speedster who can score, and that’s what he’ll be expected to do at the next level. A solid season with Johnstown could see the Florida native get drafted by a USHL team to play at a higher level in 2018-2019. Even though he’s not expected to be a Charger until 2019-20 at the earliest, he could be the most electrifying player currently committed when it is all said and done.

Peyton Francis (5’11″, 165 lbs., forward from Oakville, Ontario): Another forward in the Carleton Place-to-UAH pipeline, Francis will look to follow in the footsteps of former Carleton Place and current Charger forwards Jordan Larsen, Andrew Dodson, and Connor Merkley. Francis, a 1999-birthdate, was an affiliate player for Carleton Place last year, but should compete for top-six minutes this season. He’s in a situation similar to Baez’s in that he’s not expected on campus for a couple more years. Nonetheless, I feel like he’ll another guy that could develop into another solid recruit for Coach Corbett and his staff.

Ryland Mosley (5’10”, 180 lbs., forward from Arnprior Ontario): Another young recruit (2000 birth year), Mosley is the most recent forward from the CPC to commit to UAH. This past summer, Mosley was drafted third overall by the North Bay Battalion in the OHL’s inaugural Midget Draft, which was put in place to allow OHL teams to draft the best Ontario-born midget players that were not selected in its annual Priority Selection (featuring U15 players) the year before. Mosley is skilled forward with good speed and creativity who amassed 56 points in 45 games at the Ottawa region’s highest level of youth hockey competition last year. He’s currently tearing it up for CPC’s second-tier team, and may find himself on the roster full-time later this season. In any event, he’ll have a few more years to develop before he comes on campus, and it won’t be a surprise to see him come south of the border to play more competitive hockey in the meantime.

Be on the lookout for commitments to the 2018-2019 freshmen class. We’ll lose forwards Max McHugh, Josh Kestner, and Brennan Saulnier; defensemen Brandon Parker, Cody Champagne, and Richard Buri; and probably goaltender Jordan Uhelski. And with only one forward (Thompson) and one defensemen (Sorensen) definitely coming in, there could be a number of new commits here soon.

2017-18 signing class announced

UAH announced eight signees for the 2017-18 season on Tuesday. Here are some tidbits about these new Chargers:

Josh Astorino (G, 6-2, 175): Astorino committed to UAH last month as one of two goaltenders in this year’s signing class. Astorino was the Ontario Junior Hockey League goaltender of the year with a 1.93 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

Andrew Dodson (F, 5-9, 180): Dodson played the last four seasons with the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL. Dodson, who committed to UAH last winter, is the Canadians’ captain and leads the team with 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) last season.

Connor Merkley (F, 6-1, 190): Merkley was an alternate captain at Carleton Place last season, announcing his commitment to UAH in May. He was named to the CCHL Second All-Star Team last season with 66 points (29 goals) in 61 games.

Dodson and Merkley will reunite with UAH forward Jordan Larson, who played for Carleton Place from 2014-16.

Christian Rajic (F, 5-10, 165): Rajic played the last four seasons with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL, committing to UAH in 2016. He scored 124 points the last two seasons.

Ted Rotenberger (D, 5-11, 180): The eighth Huntsville native to play at UAH, Rotenberger comes home after a year with the NAHL’s Shreveport Mudbugs, who are coached by Charger alum Karlis Zirnis. With Josh Kestner, this will be the third time UAH will have two Huntsville natives on the roster. Rotenberger committed to UAH back in 2013 when he played for another UAH alum, Nathan Bowen, with the TPH Thunder AAA midget program.

Mark Sinclair (G, 5-11, 170): Sinclair had 2.59 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 45 regular-season games last season with Chilliwack of the BCHL. In the postseason, he had a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage in 23 games.

Connor Wood (F, 5-8, 180): Wood will be the fifth native of the state of Georgia to play for the Chargers, hailing from Buford (current UAH forward Adam Wilcox is from Alpharetta). Wood committed to UAH in 2014, and was also a product of TPH Thunder. He had 20 points in 48 games with Odessa of the NAHL last season.

Levi Wunder (F, 5-9, 165): Wunder was a teammate of Wood’s at Odessa last season, with six goals and 13 points in 35 games. He also scored eight points in 22 games with Lone Star.

The current UAH roster features 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. In addition to the eight freshmen, there are five sophomores, seven juniors, and seven seniors.

The 2017-18 season begins Oct. 6 at Notre Dame.

Hoof Beats: Summer news and notes

Some news and notes regarding current and former Chargers this past month:

Saulnier in Canadiens camp: Senior forward Brennan Saulnier spent the first week of July in the Montreal Canadiens development camp. On the third day, Saulnier had a nice assist.

He also mixed it up with a familiar WCHA opponent: Alaska’s Nikolas Koberstein:

Saulnier’s comment:

Guerriero signs with South Carolina: Goaltender Carmine Guerriero will begin his professional hockey career with the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

Guerriero played in nine games, starting seven, in his senior season at UAH, posting a 3.77 goals against average and a .872 save percentage. In his Charger career (77 games with 72 starts), he had a .910 save percentage, which was the second highest in UAH’s modern Division I history and fourth all-time. His 3.19 career goals against average was fourth in UAH’s modern Division I history and seventh overall.

Wolitski named Alumnus of Achievement: Former Charger defenseman Sheldon Wolitski was named a UAH’s Alumnus of Achievement. He was to be honored by the UAH Alumni Association on Tuesday, August 1.

Wolitski is the founder and owner of The Select Group, which unites top companies with highly skilled candidates for managed services and contingent staffing and provides specialized IT services. Wolitski, who was on the 1996 NCAA Division II national championship team and is UAH’s all-time leading scorer for defensemen with 113 career points, announced a donation of $500,000 to the program in January.

West named head coach in Fairbanks: UAH alumnus Lance West was promoted to head coach at Alaska after Dallas Ferguson left to lead the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.

West was the assistant coach for the Nanooks for the past nine seasons. Before going to Fairbanks, West was an assistant coach for Doug Ross from 2000-07. Last season, Alaska was 12-20-4 overall and 11-13-4 in the WCHA, finishing 6th in the conference. Alaska went 2-1-1 against the Chargers.

West had 113 points (45 goals and 68 assists) in 108 games for the Chargers from 1991-95.

New commitments: The Chargers got two commitments in July.

Josh Astorino of the Georgetown Raiders is expected to join UAH for this season, giving the Chargers a third goaltender along with senior Jordan Uhelski and newcomer Mark Sinclair. Astorino was the Ontario Junior Hockey League goaltender of the year with a 1.93 goals against average and .936 save percentage.

Hank Sorensen, a defenseman of the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL, will join the Chargers in 2018-19. He had four goals and 14 points in 41 regular-season games for Waterloo last season.

With the signing period ending Aug. 1, a formal release of signees for the 2017-18 season is expected soon.

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.