Sep 202016
 

The Chargers were picked to just miss the WCHA playoffs this season by the coaches and media, selected to finish ninth in both preseason polls released Tuesday during the league’s preseason media teleconference.

Last season, UAH finished in last place with a 5-17-6 conference record, falling four points short of a playoff berth. UAH head coach Mike Corbett, now in his fourth season at the helm, says it is time for the Chargers to “turn the corner.”

“Our group has taken a lot of punches over the course of the last three years,” Corbett said. “Some well deserved. But we’ve taken a lot of punches and yet my guys have gained a lot of experience playing North Dakota, St. Cloud, and Colorado College, along with the WCHA schedule because every night it’s a battle. My team and I have grown together over the course of the last three years.”

Seniors Brent Fletcher and Matt Salhany, along with junior Max McHugh, who led the Chargers in scoring the past two seasons, will be the Charger captains this season.

“Those guys are leading us,” Corbett said. “Our two goaltenders, Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero, and Brandon Carlson and Regan Soquila, our seniors: Those are the guys will be leaning on heavily. They’ve seen it all in college hockey, from a program that folded to a team that was not very good in their freshman year, moving up into the WCHA, being in every game, giving ourselves a chance to win.

“We’ve got a full complement of Division I players in our lineup right now. To me, the biggest thing is to be able to add depth.”

The top eight teams in the WCHA make the playoffs, which have a new twist: All playoff games will be held at the rinks of the higher seeds, with best-of-3 quarterfinals and semifinals, and a single-game championship.

WCHA games will also be worth three points in the standings, with an extra overtime of 3-on-3 hockey for five minutes following the traditional 5-on-5 overtime, and a shootout if the game is still tied after that. Winners get three points for a win in regulation or the 5-on-5 overtime, two for a win in 3-on-3 OT or the shootout. Losers in the 3-on-3 OT or the shootout get one point.

“These new changes with the playoff format and the overtime changes, and the NHL nets, will make for an exciting and fantastic year,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said.

“We are concentrating on making the existing WCHA as strong as it can be for our member institutions. We want to be proactive and progressive.”

2016-17 Mankato Free Press WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll 

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Bowling Green (8) 89
2. Michigan Tech (2) 79
3. Minnesota State 71
4. Ferris State 70
5. Northern Michigan 54
6. Bemidji State 48
7. Lake Superior State 44
8. Alaska Anchorage 29
9. UAH 23
10. Alaska 21


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: 
Gerald Mayhew, Sr. F, Ferris State (7 votes)
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Parker Tuomie, F, Minnesota State (4 votes)
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan
F Brandon Hawkins, Bowling Green (tie)
F Corey Mackin, Ferris State (tie)
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Matt Roy, Michigan Tech
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green

2016-17 Bemidji Pioneer WCHA Men’s Hockey Preseason Media Poll 

Team (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Bowling Green (15) 251
2. Michigan Tech (6) 239
3. Minnesota State (5) 236
4. Ferris State (2) 218
5. Northern Michigan 161
6. Bemidji State 144
7. Lake Superior State 106
8. Alaska 68
9. UAH 56
10. Alaska Anchorage 50


Preseason WCHA Player of the Year: 
Gerald Mayhew, Sr., F, Ferris State
Preseason WCHA Rookie of the Year: Cameron Clarke, D, Ferris State
Preseason All-WCHA Team:
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan
F Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Matt Roy, Michigan Tech
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green

UAH’s Max McHugh received votes for WCHA player of the Year. UAH’s Connor James and Austin Beaulieu received votes for WCHA Rookie of the Year.

