Thoughts As We Gear Up for the BG Series

[Hi, remember me?  I still write for this site.]

Today was the first of the season’s coaches’ luncheons.  Not only did we get a chance to hear from BG’s Chris Bergeron — always a pleasure — but we heard from new WCHA Commissioner Bill Robertson, who is visiting the Rocket City for the first time.  After we heard from both men about the weather — de rigueur — it was time to get down to business.  Among the commissioner’s comments were these nuggets:

  • “I’m having a lot of fun in my first year as Commissioner.  … I want to be a very good listener.”  Funny, sir, the Internet has a lot to say about
  • “The league has a great plan, a great name, and a great history. … We’re looking to build new traditions, and one of those is here tonight with Bowling Green and UAH, both new entrants into the league.”
  • Since we’ve heard his clarion call for two or more teams in the NCAAs, I’ll finish with this one about the league post season.  “Who knows?  [The WCHA Final Five] could be down here someday.”  It sounds to me that the league is thinking about downsizing the tournament after the 2017 visit to the X.

Next up was BG boss Chris Bergeron, who noted that “this is the first team of guys who wait to me and my staff, ‘I want to be a Falcon, Coach.’ ”  This is what every coach wants, to be sure.  Make no mistake: this is Bergeron’s program, and after an 18-win season last year, they look to be on the way up.

In talking about recruiting, Bergeron says that they often have to answer the question, “What does 1984 (the year BG won their national title) have to do with 2014?”  This is a common refrain from all coaches whose programs’ past success is in their rear view mirror.  We know about that ourselves: the D-II days are long set in stone, and Jared Ross, Scott Munroe, and Cam Talbot are not walking through that door.  Lastly, in discussing the scuffle for recruits, Bergeron said, “Well, I wouldn’t want to get into a (physical) fight with Gavin Morgan, that’s for sure.”


Lastly, we heard from Coach Corbett, the man who is inspiring confidence all through the Tennessee Valley. The team lost a couple of close games last weekend at CC, 3-2 and 4-3, and of the weekend, Corbs said, “Last weekend was a culmination of everything that we started last spring.”  He mentioned the turnover in the locker room between graduation and the release of a handful of players.  Returning players were pushed through a grinding physical regimen combined with team-building exercises.  When the players returned, “everybody passed the eye test, and we picked up where we left off.  They held each other accountable, and we threw eight freshmen right there with them.”

It isn’t just that new blood that is sparking the team.  “There’s a little swagger and a glint in some guys’ eyes,” Corbett said, “especially with Vandy (Jeff Vanderlugt) and Doug Reid.”  Of the big man, Corbett said, “Jeff Vanderlugt had the best weekend that he’s had since I’ve been here,” a sentiment echoed to me later in the hallway by UAH assistant Matt Thomas.

But that new blood is important.  “The five freshmen saw the ice, and they just need more experience.”  Cody Champagne, Max McHugh, Brandon Parker, Brennan Saulnier, and Josh Kestner generally stayed out of the box (a slashing minor to McHugh on Friday followed by hooking minors to Saulnier and Kestner on Saturday), took some shots (six on Friday, five on Saturday), and were a combined -2 on Friday and -5 on Saturday.

When it comes to goaltending, Corbett is still really thrilled with what he has in Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero.  “They’re both going to play this weekend because they’re both pretty damn good.”  Corbett mentioned that Rick Ice has been coming in as a volunteer goaltending assistant coach, which has made an impact on their development, “especially because Gavin doesn’t have to speak to Carmine in half-French, half-English on the side.”  Corbett also praised Jordan Uhelski as “more than just a third goalie”, saying that “he’ll make it very hard for us to recruit another goalie for next season, because he’s that good.”


Some thoughts:

