Cam Talbot on UAH Hockey: Past, present and future

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-Minnesota Wild

Cam Talbot became a goaltender for a very practical reason. He started playing the position, and the game of hockey at the age of seven, and gravitated to the net in part because of the fast skaters around him. Talbot had a three year gap to make up for compared to some of his Caledonia, Ontario friends growing up with skating, and mentioned that it was tough for him to keep up with the skaters around them. What has not changed since he found the game a bit later than some of his friends is his passion for the game. He played his junior hockey for the same organization that has produced Zach Hyman, Marty McSorley, and many more great players. The Hamilton Red Wings, which later became the Markham Royals have a proud junior hockey history in Canada, of which Talbot is a big part.

Cam Talbot is probably one of the most famous alumni of Alabama Huntsville Chargers program. He has played at multiple levels of professional hockey, starting his NHL career as a backup to Henrik Lundquist with the New York Ranger, before making trips to the Edmonton Oilers, then the Calgary Flames, and now the Minnesota Wild. The story of Talbot’s ascent to the NHL is one of hard work and determination, and a textbook example Head Coach Lance West and his staff have to hold up to his current players as an alumnae who put in the hard work when given a chance, and earned every minute of ice he took.

Talbot’s story of getting to Alabama Huntsville came a bit by luck, as he said ” It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. They had goalie decommit in June of 2006 and they had a full scholarship available, I had to redo some credits had to wait another year. I didn’t know UAH had a hockey team when I started looking. Everyone that has gone there has a special place in their heart for UAH.” That spur of the moment choice, combined with the work of Talbot has set him on a journey to being one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL in the past few seasons.

Of his time at Alabama Huntsville, Talbot has a lot of good memories in the three seasons he spent there. Top among all of them is winning the CHA Conference Tournament over Niagara, 3-2 in overtime to send his team to their first NCAA tournament appearance.

Talbot is on the Advisory Board, and after the season just completed was assured to be played, he focused on preparing for his season, where he is leading a resurgent Minnesota Wild group back to the Stanley Cup playoffs with his consistent play in net. He hopes to be active in helping the board provide recommendations to chart the future trail of UAH Hockey upon his season with the Wild ending this spring. As for what Talbot wants to see get added on to the program in future years, he states his thoughts in a practical manner, saying he wants to be a part of the group that helps get a ” state of the art dressing and weight room. WOW them with a dressing room and weight room on fly ins and visits. Have all the tools needed. This is what I would want as a player.”

Talbot also took the time to discuss the improvement in Lance West’s group, showing its readily apparent progress. He said, “you can tell that the team turned a corner, games where closer, won some big games. I am impressed with West, that team he assembled was very competitive, the schools commitment to them was outstanding to see. ”

As for having the Chargers in the game of Division one College Hockey, Talbot provided a litany of reasons, saying ” I think it just helps to grow the game in the south. You have people on the board, you have tons of youth hockey because of Huntsville and to grow the game of hockey. It allows for 25-27 kids to have the chance to play. If nothing else they get to work towards a degree while playing the game they love.”

He went on to discuss more about the great city of Huntsville in relation to hockey. ” I wish people knew how passionate the fans are, the alumni, and community all are for UAH Hockey. You wouldn’t think that it would be there. Having an on campus arena, to pack it full of students and have a lot more bigger schools travel here to allow people to see how passionate people here are are would also mean the world to the program going forward.”

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

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

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.

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

Your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

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: your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

Friday Night Tie Against Lakers Pulls and Binds UAH Together: Now What

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The University of Alabama Huntsville Chargers (UAH) have improved from their campaign last season, already. Now, they have not won a game yet, but the first three games of this team have shown progression and an ability to fight back that we have not seen at this scale since we started covering them. The Chargers coming back from a two goal deficit to earn their first point of the season is a big step. How they played against the Lake Superior State Lakers today shows there is more to come.

