UAH-Northern Michigan: Three things to watch for

Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics

Northern Michigan is one of the most improved teams in the country in the last few weeks. The return of Andre Ghantous has immediately did what Grant Potulny hoped, up their offensive output. In addition, it seems like new addition of  Rico DiMatteo has helped with their goaltending, and that Ghantous and Joseph Nardi are leading this team forward. Here are three things the Chargers need to do in order to stymie one of the hottest offenses in the country.

Manage the game

This was a theme of the Minnesota State and Michigan Tech series. Both nights, at points, UAH played well and hung in with two really good teams. At select other points, they could not do anything with the puck and were working in their own zone for minutes on end, which leads to penalties, and goals in your net quite frequently.

When this team is playing at its best, their physical defense makes superb quick and simple breakout passes to the fast group of forwards they have, who then race in and score before the opposition has time to set up. This is how Quinn Green’s goal on Thuursday night against the Mavericks was so good to see. Everything to get Green the puck is what needs to happen consistently for the next two days for this group to have a chance.

Capitaize on your chances

Since their rise up the WCHA standings, one thing seems to remain constant. The Wildcats have not scored less than three goals in their past six games, winning all but one of them. They have also not conceded less than two goals more than once, and in only a third of those six games have they given up two or less goals. That is to say, a team that relies on speed and offense has to be worn down a bit through the neutral zone and be made to defend. The Chargers do not have to overwhelm their opposition with taking time and space. They do need to work with the speed in their team to find ways to sbe more efficient on the evening. This concept of efficiency is one that they have worked to improve on since the year started, and one that will be at the heart of what to watch for going forward.

Score first

This is one of the better areas for UAH recently, as they have been able to get the first goal in four of their last six games. The speed of this team, on the Olympic ice sheet, will give them a lot more room to generate offense. The skill of players like Tyrone Bronte will be on a bigger stage with the extra ice for him to use. In addition to scoring first, UAH’s ability to get different players involved this year in that effort cannot be understated for its importance.

Overall, the Wildcats present a unique challenge of speed and quick strike plays along with a resurgent group. While it is not likely that Northern Michigan will have an at-large bid to play for, this weekend provides them with a chance to get closer to securing a top three spot, and to go further in the postseason. How UAH responds after four losses at home will be in large part to how well they can stay within their system, and make the Wildcats have to play catch up.

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UAH Hockey: Taking positives, things to build on, and moving forward to face Northern Michigan

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville lost to the Mavericks of Minnesota State 5-0. The score is something that of course, no player in the room is happy about. this staff has some work to do in order to get this team ready to face a Northern Michigan side that is getting back a lot of key players from injury and that defeated Bemidji State 5-1 tonight, including two shorthanded goals in that effort.

Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis took some time to provide thoughts on the evening.

On what UAH learned from the weekend series

“We saw a elite team come to our building and we had a taste what elite teams do and how hard we have to work and what strides we need to take to improve our game.” There were moments that had UAH competitive against this team, like scoring first last night, and being able to block a lot of shots on the penalty kill.

On adjustments for tonight and going forward
“We kept them under 40 shots and that was one of the goals tonight. We are teaching our players about discipline and keep working on making plays under pressure.” The shot suppression effort of this team was a little more complete tonight, and was its best in the third period.

Zirnis on the play of the top line, lead by Tyrone Bronte, keep this in mind going forward for this team.

” Bronte’s line did a good job making plays and had created very good scoring chances for us.”

Lessons learned from tonight, according to Zirnis.
“There is always learning lessons from the games you play. Unfortunately these lessons are hard but you still have to learn from them. On the positive side I spoke about the under 40 shots. We had some guys in the line up that we get to evaluate and see in action where their game is at and things they need to work on.”

The staff appriciated the compete level of the team, read more about what it meant from Zirnis here:
” We did never give up on the weekend. When things got hard we kept fighting We kept playing and tried to keep playing the game the right way. Proud of the group of not giving up and kept battling for each other.”

The next game for these Chargers comes Tuesday afternoon on the road at Northern Michigan. Read about Zirnis’ thoughts on what’s next for this team.
“Northern Michigan is playing good hockey right now and they are finding their groove. We have a great challenge in front of us but we are looking for the opportunity to play them and keep growing our game as a team.”

