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Chargers’ special teams show the way in win over Seawolves

The Chargers’ special teams took center stage Saturday in a 6-3 win over Alaska-Anchorage.

UAH scored a pair of short-handed goals – the team’s first of the season – and a power-play goal in a four-goal second period en route to the win and a sweep of the weekend series.

“This was a shot in the arm for our special teams,” said UAH head coach Mike Corbett. “That’s where the special teams’ play is huge.”

BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY

It was UAH’s first series sweep of the season and the first since the 2016-17 season.

Kurt Gosselin and Hans Gorowsky each scored twice to lift the Chargers to 6-11-1 in the WCHA and 6-19-1 overall. Gosselin’s goals lift him to fourth all-time among UAH defensemen in the Division I era with 19.

Gorowsky and Gosselin each scored a short-handed and a power play goal. Gorowsky’s tally was UAH’s first short-handed goal of the season. Cam Knight had a goal and an assist for the Chargers and Jesper Ohrvall also scored. Gosselin had an assist to go with his two goals and Austin Beaulieu added two assists.

“The special teams were working together,” Gosselin said. “We watched the film and we’re able to adapt.”

The Chargers trailed 1-0 and were outshot 13-5 after the first period that more resembled the opening game of a series, instead of the second game.

“It was our typical Friday start,” Corbett said of the Chargers’ sluggish first period. “We’re lucky we weren’t down 3-0.”

Goaltender Mark Sinclair finished the game with 26 saves in posting his fourth win of the season and back-to-back victories this weekend.

It was a rare back-to-back start for the sophomore netminder but Corbett said he was up to the task.

“We felt he played well (Friday) and we needed him to play well (Saturday),” he said.

The Seawolves (1-16-1, 2-21-1) opened the scoring with a power play goal at 11:11 of the first period.

While they were sluggish in the opening period, the Chargers came out and played a solid second period.

Just three minutes into the period, Knight put a backhand shot past UAA goaltender Kristian Stead to tie the score at 1-1.

But the tie was short-lived as the Seawolves regained the lead just 42 seconds later.

With 5:02 gone in the period and UAH on the power play, Gosselin’s slap shot from the blue line evaded Stead to tie the game at 2-2.

About midway through the period with John Teets in the penalty box for cross-checking, Gorowsky took a breakout pass from Gosselin and put the puck over Stead for a 3-2 lead. It was the Chargers’ first short-handed goal of the season.

Gosselin ran the count to 4-2 with 16 seconds left in the period as he scored on a 2-on-1 break with Andrew Dodson. It was UAH’s second short-handed goal of the game and season.

“We had a good second period,” Corbett said. The Chargers outshot UAA 19-5.

“We knew we started out slow,” said Gosselin. “We figured it out between (the first and second) periods.”

After the Seawolves scored in the third to cut UAH’s lead to 4-3, Gorowsky scored an empty-netter with 1:05 left in the game. Ohrvall scored the finale with just 9.5 seconds to play for the final 6-3 count.

With the win, the Chargers are tied for eighth place in the WCHA with Alaska-Fairbanks, which hosts Bowling Green Saturday night. UAH and the Nanooks (6-10-1) each have 20 points.

The Chargers host Alaska-Fairbanks next Friday and Saturday nights.

“Fairbanks is bigger and stronger (than UAA),” Gosselin said. “We’re a hard-working team … we’ll be ready for them.”

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Slow Start Proves Fatal for Chargers in Loss to Michigan Tech

Another slow start spelled doom for the Chargers.

UAH, now winless in nine games to open the season, mustered just 3 shots on goal in the first period while goaltender Mark Sinclair kicked away or gloved 19 Michigan Tech scoring attempts Friday night.

And, despite Sinclair’s heroics – he finished with 38 saves – the Chargers (0-9-0, 0-3-0 WCHA) fell 2-1 to the Huskies (2-3-0, 1-0-0). The two teams renew their series Saturday night at the Von Braun Center. Faceoff is 7:07.

