Hoof Beats: Big series for Saulnier earns WCHA award

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.


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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.

Hoof Beats: Newcomer notes

UAH revealed its signees for the 2015-16 season on August 3. Many of the forwards put up some prolific numbers for their junior teams last season, which will hopefully signal continued growth for the Charger offense. Here’s a summary of how they played in the 2014-15 season:

Team Pos GP G A Pts PIM
Hunter Anderson Langley (BCHL) F 58 11 19 30 64
Madison Dunn Brooks (AJHL) F 60 8 35 43 58
Hans Gorowsky Fairbanks (NAHL) F 60 23 33 56 38
Kurt Gosselin Alberni Valley (BCHL) D 32 12 31 43 32
Jetlan Houcher Fort McMurray (AJHL) F 60 39 32 71 57
Cam Knight Wichita Falls (NAHL) D 60 9 24 33 55
Tyler Poulsen* Topeka (NAHL) F 56 29 32 61 44
Brandon Salerno Pickering (OJHL) F 49 30 39 69 30
John Teets Fairbanks (NAHL) D 60 3 17 20 53
Adam Wilcox Fairbanks (NAHL) F 43 6 11 17 96

* 2013-14 statistics

Jetlan Houcher (Photo by Fort McMurray Oil Barons)

Jetlan Houcher (Photo by Fort McMurray Oil Barons)

Some other tidbits on this class:

  • Jetlan Houcher will reunite with UAH sophomore Brennan Saulnier, who was his teammate at Fort Murray in the 2013-14 season. John Teets and Adam Wilcox were also on that Oil Barons squad, which won 45 games and reached the AJHL Division Final.
  • Tyler Poulsen played with Cody Champagne with Topeka in the 2013-14 season. Poulsen led the Roadrunners in scoring that year while Champagne was the second-leading scorer among defensemen as they reached the NAHL semifinals.
  • Hunter Anderson and Hans Gorowsky will join Cody Marooney and Brandon Parker to make four native Minnesotans on the roster, the most UAH has had at one time in its history. Anderson and Gorowsky would make it 10 Minnesotans overall in 31 seasons. (By contrast, UAH has had seven native Huntsvillians.)
  • Wilcox will be the fourth player from the state of Georgia to play from the Chargers, following Neil Ruffini, Kyle Lysaght, and Craig Pierce.
  • Teets will be the second UAH player to come from the state of Alaska (Levi Hall, 1995-96).
  • Brandon Salerno will be eligible to play for the Chargers in the 2016-17 season.

Frozen Tide exhibition: UAH will host Alabama’s club team at the Wilcoxon Ice Complex on Oct. 17, the weekend after the Chargers open the season at the VBC against Connecticut.

The growing Frozen Tide program, coached by Charger alumnus Mike Quenneville (’89), will be playing its first season in American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I.

UAH and Alabama played two exhibition games to start the 2012-13 season, with the Chargers winning 12-1 and 10-0.

New WCHA.tv partner:  Stretch Internet will provide the online streaming for WCHA.tv in the 2015-16 season, the WCHA announced on Wednesday.

The new WCHA.tv will allow for multiple HD streams, including picture-in-picture and the ability to watch up to four games at once. The portal will integrate live stats and social media, and be available on tablet, mobile, and Smart TV devices.

Information on WCHA.tv subscription packages and pricing for the 2015-16 season (including full season, monthly, single day, team-specific and more) will be available in September.

What if Bama went varsity?

Alabama HockeyOn Tuesday, Arizona State surprised the college hockey world by announcing it was elevating its club hockey team to become the 60th program in NCAA Division I.

ASU will take over as D-I’s southernmost program from UAH by about a degree of latitude, although if you capitalize the S, UAH will hands down be the most Southern. There is a chance they may be joining us in the WCHA by 2017, although I would think the NCHC is more likely for the Sun Devils.

