Chargers’ 2015-16 schedule released with 18 home games

It's good to be home. (Photo by Chris Brightwell)

It’s good to be home, where UAH will play 18 times in the 2015-16 season. (Photo by Chris Brightwell)

For the first time in 15 years, UAH is scheduled to play more home games than not.

The WCHA released its 2015-16 composite schedule on Monday, and UAH followed with the official revealing of the Chargers’ slate.

The Chargers will have 18 home games for the first time since the 2000-01 season, when UAH hosted the College Hockey America conference tournament. In terms of regular season, it’s the most home games in UAH’s modern Division I era, and the most home games against Division I teams ever. This is an exciting development given the difficulty UAH has securing home non-conference games (see UAH’s recent independent years).

In addition to the 28-game WCHA schedule, UAH will have three non-conference series, two at home, representing Hockey East and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

UAH opens the season at home for the first time since 2012 with the first of three non-conference series, Oct. 9-10 against Connecticut. UConn last came to Huntsville as a member of Atlantic Hockey to open the Chargers’ 2003-04 season, but now the Huskies represent Hockey East. UConn was expected to struggle transitioning to the East’s premier conference in its first season in 2014-15, but finished in a tie for ninth and look to be a program on the rise.

Homecoming at hockey is back as the Chargers open league play at home against Alaska-Anchorage on Oct. 23-24. UAH won both games against UAA in Huntsville last season as the Seawolves struggled to last place in the WCHA.

The Chargers hit the road for the first time at Lake Superior State, where they earned three critical points last season on the way to a WCHA playoff spot. UAH then hosts their playoff opponent from last season, Michigan Tech, on Nov. 6-7. Tech, one of three opponents who reached the NCAA tournament last season, swept the Chargers in Houghton in two games, the first being the 1-0 triple overtime marathon that saw Carmine Guerriero make 76 saves.

Bemidji State returns to Huntsville for rounds 77 of 78 of the Chargers-Beavers rivalry on Thanksgiving weekend. Rounds 79 and 80 will be in Bemidji on Feb. 26-27.

On Dec. 18-19, Colorado College comes to Huntsville after the Chargers visited Colorado Springs to open the 2014-15 campaign. The Tigers finished last in the powerful NCHC, but managed two one-goal wins over UAH, both on third-period goals.

The Chargers ring in 2016 at one of the storied programs in college hockey. UAH visits North Dakota for the first time since 1989, when the Chargers lost 12-6 and 11-5. UND, owners of seven national championships, won the NCHC regular season title and reached the Frozen Four last month.

All but six of the Chargers’ home games come before the New Year, meaning UAH will see a lot of travel down the stretch. UAH has only one series in January, February, and March. The Charges host Alaska on Jan. 8-9, defending WCHA champion and NCAA tournament participant Minnesota State on Feb. 12-13, and Bowling Green on March 4-5 to finish the regular season.

The Chargers go to the state of Alaska once, a late-January set in Anchorage.

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

Here is the 2015-16 UAH Charger hockey schedule. Home games are in bold, all starting at 7:07 p.m.

Oct. 9-10 – Connecticut
Oct. 23-24 – Alaska Anchorage*
Oct. 30-31 – Lake Superior State*
Nov. 6-7 – Michigan Tech*
Nov. 20-21 – Bowling Green*
Nov. 27-28 – Bemidji State*
Dec. 4-5 – Northern Michigan*
Dec. 11-12 – Minnesota State*
Dec. 18-19 – Colorado College
Jan. 1-2 – North Dakota
Jan. 8-9 – Alaska*
Jan. 15-16 – Ferris State*
Jan. 29-30 – Alaska Anchorage*
Feb. 12-13 – Minnesota State*
Feb. 19-20 – Northern Michigan*
Feb. 26-27 – Bemidji State*
March 4-5 – Bowling Green*

March 11-13 – WCHA Quarterfinals (at top four seeds)
March 18-19 – WCHA Final Five (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
March 25-27 – NCAA Tournament Regionals
April 7-9 – NCAA Frozen Four (Tampa, Fla.)

