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)

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Hoof Beats: Trying to stay positive through the off week

How do keep chins up when a team has been struggling to find their first win as the Chargers have?

UAH is 0-3-1 in the last two series. In three of those games, the Chargers have either matched or bettered the opponent in shots on goal, a vast improvement from the first six games. The three losses were essentially one-goal affairs with an empty-net goal tacked on the end.

“I won’t call it ‘puck luck,'” UAH head coach Corbett said during Tuesday’s media session. “You get what you deserve. This is where our program is at, where we have to take that next step and just win the game.”

Still, Corbett said the Chargers have been encouraged over the last four games.

“The biggest thing is making sure (the players’) attitude is right, making sure they’re understanding that we are getting better, that we’re improving and how close it is, because these kids like to see the final result.

“We had six breakaways and missed five of them over the weekend. If we score one, does everything change? Who knows, but our guys need something like that to cling to. The great thing about it is we’re getting those opportunities. We’re showing those things and being positive about it.

“I wouldn’t say frustrated, but we’re all at the point where we want to see some results, but we have to understand that our process has to stay the same. Now we just have to finish. We’re at the finish line, now we have to finish, and that’s just getting that puck over that red line.”

Corbett said the upperclassmen need to be a leaders for the freshmen.

“A lot of times you can camouflage your own frustration by helping someone through theirs. I talked to one of our captains about that — go through that process with (a younger player), and it will probably be very therapeutic for you.

“It’s easy for those younger guys to be frustrated. Part of why we like this group so much is that they came from very successful programs where they have won. We want that leadership, that winning mentality in our program. So it’s been frustrating for them, but that’s where (upperclassmen) have to be able to lead them and show them the way.”

The coaching staff will be recruiting this weekend during the off week, and there will be a captains’ practice on Friday.

“They don’t want to hear it from us anymore,” Corbett said. “They want to start seeing some results, so they’ve got to bond together. We’re keeping it simple and saying we don’t need a ton, we just need that extra 10 percent, that second effort, and I think the older guys can help them with that.”

The Chargers’ next series is Nov. 22 and 23 at Bemidji State (3-3-2 overall, 3-1-0 WCHA). The Beavers outscored Lake Superior State 12-2 in a sweep at home last weekend. If the Chargers (0-9-1, 0-5-1) want to improve their chances for victory, they’ll need to cut down their 4.17 goals allowed per game average in conference games.

“Some of the things we have to cure within our defensive systems, we’re working on a little bit each day,” Corbett said. “Bemidji is scoring a lot of goals right now, that’s the biggest thing we’re looking at for them. We’ve got to tighten up defensively and figure out where our flaws are.”

Chargers in the pros: Josh Kestner is on a roll with the Toledo Walleye.

Kestner has a 10-game point-scoring streak, tied for the longest in the ECHL this season. In 11 regular-season games played, the Huntsville native has 12 points on four goals and eight assists.

Here’s how former Chargers are doing in the ECHL so far this season (through Nov. 13):

TeamGPGAPts
Josh KestnerToledo114812
Brennan SaulnierRapid City136410
Tyler PoulsenRapid City14448
Cam KnightTulsa6235
Matt SalhanyAdirondack11235
Kurt GosselinCincinnati12123

In the NHL, goaltender Cam Talbot continues to back up David Rittich in Calgary. He made his fifth start on Wednesday, stopping 29 of 31 shots in the Flames’ 3-1 loss to the Dallas Stars at home. Talbot has a 2.69 goals against average and .907 save percentage this season.

Alaska teams to play next season: College sports will continue for another year at Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, the schools announced on Friday.

That means the Seawolves and Nanooks hockey teams will be playing in the WCHA for the 2020-21 season.

The future is still uncertain after that. The conference is facing its demise in 2021 as seven schools plan to leave and form a new league, leaving UAA, UAF, and UAH searching for a new home.

This week in the WCHA: All times Central. All WCHA conference games (*) can be seen on FloHockey.tv (online subscription).

Friday, November 15
Bemidji State at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
Alaska at #18 Northern Michigan, 6:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
#17 Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage, 10:07 p.m.

Saturday, November 16
Bemidji State at Ferris State, 5:07 p.m.
Alaska at #18 Northern Michigan, 5:07 p.m.
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
#17 Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage, 8:07 p.m.

Youthful Chargers raise talent if not expectations

Both the coaches and media have UAH finishing just out of the WCHA playoffs this season, picking the Chargers to finish ninth in the standings. The WCHA coaches and media polls were released Wednesday during the conference’s preseason teleconference.

The Chargers have a lot of freshmen on a club that won eight games last season and finished eighth in the league. That leaves a lot of uncertainty.

But UAH head coach Mike Corbett is high on this recruiting class, quite possibly the highest-rated since his tenure began in 2013.

“I like their speed, and we’ve also added a little bit of size,” Corbett said “We’ve got some guys in the 6-0 to 6-2 range that can get up and down the rink.

“There’s guys who have played a lot of junior hockey who can not only contribute in college hockey but also be leaders for our team.”

Returning players such as senior Austin Beaulieu and junior Christian Rajic will also provide that leadership, Corbett said.

Junior goaltender Mark Sinclair, who posted two shutouts last season, will be very important with several underclassmen on the back line. “It’s great when you have a guy back there you can trust,” Corbett said.