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

Geof Morris’s ballot:

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

Preseason All-WCHA:
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Sean Walker, Bowling Green
F Tyler Heinonen, Michgan Tech
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Max McHugh, UAH
Player of the Year: Chris Nell, Bowling Green
Newcomer of the Year: Austin Beaulieu, UAH


Michael Napier’s ballot:

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

Preseason All-WCHA:
G Chris Nell, Bowling Green
D Mark Friedman, Bowling Green
D Sean Walker, Bowling Green
F Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
F Gerald Mayhew, Ferris State
F Dominik Shine, Northern Michigan

Player of the Year: Tyler Heinonen, Michigan Tech
Newcomer of the Year: Parker Tuomie, Minnesota State

Aug 212016
 

These are grim days for college hockey in Alaska, as UAA and UAF hockey look to be on the chopping block in a period that UAA athletic director Keith Hackett called “very, very trying times” on Thursday.  The University of Alaska system released a report on Thursday that seeks to confront the potential complete general fund cut in athletics across the system.  The report’s options aren’t crystal clear, but I’ll give the rundown as I best understand it:

  1.  Athletics at either Fairbanks or Anchorage could have a complete cut — or both could be cut altogether.  These cuts are driven by a $50MM shortfall in the UA system that would likely cut General Fund contributions to Athletics by 50% in FY 2020 from FY 2016 levels and remove those contributions altogether by 2025.  College Hockey News reports that UAA will have to trim $1.7MM from its budget by July 2017 after already absorbing a $1MM cut last year.  UAA’s hockey operating budget is $1.9MM per Hackett, while the News Miner reports that UAF hockey costs are around $2.1MM.
  2. The UA system might approach the NCAA with a consortium model for athletics, with some sports playing in Fairbanks while others play in Anchorage.  This would allow UAF to keep skiing and rifle while UAA could keep basketball.  The issue with this is that teams would play under the Alaska banner, but students seeking to play these sports would have their academic choices limited by their sport assignment.  The two schools are 300 miles apart, so one can’t argue that playing and studying could be separated easily.  The two schools field teams in 23 sports, and the cuts would be down to “10+”, the NCAA minimum for Division II.  Ice hockey, skiing, and rifle are not sanctioned at the Division II level.
  3. Both schools would drop to Division II, ending the Division I-only programs and having all competition in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.  The expensive sports — mainly hockey — would be replaced by less-expensive ones (1/3 – 1/2 the cost) per the Alaska Dispatch News.

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All is not bleak:

Hackett, though clearly frustrated by the impact budget cuts handed down by the Legislature will have on athletics, was quick to say that nothing in the report is finalized and actions by the Board of Regents aren’t limited to just those options.

“Everything is on the table, but there is no decision about programs at this time,” he said.

UA President Jim Johnsen released a statement:

“There is a lot to think about here with the options presented, but I am particularly pleased that these groups have stepped up, stayed with the charge, and generated not only what I asked them to evaluate, but they have put forward some innovative ideas to realign university resources.”

Graeme Strukoff looks toward the net from the point with Doug Reid low in the slot.  (Photo credit: Chris Brightwell)

Graeme Strukoff looks toward the net from the point with Doug Reid low in the slot. (Photo credit: Chris Brightwell)

If there’s a school that understands this situation, it’s UAH.  Alabama doesn’t have the same kind of fiscal problems that the State of Alaska does, but a $25MM cut was levied for the most recent budget by the Alaska state legislature and signed by the governor.  That decision is driving these cuts, which are not limited by any means to just athletics — academic programs are on the block as well.  All of this reminds me of a lot of the rumblings that I’ve heard from Tuscaloosa about how the programs shouldn’t try to compete and that UAH should keep athletics costs down.  I don’t think that this attitude has prevailed — UAH has added lacrosse, so cost containment overall wouldn’t appear to be an issue — but dividing and conquering has always seemed to be the way of the Alabama system.

It’s also very clear that state apportionments to education have steadily dropped over the last 20 years.  I remember when I was an undergraduate at UAH (I started 19 falls ago) that UAH’s general fund was sourced around 50% from money from Montgomery; for FY 2015, it was 21.3%.  (Note, that page is a rolling entry, so if you look at this in three years, the numbers will be different.)

It’s a difficult time for public higher education.  Our three schools have high travel costs due to being geographic outliers. We nearly lost our program; it would be a tragedy if UAA and/or UAF lost theirs.  With two of the three options ending hockey for at least one campus, this is pretty grim.  I don’t really see a reading of this where neither program is lost unless the general fun cuts come from other areas.  It feels very much like one program will go down, and I honestly expect both to be axed.

Public comment on Pathways has been sparse, especially in support of athletics.  Alaskans who love hockey, get out and make your voice heard — don’t confine your frustration to the USCHO Fan Forum.