Let’s run through the game first. A Yuki Miura shot leading to a Miroslav Mucha tap in put the Lakers up 1-0 in the first period. 20 seconds after that marker, Chase Gamelin wired home a superb shot from around the top of the right circle past UAH netminder David Fessenden to make it a 2-0 Laker lead in the first. The Lakers were the better team in the first, and even through that, the Chargers began to show their system a bit more than in their Friday night affair with a physical Robert Morris squad from a few weeks ago.

In the second, the period was the Chargers’ to utilize, and make good use of it they did. Adrian Danchenko put home a rebound for his first goal of the season 4:30 into the second to make it a one goal marker. The sophomore forward did not score his first goal as a freshman until his ninth game of the year last season, and already has equaled his goal total from a year ago. Away from the puck, Danchenko played with a strong physical consistency that helped his line push things to the good. 1:09 after the first goal, the reigning WCHA, and Hockey Commissioners’ Association’s Rookie of the Month, Tyrone Bronte found his way to the front of the net on the power play. He tapped home a rebound with traffic around him to tie the game and provide the final 2-2 margin.

On this goal the Melbourne, Australia native went from the North American Hockey League to being the top line center for the Chargers to start the season and has not looked out of place. His line faced off against Miura’s line all night and was up to the task for matching their speed and grit. The Lakers won what hopes to be a meaningless shootout. Multiple reports indicate that should future WCHA games be canceled, the shootouts done in non conference play would then count for standings, so the shootout will hopefully not mean much.

What does this mean now?

Well, the ten minute stretch in the second where the Chargers were running things was the best singular stretch of hockey this team has played in a while. They were able to overcome a less than ideal start and exert their will a bit on the game. This game also showed the value of David Fessenden. Several times in the first and third, he was there when needed and read second chance looks well. He showed the same skill in making 25 saves as many Charger goalies have had to show making 40 or more in a game. That means fundamentally, we see a future for Fessenden, and a better one when this team plays their aggressive system around him and limits good looks.

In addition, Bronte and this freshmen class make this team eons faster than what left the ice in Huntsville last February. Bronte often times against the teams Huntsville needs to beat to ensure a postseason place if one is played will be the fastest player on the ice. His ability to get to the net and distribute is something that will only grow over time, especially as a graduate of the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Knights program, one known for developing skill and speed driven players ready to work towards their NHL dream in college hockey.

Another thing to keep in mind for this team in the short run is finishing this week strong. This Lakers team will finish higher than their picked station because of their system, structure, and goaltending. We have covered their goaltender Mareks Mitens since 2016 and have not seen a more unheralded goalie do so much for his team as he did a year ago. He set records on his way to nearly willing his team past a Bemidji State side capable of competing for a national championship. In addition, every year we have seen the Lakers, their speed gets better to compliment their physical defense.

The Chargers have all of those elements in place, and need to come out of the gate a bit better in their last two non conference games against the Lakers and Bulldogs of Ferris State to showcase what the Rocket City has been waiting awhile to see. This team has already done some to delete the past, and setting the tone of more of their games rather than answering it needs to be next on their to-do list.

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, 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: your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

UAH Hockey: 17 Million Reasons to be Happy-Players Take Notice

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

This week, major news regarding the future of Alabama Huntsville’s only Division One offering, Men’s Hockey was announced. It involved getting a fund for this program of 17 million over the next decade to give this team a sound institutional commitment to not only funding the program, but funding it at a level that will allow the Chargers to fight at the highest echelons of the Division One level. That means 1.7 million dollars per year is the base level of support this team will have, a marked increase from previous seasons.

Why does this matter?

Well, for years this program has had to make due with less. Now, with the advisory group formed, lead by alums Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikitis, things are changing. They helped marshal the initial investment needed to get this team on the ice for this year, and are now working to get them a long-term conference home. The two conferences most realistic for UAH to apply to join are Atlantic Hockey, and the CCHA. Both of these conferences require that foundation of institutional backing, which the board has helped secure. The next step for the board and team is to get a new home beyond this year.

