What to watch for: UAH-LSSU

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Based on our conversation with Alabama Huntsville Hockey Head Coach Lance West, here are some things to watch this weekend as the Chargers look to compete against a very offensively skilled Laker Superior State team.

Cut the motion down

One of the biggest concepts in the Lakers’ game that West took the time to bring up was the motion at the point the Lakers play with. They do this with skilled forwards, combined with defenders like Will Riedell and Mitchell Oliver among others. The Lakers use this motion to counter teams that play through the middle so well and gum it up like Bemidji State often does. How the Chargers can break that down will go a long way in determining a winner for this series. For this to go well, look at some of the breakaways caused by the Chargers’ defense on poor lateral passes from Bemidji State, when this team is active in its own end and can shorten the zone time of its opponent, they can earn chances going the other way.

Score first

Easier said than done of course, especially against one of the best goaltenders in the country, Mareks Mitens. When the Chargers score first, they have been able to play to their system better. When this team scored first against Bowling Green on their Senior Day, for a little bit they were able to push the pace and takes some more opportunities for themselves. The Lakers have one of the better offenses in the WCHA, and know how to close down games in their own end when they score first, if West’s group can push the pace early on, they may have more of a chance if they can get the Lakers out of sorts.

Simple is best

Against Bemidji State, we saw something in person that we have seen via Flo Hockey all year, this team, at times is trying too hard not to score, but to make an extra pass when it is not always needed. The effort in this group is great, and more consistent than the group we saw last January at Ralph Engelstad Arena. That is not what this is about, but rather concentrating efforts of the group to get to the net a little simpler. As Peyton Francis has condensed his game to channel his speed more towards the net, compared to going east-west, this team is well served to do the same. This team has not beaten Mitens cleanly on any of the goals he has conceded against the Chargers all year. They need rebounds and weird bounces to go their way, and focusing on the initial shot compared to making an extra pass is one way to take on this Lake Superior State team.

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Charging to the postseason: Lance West on UAH preparing to face Lake Superior State

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Over the season, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville have built a new collective culture with a roster of 14 freshmen, and dedicated returners looking to come back and start a new chapter in the history of this program. As West said of his team’s growth each day they are ” getting more confident.” This group has to face the Lakers of Lake Superior State this weekend on the road to open the first round of the WCHA playoffs. West warns of calling any team in the postseason a “good matchup” and said of the Lakers ,”they’re the number two team in our league this year and finished ahead of a lot of really good hockey teams.”

As a team, their sweep at the hands of Bemidji State gave West and his group a final chance to see what they need to work on in the postseason against a veteran opponent. The Lakers play a similarly strong defensive game with one of the best goaltenders in the country, Mareks Mitens, backstopping them. In their own end, West noted that “we have to be better in our zone defending our zone and their motion.” The Lakers do a lot with their defenders on offense and are good at getting teams out of sort with the amount of motion they bring.

While the Chargers had more than a few opportunities this weekend, they could not score. West and the staff understand that and think the process is still paramount in its importance. For him, the focus is on not scoring in games but the constant focus is on on “continuing to have the right habits in practice.” As this team continues to build its new future this year and beyond, the staff believes goals and success will come from that.

In net, West praised the year David Fessenden has had for the Chargers. Fessenden’s ability to compete for this group means, according to West that ” “It gives your team a mentality that when he’s in there we know we have a chance.” His skill in stopping multiple shots in succession and keeping rebounds to non danger areas are two reasons why the net is his to lose in the postseason.

Finnaly, for this group development is at the forefront given that it has 14 freshmen. Part of the reason goal scoring is where the Chargers have it at is due to the consistently shifting line charts. Out of necessity to see what they have, most Chaargers have not played with their line mates for more than a few games. Despite the season, West noted that he could spend a long time talking about how all of his freshmen have grown their games. They all have grown, and players like Tyrone Bronte, Brian Scoville, Quinn Green, Conor Witherspoon, among so many skilled players in this freshman group have all stood out for what they bring to the Chargers.