Naturally, not long after the press conference wrapped up in Tempe, speculation abounded on which will be the #nexthockeyschool in Division I. It includes the usual suspects: Navy, Rhode Island, Buffalo, Illinois.

Also, Alabama.

The Frozen Tide club team has been in existence since the 2005-06 season. The Tide is coached by former Charger Mike Quenneville, who played for UAH from 1987-89 during its first foray in Division I. Alabama plays in ACHA Division III and is a member of the South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC), which is comprised of club teams from eight Southeastern Conference schools. The Tide won the 2012 SECHC championship at the Huntsville Ice Complex, and was runner up to Arkansas in 2013 and 2014. Alabama is 12-1 so far this season.

The Tide has seen growing support, with good crowds at their home in the Pelham Civic Complex (especially during the Iron Cup matchups with Auburn).

So what would happen if Alabama decides to make the jump to NCAA Division I?

Let’s be clear that there is no known discussion — or even rumor — of Alabama making that jump. For UA to even consider it, they would need to figure out answers to the three issues that come up for every prospective school that wants to join college hockey’s big time:

  • Money. Penn State got a $102 million donation from Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula to start up their team, their women’s hockey team, and build an on-campus arena. Arizona State raised $32 million in private donations. Where would the start-up funds come from? Is the school willing to budget $1-$1.5 million per year to support the program?
  • Place to play: The Tide could conceivably continue to play in Pelham, which is over 50 miles from the Tuscaloosa campus, as a start, but  I suspect they would need a true Division I facility in Tuscaloosa. Would they build an on-campus rink? Renovate Coleman Coliseum and add an ice sheet? Who would pay for that?
  • Appease Title IX: Penn State added women’s hockey to go along with the men’s team. Arizona State may add women’s hockey, or two other women’s athletic programs to stay in compliance. What would Alabama need to add, and how much would that cost?

One of the reasons this thought experiment is even possible is UAH. If the UAH hockey program had folded, it is hard to fathom Alabama adding an expensive sport like hockey when the closest Division I opponent is in Ohio (Miami, 550 miles). 150 miles to Huntsville? That’s much easier. Even with Huntsville, the Tide would have the same issue UAH has to deal with — lots of travel.

Could Alabama spur other SEC schools to add hockey, as some suggest may happen in the Pac-12 with Arizona State? That would involve similar investments at a number of schools, and you simply can’t count on that.

But suppose everything somehow aligns and Alabama announces that the Frozen Tide is joining NCAA Division I. What would this mean for UAH?

Obviously, as alluded to before, it means an in-state rival for the Chargers. Whether they’re in the same conference or not, it’s hard to imagine that the Chargers and the Tide would not meet four times a year because of the proximity alone. And it’s hard to imagine that it would not be a true rivalry, with loud, boisterous crowds for both. (I would think we’d get the Auburn faithful who despise everything crimson.) That would be fun.

Many UAH fans may resent the Tide because they represent the UA system, where a certain former chancellor did the Charger hockey program no favors. Now the Tide would get in on our turf? Heck no.

Then there would be the recruiting battles. Which school would capitalize more on the South’s growing hockey talent? While UAH head coach Mike Corbett maintains that we will still recruit everywhere, there’s no denying that keeping the best players from the South in the region would be a boon. Now add a team in Tuscaloosa, looking to take some of that talent. I’m not sure I can get behind that.

In the end, however, I can’t imagine Alabama hockey going varsity. Even for a big money school like Alabama, so much investment would be required just to start it up, and there’s no guarantee the return would be worth it.

UAH was able to make a niche for itself 30 years ago, turning a popular and successful club team into a Division II power and then back to Division I. We had the support and the facility to do it, but college hockey has changed so much since those days. We’ve been fortunate, and despite all we’ve been through, we’re still fortunate that we are able to build a Division I program today.

All I can say to those who think Alabama should be the next hockey school is: You can dream, and you can wish, but it’s harder than it looks. Much harder.