No one wants to lose in this sport, ever. With that said, these Chargers now have experience against a top contender for the national title under their belts. In addition, they are now set to face a team that they are contending with for postseason seeding. The better the Chargers can do in games against the Wildcats, and Lake Superior State, the higher their seed is, and the more they can add to their positive experiences on ice. For a team that is working to delete its past, to their credit, this weekend provides a solid base of encouragement and good moments to build a new future of UAH Hockey with.

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We can play with them: What a 4-1 loss says about Alabama Huntsvile

Photo Credit: LSSU Athletics

Tonight, Alabama Huntsville lost a 4-1 game to the Mavericks of Minnesota State. In this one, the Chargers scored the first goal of the evening on a Quinn Green partial breakaway. His speed on the first line provided a nice compliment to Tyrone Bronte, and Bauer Neudecker. In the second period, a penalty on Adrian Danchenko lead to a power play goal, and four unanswered goals to close the game out for Minnesota State in the third.

Here are some of Associate Head Coach, Karlis Zirnis’ thoughts on the night, along with some additional thoughts from Assistant Head Coach Carmine Guerriero.

First, on the evening, the Chargers only put up 10 shots on net to 42 from their opponent. Read what Karlis thinks can be done to rectify things.

“We have to shot the puck on rush and be ready to shot the puck when arrives on our stick. MSU does good job being in the shooting lanes. We have to shot for sticks more and create a shooting lane for ourselves”. For UAH to succeed, they need to eliminate any uncertainty around this area of the game. Getting the deficit a bit more closer to even would dramatically alter the course of the finale.

Here are Karlis’ thoughts on a turning point in the second period, the Jonah Alexander hooking penalty in the second, that lead to a power play goal and set the tone for the rest of the game.

“We can’t afford taking penalties 200 feet from our net.  We have to be discipline and that is a lesson for us. It’s a hard lesson to learn but a great lesson for our players” This team, to get to the next level of its building a new foundation has to manage the lulls and negative plays a bit better. Minnesota State did well in the second with the opportunities they had tonight, and the Chargers learned quick what the level they want to be at looks like.

Zirnis did think some positives existed for his Chargers, saying the following, including more for tomorrow night.

” Our structure was a lot better in our game from last week. Our team works hard but thought we worked smarter today… The MSU is great team – we can play with them. We can’t afford undisciplined penalties and have to be discipline in our structure. You give MSU any daylight and they take advantage of those mistakes”

In addition to this, he noted the better even and full strength defending for his team, combined with their neutral zone work to make life a bit tougher on the opposition. For positives, Guerriero added in that “they’re a resilient young group. We didn’t get one power play tonight and we didn’t get many breaks to say the least. They stuck with it and were up on the bench till the buzzer.” In addition, he said, “I liked how we played. There was no quit. But, we have to be more disciplined within our structure. We have to do a better job of communicating and making the simple plays.”

On the evening, one final note, UAH netminder David Fessenden is being evaluated further after leaving the game in the third period, and his status is unknown at this time, and Derek Krall finished the night out in net.

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No weaknesses: Karlis Zirnis on prep for Minnesota State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Associate Head Coach of Alabama Huntsville’s Hockey team, Karlis Zirnis, noted the tough challenge that his Chargers will be facing heading into the weekend. Of the Minnesota State Mavericks, he was incredibly succinct. He said that, “there’s no weaknesses on that team.” If he had to pick, he would support calling the Mavericks the best team in college hockey. They exude speed and are prodigious at driving a very physical brand of hockey, and do not give up a lot of shots. Of the ones they do give up, they have a Hobey Baker Award candidate in Dryden McKay on hand to stop them.

Furthermore, in expanding on how good Mike Hastings’ Mavericks are, he compared them to the Soviet Union teams that dominated the era of international hockey in the 1980’s. All of that is to say, the Chargers will have a bit of a challenge just managing the game against the Mavericks, let alone trying to win a game or two in this series.

That is not to say Karlis does not see a way forward for his Chargers. He does, but it will require perfection from his still developing team., given how good their opponent is Michigan Tech capitalized on a few mistakes to widen their leads in the third period this past weekend. The Mavericks have the ability to do that right away in each battle starting Thursday. For the Chargers to compete, they have to play to their five man system, all weekend, and get some help with scoring by the committee that Head Coach Lance West has referenced. After a month off for recovering from Covid-19, the team now has had time, and games under their belts to get ready before facing arguably the best team in the country on Thursday and Friday this weekend.