May 192016
 

The WCHA released the league’s 2016-17 composite schedule on Thursday, and UAH revealed the Chargers’ full schedule right after.

UAH will play 34 regular-season games in 2016-17, including the 28-game conference slate. UAH will host 14 games — all WCHA contests — at the Von Braun Center.

The Chargers hit the road a lot in October, including the first three weeks when the season. It all begins in Big Rapids, Mich., with a WCHA series at Ferris State on Oct. 1-2.

Then comes a return trip to Connecticut on Oct. 8-9. UAH split the first series of last season with the Huskies in Huntsville by a pair of 5-2 scores.

UAH heads to Houghton for the first time since its 2015 WCHA playoff series to face Michigan Tech. The Chargers finally get their home opening series on October 21 and 22 against Lake Superior State.

The Chargers’ second non-conference series is at St. Cloud State, last season’s NCHC tournament champions, to finish off October.

UAH goes to Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 4-5, the first of two trips to Alaska this season. Then the Chargers spend three of the next four weeks at home, hosting Alaska Fairbanks (Nov. 11-12), Bowling Green (Nov. 18-19), and Ferris State (Dec. 3-4). Thanksgiving weekend will be UAH’s first off week after playing each of the first eight weeks of the season.

The Chargers get two more off weeks after a trip to Northern Michigan on Dec. 9-10, before spending New Year’s in Minneapolis at the Mariucci Classic. UAH’s opening opponent is to be announced, but besides host Minnesota, Massachusetts and Mercyhurst are scheduled to participate. UAH last appeared in the Mariucci in 2012.

Only 12 regular-season games take place in the second half of the season, half at home. UAH hosts MacNaughton Cup co-champions Minnesota State (Jan. 6-7) and Michigan Tech (Jan. 27-28), and rival Bemidji State (Feb. 10-11) to finish the home slate.

On Tuesday, the WCHA announced a new postseason format. The top eight teams qualify for the WCHA Playoffs, which begin with best-of-three quarterfinal series at the top four seeds. The top two remaining seeds will host best-of-three semifinal series, and the WCHA Championship will be decided in a single game played at the highest remaining seed.

Season ticket and Blue Line Club information will be released over the summer. For more information, call 256-UAH-PUCK.

Here is the 2016-17 UAH Charger hockey schedule. Home games are in bold. Games start at 7 p.m., except for Dec. 4 and Feb. 11, which start at 3 p.m.

Oct. 1-2 – Ferris State*
Oct. 7-8 – Connecticut
Oct. 14-15 – Michigan Tech*
Oct. 21-22Lake Superior State*
Oct. 28-29 – St. Cloud State
Nov. 4-5 – Alaska Anchorage*
Nov. 11-12Alaska*
Nov. 18-19Bowling Green*
Dec. 3-4Ferris State*
Dec. 9-10 – Northern Michigan*
Dec. 30-31 – Mariucci Classic at Minneapolis (Minnesota, UMass, Mercyhurst)
Jan. 6-7Minnesota State*
Jan. 20-21 – Lake Superior State*
Jan. 27-28Michigan Tech*
Feb. 3-4 – Alaska*
Feb. 10-11Bemidji State*
Feb. 24-25 – Bowling Green*

March 3-5 – WCHA Quarterfinals (best-of-3 at higher seeds)
March 10-12 – WCHA Semifinals (best-of-3 at higher seeds)
March 18 – WCHA Championship (at higher seed)
March 24-26 – NCAA Tournament Regionals
April 6-8 – NCAA Frozen Four (Chicago)

Nov 022015
 
Cody Marooney

Cody Marooney was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

UAH head coach Mike Corbett said before the season that he thought the Chargers would be able to “score a few more goals.” That certainly has been the case in the early going in 2015-16, and a big reason UAH is off to its best six-game start since 2004 with a 3-2-1 overall record.

The Chargers have averaged 3.67 goals scored per game through six games this season, good for 15th in NCAA Division I. Considering UAH averaged 1.08 and 1.63 goals per game the last two seasons, the increased offensive production is profound, even if it’s only been six games and the Chargers have yet to face the WCHA’s favorites. They’ll get their first chance this weekend at the Von Braun Center against Michigan Tech.