Now, what does this donation mean to some of the players on the roster?

Well, as one would expect, quite a lot, but we will let two skaters tell their tales. Keep in mind, these players could have left during the period where the aforementioned alums and those in the hockey world were raising money to reinstate it, but they did not. The Chargers drop the puck one week from today against Robert Morris.

First, we bring you the thoughts of Peyton Francis, a sophomore center who plays a fast, two way game, and hopes to add a lot more to the scoring ledger in his second season in the Rocket City. We reached out to these players and both responded on the day of this momentous announcement, November 11.

Peyton says:

“The news today is phenomenal. It is awesome to know that people are as committed to us and the UAH program as we are to the team and university. It is great to know that we have so much support in growing the game of hockey in south. We have been working hard to lead the program in a new direction and the fact that the staff, alumni and hockey community is working along with us adds that much more fuel to our fire. The team is extremely excited for the season to get started and we look forward to paving the way for the upcoming generation of UAH hockey!”

Next is one of the juniors tasked to help lead this team, Tyr Thompson. He is a pass-first, defense oriented forward that, like Peyton, wants to see his production grow. Tyr plays a truculent game and routinely outworks players on many situations per each event.

Tyr said

“The very generous financial commitment by our alumni and the following commitment by the university is exciting news. Knowing we have people supporting us behind the scenes is going to make me and my teammates put our best foot forward every day. We want this team to be elite for years to come and now we have the framework in place to do that. Being the only Division I team in the southeast we’ve been given a great opportunity to keep growing the greatest game in the world in a non-traditional market. Now it’s up to the guys in the locker room to build on the ice and I can’t wait to tackle this challenge head 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, 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: your donation will help expand what content we can offer and how many stories we can tell.

WCHA Preview 2020-2021

Oliver Francies, Kelsey Sagvold

Photo Credits: Kelsey Sagvold-Violet Turtle Photography

Unlike the NCHC, you will not find as many drafted players here. The WCHA is heading into its final year in its current form before all schools not from Alaska or Alabama resurrect the CCHA with new Division One School, St. Thomas, joining the fray next season. With that said, this league, this year will be fun to watch. It presents a more defensive style across the board, save one or two teams, and gives a lot of undrafted free agents a chance to make a name for themselves. Nonconference play starts on November 20. Most teams will simply play some conference-mates for an extra few games that do not count towards their conference record. With all of this said, we have our predicted order of finish with some players to keep an eye on for each team as we move forward this year.

  1. Minnesota State Mankato

The Mavericks last season achieved a rare feat They were one of only three teams to defeat a Fighting Hawks’ squad stocked with NHL ready talent and did so with the best team in this conference. Like many teams in this conference, they play defense well, but unlike teams further down these rankings, they have scoring up front that should have them competing for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament whenever this season starts. Dryden McKay is a stalwart netminder that will lead them from the back end, and up front, players like Julian Napravnik look to continue the strong offensive game that alum Marc Michaelis (Vancouver) brought to bear.


For this team, it has to be Dryden McKay. The reigning WCHA Goaltender of the Year plays bigger than his 5’ 11” frame. His lateral movement and calm positioning make him tough to beat when the squad in front of him is rolling, as they often are. Look for him to get some NHL offers after this season, especially if the Mavericks reach their goal.

Top Drafted Prospect

For a team with this pedigree to have only one drafted prospect speaks to both the market inefficiencies of the NHL draft overlooking players that may need more time to develop, and the strong development pedigree of Head Coach Mike Hastings and his staff. Anyway, the only drafted prospect on this team is Winnipeg Jets’ prospect Nathan Smith. The 6’0” forward had one of his best weekends against the Fighting Hawks, adding four points on the weekend where his team did not lose (tie, win). For Smith to take the next step, he will have to help replace the contribution of Michaelis. He finished his rookie season with 27 points (9G,18A) to his credit, and often sets up as a past first player who can win draws when needed (finished last season with only 52 shots on net).