How it goes will depend in large part on what the team does together. If they can come close to replicating the first period in the finale, they have a chance to make life more interesting than the Mavericks are expecting. Anything but that effort, will produce a result that most of the country outside the UAH locker room is expected. This team has a chance to prove a lot of people wrong this weekend. How close they get to that will come down to their consistency, ability to manage the game, and making Dryden McKay face more shots per game than he typically does.

As Zirnis has often talked to us when noting the mentality of this team, especially relevant for this week, the team needs to play a perfect game in all three zones to force the Mavericks to alter what they do. Given the absence of Ryan Spooner for this weekend and perhaps another forward or two, UAH will not be facing the Mavericks at full strength. How they can start, manage the ebb and flow of the game, and what support they provide their goaltender, that will determine the outcome, not any of the past two decades of Minnesota State wins against this program.

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UAH Hockey: Learning and moving forward

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville are a team with 14 freshmen, and of them 13 were not planning on being Chargers before the program was brought back. We say this from time to time to provide perspective. Furthermore, this team, despite losing by one additional goal, played a better finale against Michigan Tech, and had some standouts in the process. In addition, the non conference game gave UAH a final chance to evaluate their roster before jumping back into WCHA play, and before playing a top 10 Minnesota State team this Thursday and Friday.

Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis described the weekend well in saying:

“We like our effort and the team works hard. It is a learning experience for our team that we keep up our effort for 60 minutes and keep our consistency and our execution for the whole game.”

After noting the improved effort from Friday, he went on to explain the numerous line changes, saying that:

“We have to make sure we evaluate all the players and the best way we can do that is giving them a opportunity in the game scenario.” Taking time to develop everyone requires that they all get to play to have some area of improvement to work from. The team is also recovering from a Covid-19 outbreak, and hung with Michigan Tech for most of this game, despite the final score line.

On the best forward duo this team has of Tyron Bronte and Bauer Neudecker, Zirnis said of their work together:

” Both of the have good vision and very good speed. Both of the players play hard in the hard areas of the ice and are not shy from physical play. Their goals come from going to those areas of the ice.”

One of the many freshmen who has impressed the staff is Bennett Stockdale. His speed and tenacity earned him a spot with Bronte and Neudecker. Saturday night he put home his first college goal off a Michigan Tech defender and into the back of the net. Of his work and improvement Zirnis said:

” Bennett did a great job jumping in and playing with those two guys. Bennett used his speed and did complement the line very well.”

In responding to these questions after the finale, Zirnis did note the overall improvement of the team from the series opener, saying, ” I thought we broke the puck out a lot better tonight and had some opportunities come out as unit of five out of our d-zone into the transition game.” Those good moments for Lance West’s team have to serve as a marker for this week.

The Mavericks of Minnesota State are coming off a sweep of their closest contender in this league, Bowling Green, and will want to burnish their WCHA lead. They have speed, and a lot more skill up front than Michigan Tech, and a top five netminder behind their skill named Dryden McKay. To have any chance against these Mavericks, UAH will want to look to the positives of Saturday, and continue to work towards those good moments.

The Chargers showed that they can and will compete with anyone this year as their efforts against Robert Morris in their opener, their tie against Lake Superior State, their sweep of Ferris State, and their win everywhere but on the scoreboard in the first finale against Michigan Tech have all indicated. This week presents another challenge, but one this staff will have them ready to take on.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

MTU 4 UAH 1: Some positive thoughts on the weekend

Photo Credit-Kelsey Lee Violet Turtle Photography

Despite a heroic penalty kill by the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville in the third period of the finale against Michigan Tech killing a full 1:33 of five-on-three time, it was not enough as the Huskies seemed to take over the game soon after that. They dominated the pace of play for most of the remainder of the finale to earn the series sweep, scoring three unanswered goals in the third to provide the final margin. Credit Logan Pietila in net who faced some more opposition than Mark Sinclair but was equal to the task. Credit Bennett Stockdale for banking a puck off a defender and in to tie the game at one in the second period as well. It was his first goal in college hockey, and came alongside the best forward duo this weekend for Alabama Huntsville, Tyrone Bronte and Bauer Neudecker.