BOX SCORE | VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

“We can’t keep doing this,” UAH Head Coach Mike Corbett said of his team’s penchant for slow starts. “You run out of gas early when you need to sustain it at the end.”

The Chargers, though, weren’t ever out of the game, according to the scoreboard. No matter that they outshot UAH 40-17, the Huskies couldn’t put UAH away.

Thanks to Sinclair.

“He kept us in the game,” Corbett said. “He gives us a chance to win every night.”

Sinclair, who has a sparkling 2.53 goals-against average and .926 save percentage despite a 0-6-0 record, credited his defensemen for his success.

“The guys gave me good looks,” he said.

As much as he credited the defense, Sinclair was stellar on his own.

A little more than 3 minutes into the game, he stopped Tech’s Gavin Gould, who was all alone at the goalie’s doorstep.

Less than a minute later with UAH on the power play, Sinclair came up big to turn back a shorthanded two-man breakaway.

Sinclair turned into a wall again, this time with about 4 minutes left in the game, when he made a big save on another breakaway.

It was like that most of the night – except when the Huskies put the puck past Sinclair.

Justin MIsiak broke the scoreless tie about 2 minutes into the second period and then, with about 5 minutes gone, Colin Swoyer scored on a wrist shot to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead.

The Chargers made the score 2-1 when Brandon Salerno put a wrister into the net 11:03 into the period.

The goal seemed to lift the Chargers as they kept buzzing around the net, trying to get the game-tying goal.

However, they weren’t able to maintain a constant pressure to tie the game.

“We have to learn how to come out strong early,” Corbett said. “So we don’t have to continue to battle our way back.”

 

 

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Missed chances prove costly for Chargers

UAH hockey head coach Mike Corbett was to the point about the Chargers’ 2-1 loss Saturday night to Lake Superior State.

“We should’ve put them away early,” he said. “We’ve got to finish; we’ve got to put ’em away.”

BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY

The Chargers, who had a strong second and third period in Friday’s game, carried some of the momentum into Saturday night’s game. There were good scoring chances in the first period as they outshot Lake Superior State 10-8. However, UAH couldn’t put anything past Lakers’ goalie Mareks Mitens.

“Their goalie played a great game,” Corbett said.

But Jack Jeffers put the Chargers on the board with 4:08 gone in the second period for a 1-0 lead – the first time UAH led an opponent this season. It was Jeffers’ second goal of the season.

Chargers’ goalie Mark Sinclair, making back-to-back starts, kept the Lakers at bay through the first two periods as he turned away 18 shots.

UAH had a couple more opportunities early in the final period to extend their lead, only to be stymied by Mitens.

Austin Beaulieu had a breakaway from the blue line just under 3 minutes into the period, only to see Mitens come up with the save. Tyr Thompson had the puck in the crease but couldn’t convert at the 4:38 mark.

Sinclair continued his stellar play, including stopping a wrap-around attempt about a minute later.

But, the Lakers finally put one past the sophomore netminder when Anthony Nellis scored at 7:08 of the period to tie the game. Then, about five minutes later, Hampus Erickkson scored the eventual game-winner for a 2-1 Lakers’ lead.

The Chargers, though, kept up the pressure as they tried to get the game-tying goal.

Madison Dunn found himself on the doorstep with the puck with less than 5 minutes to play but Mitens came up with the save.

Then, perhaps the best scoring opportunity for UAH came with 3;37 left in the game on a 3-on-2 break. Mitens was drawn to his right to cover Connor Merkley. However, Merkley passed to Bauer Neudecker on his right, but Neudecker shot wide of the net.

The Chargers fall to 0-2 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and 0-8 overall. The Lakers are 4-0, 2-0. UAH will host Michigan Tech next Friday and Saturday.

Despite the missed chances, Corbett was quick to find high points in the game.

“I’m proud of this group; they responded well,” he said. “There are so many good things that came out of this game.