Despite the tough task ahead of this group, West is still hopeful for the weekend. The puck drops on game one this Friday at 6:07 PM. If the Chargers can limit their mistakes, and streamline their game towards the net, anything is possible against a very good Lake Superior State team.

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PHOTOS: BSU 2-UAH 0

Credit to all photos belongs to Kelsey Lee of Violet Turtle Photography

Check out Kelsey’s photos of Alabama Huntsville as they took on Bemidji State yesterday. The Chargers lost 2-0, but showed they could compete with a veteran Bemidji State side. The finale takes place today at 2:07 PM.

For more of Kelsey’s work from yesterday click the link below for her full gallery.

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UAH-BSU: Three things to watch from the Chargers in the regular season finale

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Well, today is the last chance for the Chargers to earn some points before the WCHA postseason kicks off for them Friday night on the road at Lake Superior State. They did some good things yesterday in defending against an always formidable Bemidji State side, losing 2-0. Despite the good from last night, the Chargers could not solve Zach Driscoll, and only made him face 16 shots on the evening. Here are three things to watch to get an idea of how this game could go for the Chargers. Keep in mind, while the result of game does not change the first round opponent for either team next weekend, it could be the difference for the Beavers in plaiing in the NCAA Tournament or not. They are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and a loss to the Chargers would hurt them in the “eye test” portion of what the Selection committee is looking at 14 days from today when the NCAA Tournament field is unveiled. The last regular season, conference game for the Chargers against Bemidji State presents Lance West’s team with an opportunity to keep their rivals out of the NCAA Tournament.

Here are three things to watch from the Chargers in the finale today

Shot attempt generation

The Chargers, in the first and second period yesterday, had more offenive zone time than they have earned in ther past few games. They did not convert any of those chances into goals. To compound that, on the night, the team only had 29 shot attempts. Of those, only one of those shot attempts came on the power play, by Peyton Francis. It was blocked. This team has improved in their systems, and cohesion from last year to this year, and the next consistent harbinger of that improvement is in how they can convert on their offensive zone time. In addition, this team conceded 69 shot attempts on the night. While they blocked 22 of those looks, it goes to the efficiency of getting the system. When you have to block that many shots, consistently, eventually your team will tire out and be more susceptible to taking penalties and giving up goals on long shifts. Both Bemidji State goals came on long shifts and off a series of plays that made David Fessenden’s job tough.

Development matters

If we had to put together a world cloud of what any of the coaches have said to us this year, about this team, it is development. Last night saw Peyton Francis in the top six, and he played well on the wing there, and on the power play. His speed, combined with the shot and speed of Tyrone Bronte and Bauer Neudecker on the power play was the most high-end speed line that the Chargers had last night. Francis has the speed and skill to earn a top six role on this team, and his work yesterday was nice to see to give the Chargers another option to play with Neudecker and Bronte full time next year.

On the back end, despite taking a delayed penalty that lead to an extra attacker goal, Ayodele Adeniye played well for the Chargers, not with his normal partner Brian Scoville, but with Dayne Finnson. The offensive upside of Finnson, combined with the defensive skill of Adeniye had a good night for the Chargers. Over this year, Adeniye has gotten better at stepping up into the play and generating some looks. On the defensive side, his ability to clear attackers in front of the goal has been a constant for the Chargers. Like Adeniye, Scoville had a decent night playing with Lucas Bahn except for taking two minor slashing penalties back to back in the first period. His defense and ability to stay at home gives Lucas more space to create the offense he is good at generating.

Game Management

When Bemidji State came out in the third period, they played the best of their three in the final stanza. They earned their only goal in that period on a delayed penalty. The issue for the Chargers in that period was shot generation. They only had four shots on net, compared to 12 from the Beavers. Despite not getting burned for many goals in a period, as a few teams have done to this group, their ability to generate offense or suppress the other team’s is another area this staff is working on constantly, answering back when your opponent does really well. They have a chance to hurt the tournament chances of their rival, get some momentum going into the postseason, and show how far they have come as a group one more time before the postseason starts in five days. The puck drops at 2:07 PM.