In the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, UAH scored four or more goals in a game a total of four times. The Chargers already have three games of five goals scored this season.

Brennan Saulnier currently is No. 1 in NCAA Division I in goals per game at 1.20 (six goals in five games). Saulnier missed Saturday’s game due to a one-game suspension by the WCHA for contact to the head late in Friday’s 5-4 overtime win at Lake Superior State. He’ll be back in the lineup on Friday against Michigan Tech at the VBC.

Saulnier is ranked 13th in NCAA Division I in points per game at 1.8 (nine points in five games), leading UAH’s prolific top scoring line from the left wing. Center Max McHugh is 26th (1.33) and right wing Chad Brears is 42nd (1.17).

Cody Marooney is tied for third in the nation in game-winning goals with two, both coming this weekend. He scored the overtime winner on Friday and the first goal of a 5-0 shutout win on Saturday at Lake Superior.

If there’s one part of the offense that has yet to consistently click, it’s the power play. UAH is 3-of-24 with the man advantage, a .125 percentage that ranks 42nd in the country. The Chargers were a combined 1-of-8 on the power play at Lake Superior State.

Players of the week: For the second time, UAH players earned two of the three WCHA player of the week honors on Monday.

Cody Marooney won the Offensive Player of the Week award for his aforementioned two game-winning goals at Lake Superior. He also had an assist in Friday’s game. Marooney did the same thing last season when he had two game-winning goals against Alaska-Anchorage.

Kurt Gosselin was named Rookie of the Week after a four-point weekend in his first two collegiate games. He had two goals on Friday and two assists on Saturday.

This week’s promotion: The Chargers host Michigan Tech, which eliminted UAH in the WCHA playoffs last season and is expected to content for the league title, this weekend. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, the first 500 fans receive the third set of UAH Hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

On Saturday, the first 500 fans receive a free UAH Hockey puck, courtesy of SportsMed.

All kids 12 and under get free general admission, courtesy of Huntsville International Airpor

Blue Line Club lunch: Another home series means another Blue Line Club luncheon this Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus.

Bojangles will be catering, and the special guest speaker will be Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson. UAH head coach Mike Corbett will also speak to the group about this weekend’s series.

Tickets are $8, but free to Blue Line Club members.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Minnesota State 4-0-0 8
Michigan Tech 3-3-0 6
UAH 2-1-1 5
Alaska-Anchorage 2-1-1 5
Northern Michigan 2-1-1 5
Ferris State 2-2-0 4
Bowling Green 1-1-0 2
Bemidji State 0-3-1 1
Alaska 0-2-0 0
Lake Superior State 0-2-0 0

WCHA roundup: Michigan Tech comes to Huntsville this weekend after splitting a home series with Ferris State. The Huskies dropped out of this week’s USCHO.com poll. … Minnesota State moved to 4-0 in conference play after sweeping Alaska in Mankato. The Mavericks started the season 0-4. … Alaska’s Tyler Morley was also served a one-game suspension Saturday for a hit to the head on a Minnesota State player. … Alaska-Anchorage split with No. 12 Bowling Green in Anchorage. Bowling Green dropped to No. 14 in the USCHO.com poll. … Bemidji State and Northern Michigan skated to a scoreless tie Friday (by the way, UAH has never been involved in one of those), but NMU won Saturday to take three points in the series.

Friday, Oct. 30
UAH 5 at Lake Superior State 4, OT
Ferris State 4 at #18 Michigan Tech 5, OT
Bemidji State 0 at Northern Michigan 0, OT
Alaska 2 at Minnesota State 5

Saturday, Oct. 31
UAH 5 at Lake Superior State 0
#12 Bowling Green 2 at Alaska Anchorage 4
Ferris State 3 at #18 Michigan Tech 2
Bemidji State 1 at Northern Michigan 3
Alaska 1 at Minnesota State 2

Sunday, Nov. 1
#12 Bowling Green at Alaska Anchorage, 5:07 p.m.