* WCHA game.

 

Hoof Beats: Three ways to get in

Unfortunately, the Chargers could not yet punch their ticket into the WCHA playoffs over the weekend due to the disappointing losses to Alaska in the final home series of the season. However, UAH still has three ways to clinch a playoff spot in the regular season’s final week.

Here is the bottom part of the WCHA standings. Two teams will be the seventh and eighth seeds in the WCHA playoffs, while the last-place team will be out (remember that Alaska is ineligible, meaning ninth place gets in this season). For more on playoff possibilities and predictions for the whole league, visit Geof’s WCHA Playoff Prediction Blog.

Team W L T Pts.
8. Alabama-Huntsville 7 18 1 15
8. Lake Superior State 7 18 1 15
10. Alaska-Anchorage 5 19 2 12

 

The Chargers need ONE of the following to happen this weekend:

1. Get a point at Bowling Green. UAH needs only a win or tie at No. 13 Bowling Green to earn a playoff berth. Getting that in front of BG’s Bleacher Creatures won’t be easy as the Falcons are 8-5-1 at home this season, and they beat the Chargers 5-0 and 4-1 in Huntsville back in October. Bowling Green is also smarting after losing to Alaska-Anchorage 6-1 on Saturday, which dropped the Falcons into the Pairwise bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid, so don’t look for a respite from BG even though it has locked down the third seed in the WCHA tournament. But if this was possible last season…

2. Alaska-Anchorage loses or ties. The same Alaska Nanooks who swept the Chargers over the weekend are now our strongest allies. Alaska-Anchorage must sweep their in-state rivals in Anchorage this week to stay alive (and to win the Governor’s Cup) and hope UAH gets swept to outright pass the Chargers, who have the tie-breaker over Anchorage with their sweep of the Seawolves in Huntsville on Jan. 2-3. The Seawolves stunned the Nanooks in Fairbanks back in mid-January with a pair of one-goal victories, but then lost nine in a row to plummet to the bottom of the WCHA standings before their win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

3. Lake Superior State is swept by Ferris State. UAH and Lake Superior State are tied with identical conference records (7-18-1, 15 points), and the Chargers have the tiebreaker over the Lakers with their 2-1-1 record against them this season. That means if UAH is swept by Bowling Green and Alaska-Anchorage sweeps Alaska, the Chargers would need Lake Superior to get swept and stay at 15 points to use that tiebreaker and get into the playoffs. If the Lakers get any ties or wins in this situation, UAH would be out.

Best get that point at Bowling Green and end all uncertainty.

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Carmine Guerriero (Photo by Doug Eagan)

Guerriero nominated for Richter Award: UAH’s Carmine Guerriero is one of 28 nominees for the 2015 Mike Richter Award, given to the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA Division I. The award is presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation.

Guerriero has a .926 save percentage, which is fourth best in the WCHA and 18th best in the country. The sophomore from Montreal, Quebec has a 2.58 goals against average and has made at least 30 saves in 15 games this season, including a 54-save performance at Minnesota State on October 24.

Five finalists will be announced on March 18, with the winner being presented at the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four in Boston.

Year-end banquet date announced: The annual end-of-year UAH hockey banquet will take place at Spragins Hall on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.

The price of a ticket to the event is $25 per person, with the opportunity to sponsor a player’s dinner at the banquet for $25 as well. There will be several silent auction items at the event as well as the chance to sit with your favorite player at dinner.

Payments will be accepted at the door upon arrival. You can RSVP online, or if you have any other questions, please email UAH director of hockey operations Nick Laurila at nick.laurila@uah.edu.

Despite the snow, the games go on

A winter storm hit the Tennessee Valley on Friday. Snow fell in the afternoon, changing to freezing rain by the evening, covering roads with a sheet of ice. Many roads were closed.