A more in-depth preview on this year’s Charger squad will come in the next two weeks. The season starts on October 5 with UAH visiting UMass Lowell.

Minnesota State was easily the top pick in both polls, getting all 10 first-place votes in the media poll and nine in the coaches poll (because coaches couldn’t vote for their own team).

The Mavericks won both the regular-season and playoff championships last season, and three stars from that team return to make the preseason All-WCHA team (player of the year pick Marc Michaelis, forward Parker Tuomie, and goaltender Dryden McKay).

Bowling Green was picked second in both polls, while there was some fluctuation from third to eighth place.

2019-20 Mankato Free Press WCHA Preseason Coaches Poll:
1. Minnesota State (9 first-place votes), 90 points.
2. Bowling Green (1), 82.
3. Bemidji State, 63.
4. Northern Michigan, 61.
5. Michigan Tech, 59.
6. Lake Superior State, 58.
7. Alaska, 39.
8. Ferris State, 36.
9. UAH, 30.
10. Alaska Anchorage, 20.

2019-20 WCHA Preseason Media Poll:
1. Minnesota State (10), 100.
2. Bowling Green, 89.
3. Northern Michigan, 72.
4. Michigan Tech, 68.
5. Bemidji State, 62.
6. Lake Superior State, 57.
7. Ferris State, 37.
8. Alaska, 27.
9. UAH, 26.
10. Alaska Anchorage, 12.

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7 schools announce plan to exit WCHA

Well, here we go again.

On a Friday afternoon news dump, seven WCHA schools — Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Northern Michigan — announced their intentions to create a new men’s hockey conference, leaving UAH, Alaska, and Alaska Anchorage behind.

The new league would begin play in the 2021-22 season, meaning the current WCHA would still play together in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

As of Friday evening, there has been no comment from UAH reacting to the announcement. WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said the league “will work to assure that any members that do withdraw do so in accordance with WCHA Bylaws.”

Even after the dust settled on the NCAA Division I realignment in 2013, when UAH joined the WCHA, rumblings persisted that conference shifting would happen again.

The primary reason for the change is in the second paragraph of the joint press release from the seven schools on Friday:

“They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”

In other words, they don’t want to fly to Alaska or Alabama all the time.

According to a source close to the UAH hockey program, former athletics director E.J. Brophy did not adequately support UAH as a member of the WCHA.

The source said trips to Huntsville are cheaper than to Minnesota or to and from Michigan for many of the seven teams that are leaving. Brophy’s administration also did not listen to staff warnings about the WCHA potentially breaking up and did nothing to prepare or manage UAH’s image as a league partner.

Brophy was reassigned earlier this month. Dr. Cade Smith has been named the interim athletics director, likely until Brophy’s contract expires next year.

The source indicated that UAH hockey should be OK in the short term, particularly if the program gets a WCHA payout once the seven schools leave. It will also help if the new permanent athletics director has hockey experience, which should be a priority.

The new A.D. will have to take the lead in finding a new conference home for UAH hockey. That hiring will fall on new president Dr. Darren Dawson, who took over from the retiring Dr. Robert Altenkirch this month.

The hockey program is in a more stable position than it was in its last conference search in 2012, after Altenkirch saved the program from cancellation after a grass-roots campaign. The WCHA unanimously accepted UAH on January 17, 2013 and started league play that fall.

UAH indicated a commitment to hockey in April by announcing plans to build a on-campus, multi-use facility that would be the new home for hockey, basketball, and volleyball.

The facility and the overall Executive Plaza mixed-use development, presented by Altenkirch to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees in April, was added to the UAH master plan in June following committee approval.

That could help put UAH in position to promote itself to a league that could take them in, although the options are unclear at this early stage.

UAH could try to convince the seven schools who are planning to leave the WCHA that the Chargers would give their new league a nice even eight members. UAH could try to join another existing conference, but or a league that hasn’t been conceived yet. Anything would be pure speculation without a study of feasibility at this point.

At any rate, the future of Charger hockey is uncertain, but if UAH plays its cards right and gets the right people, the program can move forward and grow.

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Gorowsky, Gosselin earn WCHA weekly awards

After excellent performances in UAH’s sweep of Alaska Anchorage, seniors Hans Gorowsky and Kurt Gosselin were named WCHA players of the week by the league on Monday.

Gorowsky (Lino Lakes, Minn.) earned WCHA Forward of the Week honors after scoring four goals, two in each game, against the Seawolves to lead the conference and tie for first in all of Division I. He added an assist for a total of five points, and won 26 faceoffs over the weekend.

Gorowsky now leads the Chargers in goals (7) and points (12) this season. It is Gorowsky’s first WCHA weekly award.

Gosselin (Brighton, Mich.) took the WCHA Defenseman of the Week award after scoring six points on three goals and three assists. He also had a +5 rating in the series, ranking him second in Division I for the week. Gosselin had the game-winning goal each night.

Gosselin has the UAH lead in assists with eight. His three goals were the first of the season for him. He’s now second on the team with 11 points in just 13 games played this season, which he has missed half of due to injury.

This is the fourth time Gosselin has won the WCHA Defenseman of the Week award.

The Chargers beat Alaska Anchorage 6-2 and 6-3 for their first sweep of the season. UAH, winners of three straight home games, hosts Alaska at the Von Braun Center this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. both nights.

Photos by Todd Thompson / RiverCat Photography