2. Bemidji State

Zach Driscoll is back in net for the Beavers, if not for McKay slightly overshadowing him, Driscoll would be the best goalie in this league. Like many teams in this league, when they score first they are hard to beat. When they come from behind life gets a bit more tough for them. Head Coach Tom Serratore has a veteran group with only six freshman coming in. This large group of upper classman will be asked to lead the way for the only complete team that can challenge the Mavericks. Defensively, the Beavers play a more trap-style game through the neutral zone and focus on quality shots to win most off their games. This team does not need to dominate possession to win, just frustrate the skilled players they are facing through the neutral zone.


Zach Driscoll in net should get some looks at the next level. He plays a relatively calm game and benefits from playing behind a structurally sound defense. Tom Serratore’s system has elevated Driscoll to one of the better netminders in the nation, this year Driscoll will have one more chance to show why he deserves a look at the next level. If Bemidji State goes far on their relatively low amount of goals scored per game, he will have a contract from an NHL team next spring with a team needing a strong third goalie who can step up if needed.

No drafted prospects

3. Michigan Tech

Pictured is transfer goalie, Mark Sinclair who should contend for the starting job with Michigan Tech

The team with one of the best cheering sections in the country, Mitch’s Misfits, should have a lot to cheer about this year. Alabama Huntsville netminder Mark Sinclair transferred to Houghton after the Chargers faced an uncertain fate. Thankfully the program was saved this year and Sinclair should be the starter for a Huskies team that likes to play a bit faster than some of its competitors in this league, but still employs the same annoying defensive structure to earn looks.


Mark Sinclair, from our time covering multiple Huntsville games last year, like many Huntsville goalies before him, had to face high shot volumes nearly every single night. He shined in the Chargers’ series loss to the Fighting Hawks with his athleticism and ability to remain calm despite facing 74 shots in two games. Sinclair’s ability to stay calm and fight off rebounds should serve him well on a Michigan Tech side that projects to do a little bit better at shot suppression than his former side. For a pro potential projection, he plays a similar style to former Charger, Cam Talbot, calm and steady in net with the ability to perform the high-wire save as needed

Top Drafted Prospect

Carson Bantle (Arizona) taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft is the only drafted prospect on this team. In two years for the Madison Capitals in the USHL, Bantle put up 69 points in 111 games. He is a quick forward with a 6’4” frame and an ability to create his own offense on a dime. That said, how Bantle is used by Head Coach, Joe Shawhan, should be interesting to keep an eye on. In those same two years he was -34. While plus minus is not the holy grail for a forward, we expect Bantle to get a little bit better in his own end playing in Tech’s system.

4. Bowling Green

The Falcons play a style of hockey similar to the Mavericks, lacking some of the Mavericks’ shot suppressing skill in their own end. That said, this team is always interesting to watch. Every year the Falcons utilize arguably a faster lineup than the Mavericks, and do well, yet, recently every year seem to come short of their ultimate goal. Senior Eric Dop will lead the way for this team in net. The senior netminder will start the majority of games for a Falcons squad looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament.


Eric Dop will determine how far this team goes. The 5’10” netminder came onto the scene strong in his junior season last year. In his first year of full time starting work he went 19-11-3 with a .902 save percentage in his first full year of starting. While those stats could be built on, Dop looks to build on his game. His athleticism is his biggest strength, and having time to develop the mental side of his game for two full years before taking the net should help him out this season. If Dop can improve on his 2019-2020 campaign he could get a look from a team willing to take a chance on a developing goalie. As Dop’s season went on, he grew into the role, and we expect a further progression this season.

Top Drafted Prospect

Brandon Kruse (Vegas) is the player to watch for this team. A senior leader who has put up 108 points in 120 games for the Falcons, Kruse will play a lot of the big minutes for a group looking to get to the next level once again. Kruse is a 5’9” winger who plays in all situations for his head coach, Ty Egner. If Kruse keeps his pace up, either the Golden Knights will sign him, or he will start in the top six in the AHL next season.