“We’ll build on this … we’ve got to get our mindset to finish.”

 

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 WCHA.tv
  • “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.

CHARGER PRIDE!

“There ain’t a lot of one-shot goals.”: Mike Corbett on perseverance and process

We all know Mike Corbett’s story by now: stepped into the Air Force top AC job when Derek Schooley left to start Robert Morris’s program; became the assistant head coach under Frank Serratore, his old college coach; interviewed at Anchorage before their AD was fired; came to Huntsville, loved it, and committed to being here.  So what kind of guy is Corbs?

“I’m a players’ coach more than anything,” he told me in his office one afternoon in late September.  He’s got to create an identity for this program, one that we all know full well has seen four coaches in five seasons.  What will his Chargers look like?  “We’re gonna be disciplined, we’re going to have attention to detail.  Competing hard, winning races, winning battles — that’s going to be the basis of our success.”

Mike Corbett coaches UAH against Northeastern

Mike Corbett looks to the video board with Cody Marooney, Doug Reid, and Ben Reinhardt seated in front of him.

There are nearly 30 young men on the UAH roster for 2013-14, and that’s going to be different for a team that had just a handful of spare players last season. “When you’ve got the young guys coming in, they know the history, but they really only know what’s in front of them today,” Corbett said of an 11-man freshman class that follows seven returning sophomores.  “Maybe there was only two or three guys in the stands every night [last year].  Now we’ve got the possibility of having nine guys in the stands every night, including a third goalie.”

Any college coach has probably seen a good chunk of the other team’s players before while scouting them in juniors, and Corbett is no different, even though he was only recruiting Americans to a service academy. “With the kids we’ve got, I’ve seen some of them play, but I couldn’t recruit the Canadian kids, so I didn’t focus on them as much unless they were just dominating a game — those games where you’d say, ‘This guy’s pretty good, I don’t care who you’re with.’ ” As such, Corbett didn’t have a lot of pre-conceived notions about his team.  “I came in and told them, ‘Boys, it’s a clean slate.’ ”

Goaltending is a concern for every team, and the Chargers are no different.  Senior CJ Groh has just 12 NCAA games under his belt, and freshmen Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero both saw time against the season opener at Northeastern.

“Who plays the first night is going to be the guy that impresses us the most,” Corbett said.  “If you look at CJ Groh and add up his ice time, he’s a second-semester freshman.  While he’s only got one year left, we’ve got three guys who are at a freshman level in terms of minutes in game situations.  If one guy grabs and goes with it, that’s great.”  Corbett sees good goaltending as critical: “When you’ve got a good goalie, it seems that you’re always in the game.”

Helping those goaltenders out will be the responsibility of the defensemen, and Corbett likes what he sees along the blue line. “You look at a guy like Anderson White — he’s got all the potential in the world to be a big-time player in the WCHA,” he said.  “Then you’ve got a guy like Graeme Strukoff and our other juniors who play well.  You’ve got a little guy in Steve Koshey who moves the puck very well and has great numbers in junior hockey.  He didn’t get a great opportunity last year to be able to show what he can do.  We’ve got a great mix of everything.  If we’ve got experience, that’s where it lies.”

If you watched UAH games or read the boxscores, you know the sad truth: we didn’t light a lot of lamps last year.  Corbett is optimistic. “I said to [UAH assistant coach] Gavin [Morgan] in practice the other day, ‘We’ve got a lot of guys who put up a lot of points in juniors.’  It’s a gauge.  I’m not one to be a stat-watcher, but I am a big believer in history.”  And it’s not a case of “bad, junior hockey goals”, either.  “You can look at assists and say, ‘Oh, this is a phantom assist,’ but you can’t take goals away.  Goals are goals — they’re right off your stick, pretty or ugly.”  Corbett is ready to go with his players: “We’ve got guys who had history.”

