Carmine Guerriero: A Competitor in the Net and Mentor Behind the Bench

(Photo Credit: Charles Edgeworth IV.-UAH Athletics)

University of Alabama Huntsville Hockey Assistant Coach Carmine Guerriero has been a goalie most of his life. He played with a competitive fire to be the best he could growing up in the Montreal area. The Charger alumnae and assistant coach on this developing team became a goalie when he was in pee-wee hockey. When he was younger his dad, coach of his team put him in net because it was his turn to play the position, a few weeks into the year his dad played him for the rest of the year because no one else wanted to do it.

The following season Carmine in net made sense as his teammates wanted him in net, and from there he sought to get better and improve. The Quebec native that grew up watching Patrick Roy dazzle the world in net for his hometown team, and a few years later, Carmine would go on to dazzle college hockey.

In 2015, he set the single game Alabama Huntsville Hockey record for saving 76 shots on net over five periods of hockey in a postseason game against Michigan Tech. This single game record is one of the many highlights Guerriero had while playing goalie for the Chargers . The opposing netminder in that game, Jamie Phillips, is now the volunteer goalie coach for the Huskies, the opponent UAH is set to face this weekend.

After Carmine set multiple records at UAH, he played in the ECHL for a brief stint before finishing his time on the ice in the second tier French League. While Carmine earned a tryout chance with the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds for the next season, he decided to move on to his next venture, and one he had done as a summer job growing up, coaching. He credits Brent Brekke with St. Lawrence University for giving him a chance in the 2019-2020 campaign as the Saints’ Volunteer Goalie Coach.

He then joined Lance West’s staff this fall as he moved up the ranks to being a paid assistant coach. The NCAA does not allow for more than two paid assistants per team, and often times, goalie coaches have to find other work to allow them to be volunteers with the team they want to help, as Carmine did at St. Lawrence University.

Guerriero has the same desire to get better and preach accountability with his team behind the bench as a coach as he did on the ice as a goalie. When one of his goalies are out of position, he said that, “I don’t let them slack off.” That is, when they are not in position, Carmine coaches them and mentors them to get better, and in equal measure he is their biggest advocate and encourages them at all times, especially when they remedy position issues and play where they need to be. He appreciates the daily hard work of all of his goalies provide on a daily basis as they work to get better under his tutelage.

For the rest of the team, Carmine on the bench is a massive help. As a goalie he sees the game differently as he has an instinctive eye for plays developing. To put that more practically, he knows how to harness the growing speed of this Chargers’ forward group and works with them to get better shots on net. As a netminder he knows what is tough to defend against and he pushes his team in the offensive end to get more of those chances. For the defense corps which he has been a part of radically improving, he knows where defenders need to be that minimizes top-quality looks along with how they should block shots.

On this Charger team, he notes the buy in from all who have chosen to return and come to Huntsville saying that, ” everybody who didn’t want to be here, left.” Of course, Carmine was added to the staff well after the roster churn over the summer, but he appreciates the hard work and the little things this group here does. For example, he notices that the entire bench cheers in equal measure for practice shot blocks as they do in the game.

He followed that with saying, “we have a group that wants to be here.. they know what it takes to be successful.”

In addition to being thankful to be back on campus with this team, Carmine was effusive in his praise for Lance West and Karlis Zirnis, in equal measure to there thoughts of him. They both provide him valuable advice and help him get better as a coach every day, just as he mentors his goalies and everyone else on this team.

In addition to all of this, Carmine is the lead administrative liaison for the staff. He runs the UAH Hockey Twitter Account, and has done a superb job in program promotion along with helping ensure the numerous off-ice tasks that need completion each day get done.

Every day Guerriero also studies the game. Breaking down video is one of his favorite parts of coaching, and he is able to analyze events in a unique manner given his background. As Charger fans have seen, having a goalie as an assistant coach has benefits in all areas of the ice beyond just the net. The increase in goals per game is a testament to that fact. Regardless of what happens next, Guerriero is as grateful for being back in Huntsville as West, Zirnis, and fans of this team are that he has returned.

Look for his influence in how the Chargers adapt to things in the second half. When defenders get out of position look at their response in the next shift, when forwards fire a shot into the crest of a goalie with time and space, look at what they do in their next shift. When a goaltender for this team kicks a rebound to a high danger area, look at the next shot they face. While all three men have a say in what happens next, Carmine’s voice is a big part of that equation. Like the Chargers on the ice, his improvement behind the bench is consistent, and he wants to get better each day.

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UAH Hockey: Four Games in, Miles Different

(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.

Goals Scored

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.

Goals Conceded

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.

Power Play

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.

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