With all of this said, regarding the loss, do keep this in mind for Alabama Huntsville. This was a non-conference series, and it arguably serves as a valuable lesson for them. If you continue to take penalties against physical teams, and slip for even a five minute span, your results will often be bad.

What does it all mean?

Well, these Chargers take on perennial title contender, Minnesota State Thursday and Friday. While every single pundit and outlet will expect an easy sweep, and given the past and records of both teams, its understandable, this weekend showed UAH how they can compete with the top tier of this league, and how not to compete. The Mavericks are fast, and not as physically imposing as the Huskies, but far faster, and more able to generate offense with less zone time.

First off, the Chargers had not played a game in about a month due to the Covid-19 issues around their team. They played both games with a top-pair freshman named Josh Martin who had not seen a game of any sorts in 335 days before last night. He was one of the more consistent Chargers on the weekend, and his physical play was nice to see as an addition to this team. This staff cares first and foremost about effort, and it showed through tonight. There will be plenty of adjustments to make before Thursday, but they come into this week in a much better place after tonight than they did after last night.

He will finally have a full week of practices with his full team as of practice this upcoming week with the Chargers before they face the Mavericks on Thursday and Friday. The biggest challenge will be facing Hobey Baker candidate Dryden McKay in net. To beat him, you have to earn rebounds and second chance looks, and the Chargers only put home two of those limited chances all weekend. How they start against the Mavericks will be crucial.

For Alabama Huntsville, they needed this weekend to adjust after recovering from Covid-19 that was widespread across the team. Dealing with adversity tonight, they still played their hearts out, and competed more than in the opener. The effort was there all night, the results will come. No one but the team in the locker room thinks they should win against the Mavericks, but this staff and team have shown that time and time again they look to delete the past and move forward. What better time then now to reprise that.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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UAH Hockey: Look to the power play for clues

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

There were some good moments for the Chargers last night against Michigan Tech. David Fessenden kept the deficit to two despite Huntsville not getting a shot on net in the third period, and only attempting two shots during that time.

As assistant coach Carmine Guerriero said of Fessenden’s effort stopping 36 of 39 pucks

” Fez has just been putting in the work. Honestly, he’s an easy goaltender to coach because he wants to get better. He knows what he’s capable of but, at the same time, he also wants to perfect his craft so it’s been really nice to work with him. You’re going to get these types of performances from him night in and night out because of how hard he works.”

Beyond Fessenden’s effort, and the continued solid play of Bauer Neudecker, there are a lot of things the team needs do tonight, that all centers around things the staff has told us before. While no one is making any excuses for the effort last night.

As Carmine says of Tech’s pressure last night in the second and third period:

” I don’t think they made many adjustments at all. They pressured us a little more maybe but we just flat out didn’t play. Didn’t execute, didn’t skate, we weren’t physical. The one month of not playing showed tonight but that shouldn’t of mattered. I think it’s pretty obvious that we weren’t able to do our usual thing on the power play after we scored because they just pressured us and our guys weren’t ready. Their penalty kill out worked us plain and simple. We’re going to have to out work them.”

The Chargers did this for parts of the game, mainly in the first period, and had some success. To get back to that tonight, will be their first order. One easy way to see how this is going is looking at the power play. The Huskies won the shot attempts on the power play 17-3 on the evening. This is despite UAH having one more power play than the Huskies.

If the power play can get things trending in the right direction, perhaps things could end a bit differently for the Chargers tonight.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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Michigan Tech 3 UAH 1: Beyond the Box Score

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville had some good moments against Bauer Neudecker put home is third goal of the year on a Mick Heneghan shot. Tyrone Bronte added another point to the strong start to his college career, and again showed his speed throughout the evening. David Fessenden made 36 saves on 39 shots faced for the night.

Beyond that, here are three adjustments the Chargers should hope to make to improve their chances against the Huskies in the finale, keeping in mind that this team, even after only having a few days of full practice, still showed flashes of their effort and speed against a physical Michigan Tech team coming off of a win against Ferris State on Tuesday. Alabama Huntsville also had Josh Martin on their first pair with Lucas Bahn tonight, in place of an injured Dayne Finnson (upper body). Martin played in his first game in 335 days tonight, and did well given the circumstances. His ability to box out Huskies from time to time was good to see, and hopefully as he settles in, he will be able to step into the rush a bit more.

