(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography )
While the fate of this 2020-2021 Alabama Huntsville Hockey team is unknown. We know some things. For instance, it has a group of 13 freshmen developing daily under the tutelage of this new staff lead by Lance West. Some stats already stand out showing a sharp divide between this and last year’s first four games.
This is showing how far this team has come in four games, year over year. While the Chargers played a superb Lowell side last year, then a speedy Omaha side, this team has not played slouches. Robert Morris is a heavy veteran group that could challenge AIC for Atlantic Hockey supremacy, and Lake Superior State is a veteran laded group poised to rise above their finishes the past few years with a longshot Hobey Baker Award contender in net, Mareks Mitens. These teams are both veteran heavy groups that have taught these Chargers a lot about what they need to rise up the standings in the WCHA this year.
Let’s look at some comparisons from last year to this year.
19-20 team: Three goals in four games
20-21 team: Nine goals in four games
So far, this is the most immediate improvement this team has seen. Goal scoring was a desperately neeed commodity and these Chargers seem to possess more of that ability than some of their previous iterations. The speed of this forward group is a big reason for that. Their speed combined with the hard work of driving the net has lead to some tap-ins that last year’s team did not have as many of. These Chargers would probably like to get that average up, but the offense from year to year has improved about three times in terms of raw per game output.
19-20 team: 19 goals in four games
20-21 team: 14 goals in four games
This is another area of immediate improvement for this team. Also this includes conceding five goals in the third period of their opener against Robert Morris, where David Fessenden sustained an injury during the final frame’s warmups. While this staff will not make excuses for that period or any other goal conceded, we will note the difference in this team that allows the immediate reduction. The team defense of this side is miles ahead of the previous year’s group. So far, we have seen defenders not over-extending and trying to rush up too much, focusing on playing a more neutral zone trap style of game. It’s not always conducive to high scoring affairs, but it stretches’ the value of your goals when you do put one home. This team also prides itself on quality shot suppression. They will let you take unscreened shots all day and box you out for the rebound. In basketball terms, these Chargers guard the key and force you to bang home three-pointers from the blue line on one look when they are humming, which aside from a third period against the Colonials, they have been.
19-20 team: Two goals in 19 chances
20-21 team: Four goals on 14 chances
This statistic shows two things for this current group. First off, this team has less than half of their goals on the power play, which is good to get some diversity of goal scoring chances on different situations. If you cannot score at full and even strength, you will not win win many games in any league. This team’s power play utilizes the found speed of their freshmen like Tyrone Bronte to set up things. In addition, we are impressed with the steps of sophomore defender Lucas Bahn. Coach West was quite happy that he has taken on a bigger role, including running a power play unit. He is a cerebral defender who is adept at making key passes, and has already put home half of his point total from last year (31 games) in four games played this year getting two assists to his name. In addition, this also shows how well this team is doing at drawing penalties, averaging almost four power plays per game, which makes the even strength play easier as benches shorten to kill penalties and optimal deployment for non penalty killers is not always achieved.
These are just three of the stats through the first four games that have stood out to us. Lance West and his staff have managed to change the culture of this program in about half a year during a pandemic. That alone is impressive. Regarding these stats, look for the 13 freshmen to continue to improve and make their own history as Chargers. Every good thing this team does is proof positive that the infusion of youth on this roster is what was needed, and further proof of the success of West.
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