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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Karlis Zirnis: Creating a Path at UAH Hockey

Photo Credit: UAH Athletics

Karlis Zirnis is the Associate Head Coach for Alabama Huntsville Hockey, and a proud alumnae of the program. The Riga, Latvia native is also a passionate advocate for development and genuinely enjoys recruiting the type of player that this program will need to succeed. He has coached internationally for Latvia, including at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

First, he got to Huntsville to play ice hockey through hard work and persistence. He wrote to every program he could in hopes of playing beyond the end of his junior career. Only one program gave him a chance. Former head coach Doug Ross sent him an admission application. Karlis was able to apply and get to Huntsville. The path was not done, as he had to redshirt as a walk on and spent the year getting better. Every day he had to prove that he belonged in Huntsville and he did just that. Zirnis went on to play four years as a Charger finishing with 119 points (73 assists, 46 goals) in 143 games, and finished his time as an on ice leader for the Chargers.

After playing in various minor leagues around North America, Karlis returned to the Southern Professional League’s Huntsville Havoc to finish his playing career. In his last full season, he was the on-ice leader as captain of the Havoc.

He then worked his way up the coaching ladder to where he is now. Along the way, Karlis has instilled his persistence and work ethic in every player he has coached along the development ladder. In addition, the network of relationships has already paid dividends for this program. Not being able to see Tyrone Bronte in person this year, he harkened back to his time with the Shreveport Mudbugs in the North American Hockey League coaching against Bronte in the semifinals. He knew Bronte’s coach with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights and was able to kickstart the conversation about Tyrone with West which eventually lead to Bronte becoming a Charger.

Once the Associate job opened at Huntsville Lance West called Karlis first. The fit was natural given that West had coached Karlis on Ross’s staff and that they had a working relationship for years after that. In addition, both men have similar philosophies on coaching and what they want to see in a recruit, especially a recruit in building a program in their image of hard work and selflessness.

Zirnis does spend a lot of time developing defenders on the team, and is the architect behind the idea to play Ayodele (Ayo) Adeniye and Bryan Scoville together. As he noted, their statistics prove they are a shutdown pair, and they play well off each other, along with being on their strong sides. It was clear to Zirnis as soon as they stepped on the ice, and the pair has continuing chemistry as a potential shutdown pair for UAH in the years ahead. They have the size and mentality needed to clear net-fronts so goalies can make stops easier, and to limit rebound goals that have plagued prior Chargers teams of recent memory.

Karlis also runs the penalty kill which he likes to mirror the personality of the team. That is they are, as he said, “relentless and unafraid and [when playing well together will] outwork the power play.” The Chargers have been doing that through the help of Karlis and the speed they all bring to the table. All of the returners seem to have picked up more speed, and every freshman in this class can skate well.

Relating to another member of the team, Carmine Guerriero , Zirnis also noted that the assistant coach is “more than a goalie guy.” Carmine gives a netminder’s perspective to Karlis’ special teams work to start, he knows what UAH hockey has been as a netminder, and actively helps to maintain the new culture of Charger Hockey. Carmine also is the head social media manager, among the many hats he wears, and liaison between administration and the staff. Throughout this interview, the amount of things each coach does in college was referenced including the copious administrative work needed for any program to function. Carmine handles the bulk of that as he looks to start as a paid assistant coach at the same place where he became one of the most influential netminders in this program’s history.

Another area Karlis meshes in this program is in the type of player he looks to recruit. Hardworking players that, like so many current Chargers, can be overlooked by other programs for the roles they deserve a chance to compete for are on the top of his list. Finding all of these attributes is an ongoing work for Karlis, who watched countless hours of video on the 12 freshmen whom they offered to make up most of their recruiting class. Between video and the extensive network of relationships he has built, the Chargers have pipelines to places now that they may not have had before.

For instance, given Karlis’ work with the Latvian Junior team, and the expansion of Latvian players in college hockey, it makes natural sense that UAH fans could see some more Latvian players in Huntsville soon, Relating to the broader international hockey landscape, he is a fierce advocate for showcasing college hockey abroad, helping international players navigate the tough admission process of UAH, and giving them the tools to keep their grades where they need to be.

As recruiting is an ongoing battle, and given the unprecedented year we are in, Karlis has helped the Chargers, pending admission, get a player to join them for the second semester from an unnamed school. Given the recent decision by the NCAA to grant immediate eligibility to Division One Student Athletes who transfer for this year only, this addition may not be the last we see for the Chargers over the holiday season.