Hear from Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis on what happened tonight for the Chargers in the second and third periods, then read on for areas to watch for improvement on in the finale tomorrow.

” Tech is a very good team. They elevated their game in 2nd and 3rd and put heavy pressure on us in all three zones and we couldn’t answer their hard pressure. There is no excuses in our poor performance in 2nd and 3rd period. We have to play a very disciplined game when we struggle in execution and we didn’t do it tonight. When another team elevates their game you have to answer it and we didn’t do it.”

Play every period like its the first

Easier said than done, but in the first period, tonight the Chargers had the better of chances, despite getting outshot (8-6). The only goal they scored was on a rebound from their effort off the rush to generate a quick look and score. Like Omaha in the NCHC, this team is built around speed and fastbreaks. From the second period oon, the Chargers showed little of their speed and got no real looks that were quick in transition. Part of this is from their breakouts. When this team is at their best, they do not need to make many home-run two-line passes that often get intercepted. Tonight, they helped the Huskies out in the last two periods by not keeping their breakouts simple. In addition, on the rare time where the Chargers had any space in the neutral zone to get a clean entry, they often dumped the puck in because they were tired and at the end of a shift.

Control is key

As Zirnis said, the team has to play with a bit more discipline. The first Michigan Tech goal tonight came on a power play marker from Brian Halonen, one of the better yet underrated goal scorers in the WCHA. The issue is the power play on which he did that. It was created with an offensive zone penalty as Adrian Danchenko went to the penalty box for tripping. For the Chargers to do better tomorrow, they have to eliminate offensive zone penalties completely from their game. If you give a physical team like the Huskies any breaks, they will take them and run. That penalty, mentally, felt like a turning point in the game as it happened early in the second period in a game, that, up until then was being played well by the Chargers.

Be simple

This team is at its best when it works together. They do that when they do the little things right. One of those things tomorrow has to be shortening passes to get through the neutral zone. If this Michigan Tech sees an inch of a mistake in your game, they turn it into a mile of rewards for them more often than not. That was displayed over and over again in the final two periods of tonight’s game. This team has always been about compete and response level. Let’s see what changes they make together to change the fate of the series finale starting tomorrow at 5:07 PM.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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UAH-Michigan Tech: Beyond the box score viewing guide

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

This weekend, for the first time since early January, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville are set to play a game of hockey, this time it is against the Huskies of Michigan Tech. The Huskies are a team that relies on strong systems, and physical play to suppress shot chances and wear down opponents. Looking back at the Chargers’ series loss to them in Houghton, the results indicated a better game by the Huskies in the series opener, and a more even one in the finale. The difference in the finale was former Charger Mark Sinclair in net, as he made more grade-a saves against UAH than Blake Pietila had to do the night before. The two present a dichotomy of sort in chance generation and suppression that arguably could dictate this weekend’s final outcome. With that in mind, here are three things we will be watching this weekend.

Defending in transition

Michigan Tech has a reputation for being a physical team. With that said, they are also a very structured team that is deceptively fast in their transition game, something that Alabama Huntsville has to do better on controlling this weekend. For an example of this gap showing in the numbers, look at the Saturday game. The Huskies used that speed through the neutral zone to generate 60 total shot attempts to a mere 34 for the Chargers. When Michigan Tech has their speed through the neutral zone, it is required for the Chargers to effectively keep to their system. Doing so can mitigate some of the speed that the Huskies have. Earlier on in the season, when Alabama Huntsville could not track back through the neutral zone, other teams, like Robert Morris and Michigan Tech made them pay for it with multiple high danger chances In the Sunday affair, when the difference was a bit more even, the pace of the game benefited the Chargers as they were able to stay closer to their system throughout.

Utilizing speed on transition

If Alabama Huntsville can track back through the neutral zone, their ability to accelerate to offense and provide their own quick looks could be a big part of this weekend non-conference affair. Alabama Huntsville generated four more shot attempts than the Huskies in the series finale in large part because they were able to get into the zone and did this with their quick ability to generate chances. Only one skater that game did not attempt a shot on net for the Chargers. Connor Witherspoon did not attempt a shot, but was nearly even on his faceoffs (6-7) and played a big defensive depth role, as he always does. As the Chargers get more repetition at this effort, they should be able to find the open looks a bit easier. While UAH had 52 shot attempts, 22 were blocked. For as fast as UAH is, they need to find the open look a bit more against this physical Michigan Tech team to have a better outcome at home than they did on the road.