But a team that scored just 24 goals agains NCAA competition is as close to rock bottom as you can get.  “It’s gonna be a process to get some confidence,” Corbett said.  “There ain’t a lot of one-shot goals.  If there are, the goalie isn’t going to be playing for very long.”

Corbett does have some concerns about how his team will get into the offensive zone. “I’m worried about our presence on our line rushes and our breakouts.  If we can get into the offensive zone with good pressure, we’ll get those second-chance shots when we get the puck to the blue.”

But Corbett doesn’t think that he’s alone in that feeling.  “If you listen to the pre-season conference call with the coaches, eight out of the ten guys will tell you the same thing about the offense,” Corbett said.  “The only guys that are probably satisfied with their scoring are Mankato and Tech.”

Mike Corbett with Brice Geoffrion and Doug Reid

Mike Corbett converses with Brice Geoffrion (l) and Doug Reid (r) at at UAH practice. (Photo courtesy UAH Sports Information)

The Chargers have some solid senior leadership in the system. “Brice [Geoffrion] and Alex [Allan] are huge for us,” Corbett said.  “I reached out to Brice right when I got the job and wanted to get information from.  I asked him a lot of questions, and he wrote me about a four-page email telling me the pluses, the negatives, and everything in-between.”

Corbett is ready to lean on his sturdy forward, who sports a new number — 57 — this season. “Brice’s biggest asset is his leadership.  He’s seeing now as a 23-year-old senior everything possible out of his experience in college hockey.  He’s got to be thinking, ‘I’ve got to take everything that my dad’s said to me, and my grandfather, and my brothers, and I’ll put it to use here in my last college season, before it’s too late to use it.’ ”

As with Geoffrion, Corbett thinks that Allan is a key to the Chargers’ success this season.  “You watch Alex Allan skate around in practice, and you know he can score 20 goals at this level,” he said.  “We want him to not put too much pressure on himself to produce, but at the same time we want him to know that we rely on him to be big for us on the ice, to play on the power play, and so on.  As much as you want guys to score goals, he’s got to be a threat.  If you’re consistently a threat, they’re going to start going in for you.”

All of this doesn’t work unless the players have comfort with the coaching staff.  How is Corbett’s staff managing the turnover?  “We’re still finding the right way that fits our group and fits our school that aligns with the ways that we as a staff think a Division I program should be run,” Corbett said.

“We’re getting those guys to feel comfortable around us — it’s not a dictatorship, it’s not ‘my way or the highway’.  I need those guys more than they need me, because look at the turnover in this office.  But I ain’t going anywhere — that’s my statement.  We’re going to build an identity here, and that takes time.”

Corbett is confident in his ability to coach his team.  “Kids want to learn.  They say that they don’t, but they do,” he said.  “They want to improve, and they want somebody to be there to watch them improve.  I’m not going to say what’s happened in the past.  It may not be the way that we’ve done it here, but it’s the way that we’re going to do it.”

Corbett seeks to be approachable.  “I have an open door.  I want to hear about these guy’s problems off the ice — school, social, whatever.  Because guess what — I’ve got problems, too.  We all do.  I’m just a regular guy just like you.  We want regular guys who want to be a part of something that’s bigger than themselves.  That’s what we’re after.”

And just as much as you have to worry about this season in the college game, you have to always be scouting for the next and the next and the next.  What does Corbett want to see? “Do we want the most talented guy?  Sure.  But we want the right players.”  A new league home will help, but Corbett says that’s just the beginning of the process.  “The WCHA may get us some interest, but we have to build the program that will really attract those players.”

“Do you want to be someone who makes a difference?  Those are the kinds of guys that we’re looking for right now.”  Corbett thinks that UAH is an appealing place for young men.  “Coming here and being the guy has got to be appealing.  Coming to a game and seeing you on the third line at a big-time program isn’t going to catch the scout’s eye.”

Before I went to meet with Coach Corbett, Dr. Brophy told me, “If you aren’t excited about Charger hockey before you go in there, you will be when you leave.”  He was right.