Oct 122015
 
Brennan Saulnier

Brennan Saulnier

After a three-goal, five point weekend, UAH sophomore forward Brennan Saulnier was named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Saulnier had two goals and two assists to lead the Chargers to a 5-2 victory over Connecticut on Saturday, which secured a series split. His first goal tied the game at 2-2 in the first period, and his second extended UAH’s lead to 4-2. The four points were the most by a Charger in a single game since Jack Prince did the feat at Michigan Tech on Feb. 8, 2014.

Saulnier’s goal on Friday in the first period tied the game at 1-1, but the Chargers would ultimately lose 5-2.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia native led all Chargers with 10 shots on goal for the weekend. He also committed three penalties.

It is Saulnier’s second WCHA weekly award. Last season, he won the WCHA Rookie of the Week award after having two assists against Air Force.

hockey-day-huntsville

Click to enlarge

In-state exhibition: UAH hosts the Alabama Frozen Tide club team on Saturday at the Huntsville IcePlex for an exhibition contest. Game time is 6 p.m., with “Skate with the Chargers” following the game.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under and students with ID, and the price includes admission to Skate with the Chargers. UAH students get free skate rental with the purchase of a ticket.

Alabama, coached by former Charger player and assistant coach Mike Quenneville, is playing its first season in ACHA Division I, the highest level in club hockey. Another UAH tie: Senior forward Andre Morard is the son of Gus Morard, who played on UAH’s first club teams from 1979-83.

The game is part of Hockey Day Huntsville at the IcePlex, a celebration of the game in the Rocket City. Youth league games will take place Saturday morning, followed by the Point Mallard Ducks taking on the St. Louis Jr. Blues at 2 p.m. Food trucks will be on hand throughout the day.

Guerriero on Richter watch: Carmine Guerriero has been named to the watch list for the 2016 Mike Richter Award, which goes to the best goaltender in NCAA Division I. The award is presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Guerriero was a candidate for the award last season as he posted a .928 save percentage — 14th highest in Division I — and a 2.56 goals against average in 29 starts. Against UConn, he stopped 59 of 65 shots, a .908 save percentage, including 22 straight to finish UAH’s win on Saturday.

WCHA roundup: The WCHA went 5-9-3 in non-conference action in the opening week of the season (not including Michigan Tech’s two exhibition victories). Some of the highlights:

  • Bemidji State, like last year, pulled off an early-season stunner by beating No. 2-ranked Minnesota Duluth in Bemidji on Saturday (the first game in Duluth on Friday was postponed due to a power outage).
  • In the matchup of preseason top-ten teams, Omaha won the Spirit of the Maverick trophy by going into Mankato and taking both games from Minnesota State.
  • No. 16 Bowling Green held serve at home and in Columbus to sweep Ohio State.
  • The Alaska teams went 1-3 in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, including the Alaska Nanooks being Arizona State’s first Division I victim.

Friday, Oct. 9
Connecticut 5, UAH 2
#4 North Dakota 5, Lake Superior State 2 (Ice Breaker at Portland, Maine)
#16 Bowling Green 6, Ohio State 3
Western Michigan 3, Ferris State 2
Northern Michigan 2, Wisconsin 2, OT
#10 Omaha 3, #6 Minnesota State 2
Bemidji State at #2 Minnesota Duluth, postponed (power outage)
St. Cloud State 3, Alaska 0 (Kendall Hockey Classic at Anchorage)
Alaska Anchorage 3, Arizona State 2, OT (Kendall Hockey Classic)
#15 Michigan Tech 5, Laurentian 1 (Exhibition)

Saturday, Oct. 10
UAH 5, Connecticut 2
Michigan State 4, Lake Superior State 1 (Ice Breaker at Portland, Maine)
Western Michigan 1, Ferris State 1, OT
16 Bowling Green 2, Ohio State o
Northern Michigan 3, Wisconsin 3, OT
#10 Omaha 2, #6 Minnesota State 0
Bemidji State 3, #2 Minnesota Duluth 2
Arizona State 2, Alaska 1 (Kendall Hockey Classic at Anchorage)
St. Cloud State 6, Alaska Anchorage 2 (Kendall Hockey Classic)
#15 Michigan Tech 5, Laurentian o (Exhibition)

Bowling Green moved up to No. 10 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Minnesota State fell to No. 14, and Michigan Tech is at No. 16. Bemidji State, Northern Michigan, and Ferris State all received votes.