The Chargers played at the Von Braun Center that night, losing to Ferris State, 2-1. Some may question: Why did the game go on?

“What helped this past Friday was the fact that Ferris stayed at the Embassy Suites and that all our guys live less than four miles from the VBC and have to get to the rink early in game days,” according to UAH Director of Athletics Dr. E.J. Brophy. “This solidified the fact that we would have a hockey game.”

Essentially, if the opponent is here, the games will go on. This has been the way for over 30 years.

It’s common knowledge that our hockey opponents, unlike for UAH’s other sports, are not nearby. Some travel by plane, and/or have lengthy bus rides, as our boys know all too well when they go north to play. They can’t cancel or postpone on the chance that there might be snow or ice in Huntsville. Typically, they deal with worse winter weather conditions for their own home games during the season (although they are more prepared to handle it).

The Chargers salute the few in attendance of Friday's game. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

The Chargers salute the fans after Friday’s game. (Photo by UAH Athletics/Doug Eagan)

The announced attendance for Friday’s game was 833. Of course, as is standard practice just about anywhere in sports, that number includes season ticket sales, so the actual number of people in the stands was significantly less than that. Still, it was UAH’s lowest recorded attendance since Jan. 10, 1997.

When it comes to winter weather situations, though, the attendance doesn’t matter. We know the travel conditions are going to prevent fans from coming. All UAH can do is play the games and take the attendance hit.

Brophy added: “It was definitely bare bones regarding vendors, off ice officials (some could not get there due to icy roads), and volunteer help, but we pulled it all together and made it work. Our number one goal was to have a quality college hockey game and we achieved that goal.”

Fortunately, this situation is very rare, but it’s not the first time that winter weather in Huntsville and UAH hockey have crossed paths.

That game on Jan. 10, 1997? The attendance was 574, the lowest in UAH’s varsity hockey history, for a 9-0 win over Bentley. Primary cause: It snowed all afternoon.

I worked in the UAH sports information department at the time, and the dusting that covered the grass when I arrived at the VBC turned into a two inches when I left. While that in itself wasn’t much, like Friday of this week it had done a number on the untreated roads, making travel rather difficult. I lived in Madison, but to be safe I only went as far as UAH and stayed with friends on campus overnight.

That was also a Friday. I was back at the VBC the next afternoon to work the game as the Chargers finished a sweep of Bentley, 7-3. Attendance for that game was 1,007.

But nothing compares to what happened 30 years ago this month. On February 1, 1985, an ice storm dumped several inches of ice and snow, paralyzing north Alabama, knocking out power for days. Yet, UAH played two games against Notre Dame at the Von Braun Civic Center. This was during the Chargers’ last season at the club level. Longtime supporter Terry Long describes his experience:

It’s Friday morning, February 1, 1985. I’m attending a technical short course in Sarasota, Fla. My wife has declined to join me for the weekend because Notre Dame hockey is coming to Huntsville.

Someone calls me out of the lecture telling me that I have an emergency phone call. My wife is frantic telling me that there are five inches of ice on the ground and roads, more is predicted, 50,000 homes are without power in the city, the Notre Dame hockey team is already in town, UAH has announced that the game will be played as scheduled, and come home to take her to the game.

The officials and the Notre Dame team were staying at the Hilton [now the Holiday Inn], which is across the street from the arena. And, the main power lines for the core of the city came into a station about a block from the arena. Given that the participants could skate to one of the few places in the area with power, the game was going to proceed.

I grew up slightly north of here where people actually navigated on ice and snow in the winter. And, I had a vehicle equipped with studded snow tires and a positive-traction rear-end.

Being concerned about the damage that may be occurring to our property, I decided to try to get home. Knowing that jets probably wouldn’t be landing in Huntsville, I made my reservations on a commuter airline that flew Twin Otter aircraft into Huntsville. That was wise because the jet flights were all indeed canceled by the time I got to Atlanta. After arriving in Huntsville, I then found an intrepid van driver who took over an hour to travel the few miles from the airport to our flatland home on the west side of Huntsville.