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UAH-Bemidji State: What to watch

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Karlis Zirnis has seen the heights of Alabama Huntsville Hockey, and this year, as Associate Head Coach, he has been a part of some of the needed work to get this program back to those heights. Coming into the regular season finale series against a Bemidji State team that is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, he knows the importance of these games to the Chargers. This team, despite being locked into the seventh seed in the WCHA has a lot to play for. First off, they are playing to earn some points heading into the postseason where they will be a heavy underdog. After playing one of their better games this season, in a 4-2 loss on Senior Day to the Falcons of Bowling Green, the focus this week is on details. Zirnis said, “For us its just worrying about what we can do,.. we’ve just got to work and make sure we are physical.”

In addition, he noted that a lot of players have shown a lot of improvement from the first practice to now and credited his development for the growth in the team. He praised the growth of rookies Tyrone Bronte up front, and his offensive skills. On defense, he noted the consistent physical play Brian Scoville has brought to the Chargers and how he has grown into his role as a defensive defender capable of playing key minutes. Scoville’s poise has grown throughout the season, and his positioning to lay the big checks he does has constantly developed as Brian has.

For the weekend, Zirnis and the staff are focusing on developing their own game first. When it comes to facing the Beavers, look at how the Chargers can get entry into the neutral zone. Bemidji State is always one of the toughest teams to establish zone presence against, and this weekend projects to be no different. The Chargers have to play a more consistent game in terms of intention. That is, this ever developing group has to have a better sense of puck possession. Zirnis called out the positive effort of senior leader Connor Wood last weekend in leading that possession game.

Wood’s ability to hold the puck for long periods of time was the precursor to the Anton Malmstrom checking from behind major. Over long shifts, players take more penalties to compensate for their needed extra skating. That is how UAH needs to play to get a good result, focus on finding ways to possess the puck as long as possible, and realize what system the Beavers are in, then be able to defend against it, or strike against it while on offense.

This weekend, the Chargers are looking to win, of course. They are also looking to come into the WCHA playoffs on a consistent note of good hockey. They can take the Beavers closer to, or over to the wrong side of the tournament bubble if they pull off an unexpected positive result for themselves this weekend. If they can force some penalties through holding positive puck possession, and can keep things close, then the weekend could lead them into a better spot for the postseason than they are at right now.

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UAH Hockey: Positives, and lessons learned on Senior Day

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Phography

Today, the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville scored first again. Lucas Bahn walked down to the goal line and fired a puck off Bowling Green netminder Zach Rose and in to send the loud Von Braun Center crowd into a frenzy. Not long after that, Tim Theochardis scored on a turnover that left Bowling Green with a breakaway where David Fessenden had to defend against multiple shooters by himself.

After that goal, Alabama Huntsville found itself in a familiar spot. They had to answer back after having their opponent eqalize the score. They did just that as Drew Lennon put home a shorthanded tally to give the Chargers the lead that would last until the third period. Bowling Green scored two goals 54 second apart to go ahead for good, an added an empty net tally to secure the 4-2 win. Despite getting outshot, Alabama Huntsville played the Falcons much closer than they did in the opener, only getting outdone in shot attempts by 14 (50-36).

What have we learned about the Chargers today? Well, today’s effort was the best summation of what this team can do against top end talent when it plays together. Did they lose? Yes they did, on a beautiful goal from Sam Craggs, a turnover for the first goal and a power play conceded. Despite the result, there are some good things from today to remember that can serve as a guide for this group the rest of this season.