Maintaining structure behind the blue line

The biggest improvement in this team, with 14 freshmen now on it is in its own end. That is, the structure of how this team defends collectively has improved from a year ago. Against the Huskies, on both nights where the Chargers stayed in their system and made the Huskies earn everything, the team did alright. When the system broke down and gave the fast Huskies openings, the Chargers had to scramble a lot in their own end, and most of the goals conceded were due to simple breakdowns, or a lack of structure, permitting an easier chance for Michigan Tech. This team, and its coaches often talk about being a collective group on the ice, since the first game in January we have seen more from these Chargers. How they can build on it will determine their fate this weekend.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of college sports, especially under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape like unique untold stories across college hockey. Please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about we write as a supporter of crowd-funded  journalism that can truly be free for all at this link:paypal.me/Seamorepsorts

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UAH Hockey: Cautiously Optimistic About the Future

(Photo Credit-LSSU Athletics)

Alabama Huntsville Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed what has been rumored. The Chargers are awaiting word from the Atlantic Hockey Association on potentially joining it next season. This pitch, as John Buccigross first reported, includes a $25,000 per series subsidy for at least the next ten years to help all institutions defray the costs of coming to Huntsville. This per-series subsidy also includes all playoff series that UAH would host. With this being one of the biggest barriers to joining the conference, having the financial support, and institutional backing, combined with a plan to scale the revenue opportunities for UAH was a critical first step to get this program where it wants, which is a new conference home.

For scheduling purposes, the Chargers could potentially play an unbalanced schedule, should they be awarded membership in Atlantic Hockey, as a way to see every team come to the Von Braun Center at least every other season, while further reducing the time and travel burdens that this would impose for the more northern members of the league, like Sacred Heart. This would limit the need for teams to travel outside of the northeast, still give UAH plenty of opponents to play, and ensure that its fans see the entire conference take on the Chargers in Huntsville ideally at least every two seasons.

At the end of the day, Smith said that, for the current members of the conference that “it’s a bottom line conversation,” and also noted of a potential announcement his increased optimism in the past few weeks. The members have all seen Alabama Huntsville’s pitch, and should have a decision on it in a few weeks. The timeline to approve or deny the pitch has been somewhat delayed due to schools dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks that have come in waves over different teams.

Throughout this process, Smith has had conversations with key figures in Atlantic Hockey, including its Commissioner Robert M. DeGregorio, Jr. who has been nothing but supportive in the quest for Alabama Huntsville to become a member. Smith did note the reality of this process, that is, it is a decision for its members to make, not its leader. Seven members need to approve the application to have the Chargers become the twelfth member of a league, and give it a foothold in the southeast United States. From the beginning of this process, Alabama Huntsville, and those working with it on the Advisory Board have had nothing but praise for the league office in giving them a chance to lay out their vision for the future. As part of that vision, and in their pitch, the Chargers have included concepts for an on campus arena. Building this would only happen if the Chargers could find a new conference home.

In addition to the reality faced by Alabama Huntsville and the consistent support received by its administration, Smith has received mentorship from potential future conference mates . He has talked with athletic administrators at Army West Point, who have provided assistance in crafting the pitch, along with key figures at Robert Morris University, new home of former UAH Head Coach, Mike Corbett.

From a competitive standpoint, Atlantic Hockey also makes sense, as the Chargers would be facing a few of their old CHA rivals, and forge new ones. Alabama Huntsville would face off against rivals Niagara, Robert Morris, and Air Force, in addition to eight other up and coming programs across the east coast. Smith has been encouraged to see the competitive nature of the team this year, and thinks that their revival has helped his department at large. Of this fact he said, “some of our fans that have gone to other sports have bought some tickets to hockey this year.”

That is, Alabama Huntsville fans of their other superb Division Two programs are starting to come out to see their only division one offering this year. Through all of this, Smith and the Chargers are doing their best to be flexible, and work to adress any concerns of Atlantic Hockey members as they arise, while providing a glimpse into a new market for this conference. All those rooting for Alabama Huntsville can do now is wait.

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