Well, we made it to game. The sight from the front steps of the VBC of transformers continuing to create blue fireballs in the remaining areas with power is still memorable. The announced attendance was 154.

Johnny Robinson, a.k.a. Squiggy, was the referee. It was a great game. The final score was 7-7. At one point, there were five men from each side in the penalty boxes. And, there was even a goalie-goalie altercation at center ice. It was a true Squiggy game, for those who remember him.

UAH beat Notre Dame the following night 9-4 with 2,152 in attendance. After the games, Notre Dame coach Lefty Smith made a great sour grapes comment that we still quote. After first blaming “a few bad calls,” he chimed “goaltending does a lot to equalize a better team.”

Ferris State 3, UAH 2

The Chargers scored the first goal of the game, but Ferris State netted three unanswered goals and held on for a 3-2 win over UAH at the Von Braun Center on Saturday.

UAH (8-20-4 overall, 7-16-1 WCHA) lost both games of the series to Ferris State (14-18-1 overall, 11-13-0 WCHA), both by one goal. The Bulldogs beat the Chargers 2-1 on Friday.

The Chargers remain in eighth place and in WCHA playoff position with 15 points, two up over idle Lake Superior State and five up over Alaska-Anchorage, which was swept by Bemidji State over the weekend. With Alaska ineligible, the Chargers currently hold the seventh seed, Lake Superior has eighth, and Anchorage would be out. Ferris State, meanwhile, is now tied with Alaska for sixth, seven points ahead of UAH.

Jeff Vanderlugt put UAH up 1-0 at 12:19 of the first period with his sixth goal of the season, backhanding a rebound past CJ Motte. He was assisted by Chad Brears, who picked up his 10th helper of the year.

Dom Panetta, who also tallied a goal in Friday’s game, tied the game at 1-1 with 3:01 left in the first. Kyle Schempp gave Ferris State the lead in the second period, and Sean O’Rourke made it 3-1 Bulldogs early in the third.

UAH’s Alex Carpenter’s third goal of the season — a tap-in after a Matt Salhany shot went through Ferris State goaltender C.J. Motte’s pads and rested in the middle of the crease — made it 3-2. The Chargers could not find the equalizer in the final rushes of regulation.

Motte made 25 saves, while UAH goaltender Carmine Guerriero stopped 26 of 29 shots.

UAH has its final home series of the season next weekend, Feb. 27-28, against Alaska. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. both nights.

Series Preview: vs. Ferris State, Feb. 20-21

CATCHING THE GAMES
Times: 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: Ticketmaster: Friday | Saturday
Complete ticket information
Promotions: Kids 12 & under get free admission
Fri.: UAH trading cards to first 500
Sat.: Thunder sticks to first 500
Online video: WCHA.tv (subscription)
Live stats: UAHChargers.com
Twitter: @weloveuahhockey, @uahhockey, @FerrisHockey

The Chargers have a chance to gain ground on the team ahead of them in the WCHA standings as they host Ferris State on Friday and Saturday nights at the VBC. Puck drop is 7:07 p.m. both nights.

UAH is in eighth place in the WCHA, currently the seventh seed for the playoffs. At 15 points, the Chargers are three behind seventh-place Ferris State.

All-time series: UAH is 3-10-0 against Ferris State with the series starting in 1985. One of those victories came on November 21 of this season at FSU, the Chargers’ first-ever win there. UAH is 1-3-0 all-time against Ferris State in Huntsville, with the lone win coming in 2010.

Charger recap: UAH (8-18-4 overall, 7-14-1 WCHA) took a big step toward its first WCHA playoff berth with a win and a tie against Lake Superior State.

Doug Reid

Doug Reid scored two goals at Lake Superior State last week. (Photo by Chris Brightwell)

On Friday, senior captain Doug Reid scored his first goal of the season in the second period to tie the Lakers at 1-1, which would be the final score. Carmine Guerriero had 25 saves on 26 shots.