The seniors are still important

Connor Merkley, and Connor Wood both had big parts in today’s efforts for the Chargers. Merkley centered the second line, and went 12-10 on faceoffs. More than that, he provided some help on offense with the primary assist on Bahn’s goal. His physical presence in the top six is always welcome, and credit to Merkley for coming in after not playing for 23 days to put in the work he did on his line today. As for Connor Wood, well, his leadership and physicsal play lead to Alabama Huntsville getting extended power play time in the second period. Although they could not score on any of it, Wood’s determination to get to tough areas and his speed pose problems to all of his opponents. That same level of speed and truculence could land Wood a professional contract after his time at Alabama Huntsville is done. As Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis said of the seniors’ impact on the program ” They are people who care a lot about the program and giving everything they can to the program. They have been thru a lot and many ups and down and we are thankful for everything they done. ”

This staff sees the support it gets

Alabama Huntsville finished its home schedule second in the nation in perent capacity attendance behind only the University of North Dakota. As Zirnis notes ” I’m very thankful for the people come out and support us thru these hard times. It means a lot for our guys and our staff. We appreciate every person who has attended the game or supporting us via internet. I can promise you will we keep working hard to improve our hockey program and there are better days ahead of us.”

Game management

As Zirnis said ” We limited our mistakes in the game and played a lot more physical today. We had shoot first mentality and going hard to the net.” The game today was the most complete game that this group has played all year. They did everything they could to stay in the game, and limit mistakes. Bowling Green happened to bury one of them (the four-on-four goal) on rare turnover. Going forward, if this team can get one foundational building block from the Bowling Green series, how it played a team likely to make the NCAA tournament today would be one thing to take from the series moving forward.

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Lucas Bahn: Thankful and growing

Photo credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Alabama Huntsville defender, and Hendersonville, Tennessee native Lucas Bahn, and first line center Tyrone Bronte both have something in common about how they found the game of hockey. Despite living on opposite sides of the world growing up, both started off playing roller hockey. Bahn played at a rink about ten minutes from his childhood home, and grew up playing the game supported by an incredibly supportive family. Originally, Bahn was set to head to the University of New Hampshire, but he ended up coming to Alabama Huntsville.

Former Alabama Huntsville Head Coach Mike Corbett, who brought Bahn to Huntsville did a superb job of summing up what Lucas and his family bring to Alabama Huntsville.

“His mom and dad were supporters from day one, they are A1 people, Lucas wanted to be a part of our program, Lucas had the opportunity to be a part of another program and he didn’t want to.”

Further expanding on his comments about Lucas’ family, Corbett said that, “his parents are rockstars.”

To his family Lucas is thankful for all of them, saying “my family means everything to me, they’ve helped me in more ways than they could ever know.”

Lucas can do everything well for this team, and is their most consistent defender. Other than score a goal this season, Bahn has been a part of most of the key minutes that the Chargers have had in each game.

Lucas explained why he chose to stay at UAH after the reinstatement of the program this summer, saying “I decided to stay because I really enjoyed my first year.. and its close to home for me. I knew Westy (Head Coach Lance West) was coming back. I thought I would have a good opportunity to play a lot “

As his current Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis says of what Bahn brings, and his coachability that it is, “very easy to coach Lucas. Lucas is a very dynamic skater and uses his agility to his advantage. Lucas is a very smart player and takes coaching very well. Also Lucas is very good teammate with helping out anyway he can.” Bahn credits Zirnis for helping him become a better two way defender. This year, Bahn is making more cerebral plays on the defensive end, and is a part of why the Chargers have improved in playing team defense.

His stats and improvement from his first year to now show that. He already has more assists this year than last year, in 14 less games. In addition, a lot of what he brings is beyond the box score. His mentorship has helped players like Josh Martin integrate into the group faster, as the two have played well together, and both have a natural chemistry with one another on the ice. When Lucas plays with Dayne Finnson, he is the primary setup man for that pair, as Finnson’s slap shot is one of the harder ones on the team. On the power play, Lucas is the quarterback, and is a big reason behind the improvement in UAH’s power play from last year to this season.

