Scoreboard watching this bye week

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Feb 172017
WCHA standings
Top 8 make playoffs
Pts. Gms Next
5. Ferris State 32 4 vs. UAA
6. N. Michigan 31 4 @ MSU
6. Lake Superior 31 4 @ UAF
8. Alaska* 30 4 vs. LSSU
8. UAH 30 2 Idle
10. AK-Anchorage 27 4 @ FSU
* Alaska has the tiebreaker over UAH (2-1-1 head-to-head)

The Chargers are off in this penultimate week of the regular season, which means we’ll be scoreboard watching.

UAH is currently tied for the eighth place in the WCHA standings. The Chargers are tied with Alaska for the final playoff spot, but Alaska has the tiebreaker thanks to the Nanooks’ 2-1-1 record against UAH this season.

This means the Chargers must get points next week in the final series at Bowling Green and get some help, including this week.

So, who do we root for this week that will help UAH’s chances?

Alaska Anchorage at Ferris State: The crazy thing about the standings right now is that only two points separate fifth (where Ferris State is) from ninth (where UAH technically is). And it’s only five points between Ferris State and last-place Alaska Anchoarge.

Obviously, we don’t want Alaska Anchorage, which is only three points behind UAH, to catch and pass the Chargers. UAH really only needs to pass one team, and Ferris State is the least likely the one to be passed, so it might be best to have Ferris State keep UAA down so UAH doesn’t have to worry about the Seawolves.

Root for: Ferris State to at least get four points.

Northern Michigan at Minnesota State: Northern Michigan is on an absolute tear, going 7-0-2 in its last nine (and as mentioned before, has shut out opponents in its last five). The Wildcats , tied for sixth and just a point ahead of UAH, go to Mankato to play a Minnesota State team that’s in third place and has already clinched a spot in the playoffs (and looking to be home for the first round).

Root for: This one’s easy — Minnesota State to sweep.

Lake Superior State at Alaska: This one’s trickier. Both clubs have “A” tiebreakers (four-game head-to-head advantage) over the Chargers. Lake Superior is only a point ahead, and Alaska is tied.

Remember that UAH only needs to beat out one of these teams to make the playoffs. We want is for whoever is closest to UAH to stay as close as possible, and right now that’s Alaska. So, we should want Lake Superior to win to keep UAH and Alaska tied.

However, should Alaska win on Friday, then Alaska jumps ahead of Lake Superior, and the Lakers become our new target. In that case, we’ll want Alaska to win Saturday.

What we don’t want is a split, which would put distance between UAH and both teams.

Root for: Lake Superior State first. If Alaska wins the first game, root for the Nanooks to sweep.

Parker named WCHA player of the week

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Dec 122016
Brandon Parker (UAH Athletics)

Brandon Parker (UAH Athletics)

After scoring two goals to lead the Chargers of a road sweep at Northern Michigan, Brandon Parker was named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.

On Friday, Parker scored from just inside the blue line in what would be the game-winning goal in UAH’s 4-1 victory. On Saturday, he put the finishing touches on a 3-1 win with the final goal with 4:07 left in the contest.

Parker added an assist on Friday for a three-point weekend. He has scored goals in three straight games and in four of the last five. The Faribault, Minnesota native was +3 on the weekend and blocked two shots.

It is the fourth time this season a Charger has earned the WCHA Defensive Player Award. Kurt Gosselin won it last week for the second time, and Matt Larose won the first award of the season.

UAH next plays in the first round of the Mariucci Classic at Minnesota against Massachusetts on Dec. 30. The Chargers return home Jan. 6-7 against Minnesota State.

UAH, picked 9th, looks to ‘turn the corner’

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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 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.


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)