On Saturday, Reid scored again to equalize the game at 1-1, but the Chargers were not finished. Max McHugh netted the game-winner in the third period, and Brent Fletcher added an empty-net goal to lift UAH to a 3-1 victory. Guerriero duplicated his line of 25 saves with only one goal allowed.

McHugh continues to lead the Chargers in scoring with 18 points, which is fourth among freshmen in the WCHA, and in goals with eight. He earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors with his performance at LSSU.

Jack Prince had a couple of assists on Saturday to lift his line to 5-9-14. Brandon Parker added a helper of his own and now leads UAH with 12 assists.

Guerriero’s save percentage went up to .929, which is third in the WCHA. He has a 2.45 goals against average this season.

UAH Tale of the tape
(WCHA rank)
FSU
8-18-4
7-14-1 WCHA
Record 12-18-1
9-13-0 WCHA
1.70 (9th) Goals/game 2.16 (7th)
3.17 (8th) Goals allowed/game 2.39 (4rd)
15.2 (2nd) Pen. minutes/game 14.1 (4th)
15.7% (5th) Power play 10.3% (9th)
81.9% (8th) Penalty kill 87.0% (3rd)

About the Bulldogs: Ferris State (12-18-1 overall, 9-13-0 WCHA) split its two-game series at home against Bowling Green last week. The Bulldogs’ 3-2 overtime win on Saturday ended a seven-game losing streak — all of which were against league-leader and now-No. 2 Minnesota State and the eighth-ranked Falcons. Ferris State is 3-11 in its last 14 games.

The Bulldogs have unexpectedly had trouble scoring this season, only netting 2.16 goals per game. It’s been worse on the road with a 1.44 goals per game average.

It hasn’t helped that senior CJ Motte, their first-team all-WCHA goaltender last season, has had an inconsistent year. Motte still sports a 2.31 goals against average and .916 save percentage and four shutouts, but seven times this season (and three times during the Bulldogs’ seven-game losing streak) he has allowed four or more goals — all on the road.

The leading scorer for the Bulldogs is junior left wing Matt Robertson, who has 22 points on the season with six goals and a team-leading 16 assists. He did not dress against Bowling Green last week.

Ferris State’s leading goal-scorers are sophomores Chad McDonald and Kyle Schempp with eight. Schempp has missed the last three games after scoring five goals in his last seven.

WCHA Standings Record Pts.
Minnesota State** 19-3-2 40
Michigan Tech** 19-4-1 39
Bowling Green* 14-5-3 31
Alaska^ 10-12-2 22
Bemidji State 8-10-4 20
Northern Michigan 8-10-4 20
Ferris State 9-13-0 18
Alabama-Huntsville 7-14-1 15
Lake Superior State 6-17-1 13
Alaska-Anchorage 4-16-2 10
** Clinched home ice in first round
* Clinched playoff berth
^ Ineligible for postseason play

Around the WCHA: Three regular-season weeks left and the playoff chase is heating up. There are three conference series this week including UAH at Ferris State.

No. 8 Bowling Green hosts Northern Michigan needing only one point to clinch home ice in the first round. The Falcons are in third place, eight points behind Michigan Tech (which is idle) and nine behind first-place Minnesota State (also idle).

Alaska-Anchorage, currently out of playoff position and last place in the WCHA, heads to Bemidji State. Bemidji is tied with Northern Michigan for fifth place, which is currently the fourth seed (and last to host in the first round).

Here’s the schedule for league teams this week. All times are Central. All games can be seen online on WCHA TV.

Friday, February 20

Ferris State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #8 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Alaska-Anchorage at Bemidji State, 7:37 p.m.

Saturday, February 21

Ferris State at UAH, 7:07 p.m.
Northern Michigan at #8 Bowling Green, 6:07 p.m.
Alaska-Anchorage at Bemidji State, 7:07 p.m.