Every game, Bahn typically wins multiple battles on effort alone, and several more due to his high hockey intelligence. Bahn is an incredibly cerebral player, and is often the reason why a goal is saved or created when he is on the ice. His mentorship of the freshmen that this team has is already paying off, with players like Josh Corrow seeing a more consistent amount of minutes as the year has progressed. As this program looks to build up from the foundation of this season, Bahn will have a role in adding to the foundation he is building this year. If offered the chance when his time comes, he would consider staying an extra year to use the extra year of eligibility offered to all winter sport student-athletes due to the pandemic-marred season that is happening. When you look at the growth of the program from game one against Robert Morris to where they are now in terms of playing more consistent each night, Bahn’s influence is a big part of that development.

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BGSU 5 UAH 0: Three Takeaways

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Tonight, the Chargers played a decent first and third period, where they made the Falcons of Bowling Green earn their looks, and played the team game the needed to. Then we focus on the second period, where at least 60 percent of it was spent with the Chargers defending in their own end. As this team has seen, time after time, giving high-octane teams multiple chances will come back to harm you, and tonight was no different. Despite a valiant effort by the Chargers, the Falcons used a four goal second stanza to put the game on ice. Here are three takeaways from this game.

Deja vu all over again

Remember when Bennett Stockdale scored the first goal against Minnesota State in the series opener? Well the Mavericks got the next four, including three in the second and won the game. Tonight, the Chargers had a few chances to score first. The best came off a good wrist shot from Frank Vitucci short handed that Eric Dop kicked away. After that, the Falcons went on to score four goals in the second, and one in the third to provide the final margin. The score was slightly different but the pattern remains. This team is facing a trial by combat nightly, and learning what they need to do in order to compete with the top talent in this game, Once they can improve game management, you will see less 4-0 or 5-1 results and more one or two goal games, like you saw from this team earlier in the year.

Trust the process

This team plays with heart. Yes that is a cliché to put it mildly, but the effort in the third period, and the fire that they came out with in the first matters. For a team with ten or more freshmen in the lineup every night, and a group that has 13 people on it who did not know they’d be on the Huntsville campus before June, they are playing with a remarkable amount of synergy. The results do not show it yet, but this is a group that fights for one another, and works hard for all of the game even when the staff gets a lot on film they don’t like, like the second period. Remember this through the final three regular season games. The story of this team is not so much the record, yes no one wants to only win three games in college hockey, but how they have grown throughout the year, and some key players that have emerged

What comes next

Sunday is senior day for this group with two seniors. Connor Woord and Connor Merkley. Credit both players for helpling this team develop, and buying in from day one to the new group’s teachings. They have not been on the ice as much this year as they could have been, but still play important roles. Connor Wood is the heart and soul of this tea, and his passion for the game is fun to see every night. Merkley’s breakaway against Ferris State was the game winner, and he has been a reliable leader for this program.

We say all of that to get to this. Sunday means a lot to this group, and this city. This town fought to save this program not for the end result of this season, but for the long term health of the game of College Hockey. To think that Lance West and this staff will not have this team ready to do everything they can to take on Bowling Green would be unwise. If the Chargers can get more quick outs like they did in the first and most of the third period, and use the speed they have, then options open up for this tean, and a chance to avoid a date with Minnesota State in the postseason becomes a little more realistic. Senior Day, and a chance to write some more history comes this Sunday afternoon at 3:07 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-Bowling Green: Three things

Photo Credit-LSSU Athletics

This week, the Chargers take on Bowling Green in a home and home series on Wednesday and Sunday. The Falcons are a team on the edge of NCAA tournament consideration that plays with as much speed as Minnesota State, but does not control possession as much as the Mavericks. This week presents two opportunities for the Chargers, a chance to grow and show what they’ve learned, and a chance to maybe spoil at-large considerations for the Falcons.

Easier said than done, as the Falcons have five times the amount of players with double digit points than the Chargers do. Brendon Kruse leads this team, and has an impressive group of forwards with him, and two starting goaltenders behind him. In addition, the Falcons have the capability to score goals in bunches and make you defend for long stretches of time.