Going forward Karlis sees the inherent value in the advisory board. He noted the expanded relationships of everyone in the group giving UAH acess to things it has not had before, Karlis was also complimentary of the administration at Alabama Huntsville for giving their full support to the team looking to add games in the second half of the season.

To sum all of this up, the grand plan for UAH Hockey is quite simple. Zirnis put it best saying, “we are not in this to survive, we want to make sure we are competing to win a championship.”

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: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UND Soccer 2019 Review: On the Ascent

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

This season, the Fighting Hawks Soccer Team came in looking to do something that had alluded Head Coach Chris Logan, and this program at large since they became eligible to go to the postseason in their Division One history, make the conference tournament.

That was the zenith for this program as they fell short 3-0 in the semifinals against a Denver team felled by penalty kicks in the tournament’s finale against South Dakota State.

Looking back, this 2019 team was the culmination of the first three years of Head Coach Chris Logan’s reign here in Grand Forks. For a look at how he has helped develop players and coaches while here let’s look at Mimi Eiden and Chris Citowicki. In the first year of his time here, Logan made a statement by having his team defend on the road in the season opener against an always formidable Bison side. That team won thanks to an Emma Contino free kick goal and stellar goalkeeping. That team played good defense and worked hard to put goals home. The 2018 team built on that success and came just short of postseason play.

That year, we saw a glimpse of the future of this program with Eiden coming to campus to compliment Katie Moller, the all world striker who finished her career with the Fighting Hawks in the 2018 campaign doing everything but getting the team to the Summit League Tournament. Oh yeah, since taking over the Montana Grizzlies after his year here, Citowicki has gone on to win a Big Sky Regular Season Championship, and one conference tournament. He has a really good side in Missoula and is one of the reasons the Fighting Hawks are were they are.

As for Eiden, one would sincerely hope the Summit League gives her some preseason hardware next season as she comes into the 2020 campaign as arguably the fastest player in the league, and one of their most capable goal scorers. Up front, her with Bailey McNitt on the wing in her second season should be quite fun to watch, as McNitt’s technical skills on the ball and her speed along with Eiden’s finishing ability is a great combo.

Back to the 2019 side, coming into the year we knew Catherine Klein would start in net, and she had another superb season. For me, the highlight of her season was her penalty kick save in a defensive struggle against Grand Canyon on the road. Doing that off a questionable call against the Fighting Hawks before they would go on to win on the road in a packed stadium was impressive, and a save that UND Soccer fans will talk about for years on end.

Backing her up were two freshmen, Madi Livingston and Hallie Byzewski. They both played well in relief and in exhibitions, but Livingston’s play late in the season stood out. While her save percentage may not reflect her skills, she showcased what Assistant Coach Amanda Raso had worked on with her all year through some key games. She saved a penalty kick against the NDSU Bison, again on the road and showed a lot of potential for years to come. Her poise grew with each game she played, and she will have a chance to earn the net next year for the Fighting Hawks.

On to the back line for this team, they stood out quite well and in hockey terms, limited grade a chances for other teams, making their netminder’s life a bit easier. Hannah Olson stood out for me the most throughout the year. As Coach Logan is a Liverpool fan, Olson reminds me a bit of one Virgil Van Dijk. She is a physical defender who can play the ball up in space and is not afraid to jump ahead to put defenses on their heals. She still has three years to grow and get even better. Suffice it to say, the back line of UND lead by Olson will only improve.

Finally, just a note to follow along with us in the offseason for more on UND Soccer. We will have something up about the full soccer recruiting class soon and what to look for going into the next season once soccer’s schedule is revealed. This 2019 team left their mark on UND and is the benchmark for future squads to try and exceed. Credit to Chris Logan and his staff for the quick turnaround, and if he can completely rebuild a program in three years, imagine what he and his staff can do next season.

Donate: To help us cover more games and tell more stories not found elsewhere about all of UND Athletics, and under represented athletes everywhere across the college sports landscape, please click the below link and consider donating what you can. If you do, I will list you in every story about UND Athletics as a supporter of independent, crowd funded journalism that can truly be free for all at this link: https://www.paypal.me/oliverfrancies your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Supporters: We thank all of our readers and those who donate, especially Greg and Michelle Livingston.