  • BG is a solid program on the rise.  They lost a lot this offseason, but they will be looking to prove themselves early in the season.  They have to view coming into Huntsville as a chance for a road sweep, since two close games against a team that won just seven games last year doesn’t mean instant respect (unless you’re a USCHO poll voter).  Also, BG is one of the two teams that the Chargers defeated last season, and you know that losing in OT on home ice still smarts for those guys.  Corbett likened this game to “two freight trains heading down the same track,” and I think that’s what you’ll see.
  • Graeme Strukoff is apparently out with a lower body injury.  Get well, Struky.  His injury opens the ice for appearances by Anderson White and Richard Buri.  I would expect Ben Reinhardt to get top-four minutes alongside one of the freshmen, and my guess would be Champagne.  I’m probably wrong.  I wouldn’t be surprised for White to see the ice one night while Buri gets it on the other one.  Hopefully they’re both willing to make their physical presence felt on the ice, as that’s definitely how they’ll continue to get ice.
  • Corbett noted that the team has increases in both speed and puck possession, to which I can only say, “Hallelujah.”  I’m really excited to see McHugh, Saulnier, and Kestner in the flesh.
  • The native-son cheers won’t be for Kestner only, as Bryan Siersma is on the roster to provide needed depth after a couple of committed players were unable to be on this year’s squad.  Welcome home, Bryan.  Hopefully you’ll get some ice time at home soon.
  • Seriously, we need a home win, and it would be amazing if that came off of a Josh Kestner goal.  No pressure, Kesty.  None at all.  (Top shelf, stick side, please.)
  • Lastly, I can’t confirm this, but I have heard that one of Michael’s colorful suggestions for this season has come true.

See everyone at the rink!  I’m not broadcasting this year, so you can find me in my game-worn Cam Talbot black third jersey upstairs by the pep band.  Michael and I will figure out tweeting as the games go by.


Happy 30th Birthday, Jared Ross!

Jared Ross is perhaps the best-known Charger of all time. Ross highlighted the 2001-10 All-Decade Team, and with good reason: 72 goals and 86 assists for 158 points in 133 games played in the #7 jersey. Jared has since played in the UHL, ECHL, AHL, and NHL; he scored his lone NHL goal for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. Jared now plays for ERC Ingolstadt in the DEL; last season, he went 23-29—52 for second in team scoring and fourth overall in the league. After this season, he will be a free agent. Happy birthday, Jared!


Jared Ross on ERC Ingolstadt, DEL Playoffs

ERC Ingolstadt's Jared Ross moves into the slot for a shot. (Credit: schaudichan on Flickr)

Jared Ross (’05) has finished his first season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). His ERC Ingolstadt team finished second in the DEL table and was powered by the scoring of their “Big Three”: German national and DEL veteran RW Thomas Greilinger (22-32=54, +9), Ontario native and RIT alumnus C Derek Hahn (21-32=53, +26), and Ross (23-29=52, +4). The troika were second, third, and fourth in DEL scoring for 2011-12. We got in touch with Jared after Ingolstadt’s first round win against DEG Metro Stars to find out what his thoughts were about playing abroad, our situation here in Huntsville, and the joys of the language barrier.

How would you compare the DEL to your last league, the AHL? Is the pace different? Hitting?

The pace is very similar. The difference is that because the ice is larger; you have a little more time to make plays. In the US it is more of a dump-and-chase style game, whereas in Europe players will refrain from dumping the puck in because they have more room to make plays. Because of this, there are not as many big hits, though physical play is stressed here.

How has your role changed with the new team than what roles you played in the States?

My role is very similar. I have always been a player that plays against other teams’ top lines where the coaches expect me to shut them down—as well as getting offensive production. So I believe that hasn’t changed. However, I do think I have a little more freedom here when trying to make plays.

What have been the big adjustments for you to make other than the language barrier?

It was pretty easy to adjust. The language was a big problem, but I would have to say another adjustment would be the environment at the games. Like European soccer, the games are very loud. The fans never stop their chants, especially on the road. It’s harder playing on the road here then in the States. Other adjustments that were difficult would be food choices and watching out for bicyclists and pedestrians when driving. They are everywhere, and it seems like they are trying to get you to hit them.

How much time off-ice have you had to put into learning the language in order to fit in?

Our management has offered the players German classes once a week. I don’t think this was enough to learn the language, but it has definitely helped. I probably should have done a little on my own trying to learn German, but to be honest I have not.

What kind of team was Metro Stars? Y’all beat them 4-1 with a blowout win in there, so was there a definite skill advantage on ERC Ingolstadt’s part?

They were a very fast team with two solid lines. The series was actually much closer then it sounds: one OT game, a game we won in the last two minutes, and another in which we had to come back from 2-0 in the second and third period. I was relieved when it was over, because it could have gone seven games.

Ingolstadt lost their first game in the second round of the playoffs, falling 4-1 to Adler Mannheim. Jared was even in the game.

And one more thing: we mentioned Ingolstadt’s “Big Three”. Want to see them talking hockey? Of course you do.