Here are three things to watch for from the Chargers tomorrow

Scoring first is only part of it

Multiple times over the past few series, UAH has gotten on the board first. Should that happen tomorrow, they have to figure out how to manage the waves of pressure the Falcons will send upon them. If not, well, this team will have to face 50 shots or more on net a night against David Fessenden. Despite the recent history of this program, all involved in it do not want that shot counter to get anywhere near 50.

Bronte the beauty

Tyrone Bronte is the best forward on this team right now in terms of chance generation, and speed. His line, which has featured Bauer Neudecker through most of the year will have to lead things for this team to have a chance. Bronte’s pace and Neudecker’s shot are the two best offensive traits this team has, and how they leverage them will go a long way to determining the final score tomorrow night. In addition to all of this, it is rather astonishing that Bronte had no Division One offers before UAH Head Coach Lance West reached out to him in June. He has become an instant leader for this team, and should earn a spot in an NHL Development Camp this summer if he wants to attend one (if they are held).

Protect big save Dave

The biggest factor in this series, above all else is how this team protects David Fessenden, their starting goaltender. If they keep the Falcons to the outside and force a lot of blocks and low velocity muffins, as they did for the first 45 or so minutes against Lake Superior State on Friday night, then a lot of options can open up. The other part of this equation is in transition. Can this team win some more puck battles to chip pucks out. What has happened the past few weeks shows that there are still elements for growth from Lance West’s group, and no matter what happens in these next two games, know that it is all part of a much longer journey. This is a team that firmly believes that luck is made through winning the process and repetition. Their systems have improved from last year to this year, as has their record. What needs to come next is replication. Can you earn your chances when the other team has momentum. If they can earn a few more clears on one or no shot attempts, more good things will come their way.

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Bennett Stockdale: More on his path to UAH and development as a Charger

(Photo Credit: UAH Athletics)

Freshman Alabama Huntsville Hockey forward Bennett Stockdale grew up Ottawa and has been around hockey almost all of his life. As he said ” Growing up in Ottawa my whole family were huge Senators fans and had season tickets so I’d go to most of the home games with my family, I became pretty obsessed with them and hockey by the time I was three.” The Stockdales are a hockey playing family as his sister, Kathryn is playing for the University of Connecticut Women’s Hockey Team in her freshman season as well.

He has been around the game all his life, and almost had his dream of playing Division One Hockey not become a reality before Lance West reached out to him in June. During the pitch, as Stockdale said on what the pitch from the team was, ” Coach West was really excited about the players that would be coming back and the culture in the locker room. With the program returning he also talked about the security and support of the program.” The consistent pitch proved resonant with many on this team, as 12 freshmen over the summer heard versions of it, and became members of Charger Hockey in part because of it.

In his time at Alabama Huntsville, Bennett has shown flashes of the leader he became for the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League. He is, at his best, a power forward with speed, and an eye for scoring goals, all while being responsible in his own end. In his time with the Tomahawks, he played extensively against Tyrone Bronte before joining forces this year. In the top six, Stockdale is a force on the left side, and brings his power and finesse to each game. On playing against Bronte he said, ” playing against him was always fun but Its been great to play with him. He’s a really hard worker and makes it pretty easy to play with him. Playing on the same team as him has definitely allowed me to see that even more.” That hard work is very much part Stockdale’s game as well.

Another thing in Stockdale’s play that stands out is his physical play, and high hockey intelligence, which plays well with the scoring threats on either top six line he is on. That is part of his work to model his game after Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point. That same physical play also comes from playing within the structure of West’s system, another improvement to his game he noted that the coaches were a big part of, in getting him to the Division One Level.

The development has shown, and the staff has given him more time in the top six recently. For as nervous as Bennett was in not having an offer until June, he has not shown it. He has added some physical play on whatever line he is on, and knows how to drive the offense forward positively. Stockdale and the Chargers are getting ready to take on Lake Superior State tomorrow night, and Saturday night as well.

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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