5. Lake Superior State

Pictured is Mareks Mitens, senior netminder for the Lakers

The Lakers are a speedy team. Up front they will need to replace the scoring contributions of graduated forward Max Humitz and a big senior class that left the Upper Peninsula. The Lakers are a Jekyll and Hyde squad. When this team is rolling, they are able to minimize high danger chances and clear pucks to their fast forwards to maximize high danger looks. When it is not, well, the other team can and often takes up residence in the Lakers’ own end. For evidence of how up and down this team can be, watch the returning players’ play in their first round loss to Bemidji State. When this team can score first, as they did in their Saturday win, their speed builds and makes it hard for a lot of the defense-first teams in this league  to adjust. In their Friday and Sunday loses, they got scored on first and had to catch up. It is a cliché to say that scoring first in hockey makes life easier, but this team under coach Damon Whitten is emblematic of that.


Mareks Mitens, Yuki Miura

These two have developed every year and in Mitens’ case has had some looks at the next level with two stints in development camps (Islanders,Blackhawks). Miura has gone from a healthy scratch to a defensive stalwart for the Lakers and has some of the best speed and skating ability in the WCHA. Miura has blossomed into a key contributor in all phases for this team, and should get a look at least in the ECHL, if not the AHL next season. Both can get to the next level with some time in the minors and both are going to be leaders for this team this season. If Miura can add a few more goals to his tally, especially first goals, than Mitens’ job will be easier.  For Mitens, if he has to see a few less pucks this year, we expect scouts to take note of his skill moving side to side and stopping more of them. Its’ easier to scout a goalie when they face an average amount of shots per game, compared to the wildly inflated shot totals Mitens has faced in his time with the Lakers so far.

Top drafted prospect

Arvid Henrikson (Montreal)

The Habs’ draft pick has some more work to do on the back end. He will be called on to play a bigger role for the team this year as he will play an important role in the needed shot suppression this team needs to have in order to rise above their station. The 6’5” defender also needs to increase his two points In 37 games to get a look from any NHL squad in any form. Henrikson has to chip in some offense to compliment the physically brusing game he brings in his own end.

6. Northern Michigan

The Wildcats have a lot of unknowns coming into this season. A team that finished third in this conference last year, lead by a lot of senior leaders, has to find replacements for them, and fast. This team has only three seniors, and one of them, Joseph Nardi, has been with the program for four years. The other two are transfers looking for new homes after coming from different schools. Can the Wildcats finish in the top half of this league again? Sure, but they have a lot of leadership to replace to do so.


If the Wildcats want to do anything of note this year, Griffin Loughran has to continue his success up front for this team. He is a 5’7” forward who plays with a bit of snarl to his game to compliment his offensive skill. In two years, he has 53 points in 72 games played, a respectable number for the West Seneca, New York Native. If he wants to make it to the NHL, he needs to chanel his snarl more productively, as in those same 72 games, he has 163 penalty minutes, which works out to him spending at least four minutes in the box on average for most of those games. A team in need of leaders, cannot have one of them frequenting the penalty box. If Loughran can hem that PIM number in a bit, the Wildcats will get more out of one of their key players.

No drafted prospect

7. Alaska Fairbanks  

The Nanooks have an interesting team to watch this year, if you can stay up late enough to see their games. Mitens’ platoon mate at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championships, Gustavs Grigals is a good goalie in his own rite and the Nanooks seem to have a way with developing players over the years to reach the next level, as Colton Parayko and his development path would indicate. While the Nanooks need to find a new conference situation after this season, this year could set up quite well for them if Grigals can handle the net, and if we see development in the large junior class that they have.


Grigals needs to take the next step and own the net, similar to what Mitens did for the Lakers in his first year of starting, for the Nanooks to have a chance to succeed. While we expect Mads Emil Gransoe, to get some work this year, the net is Grigals’ to lose heading into this campaign. Grigals is a 6’2” goalie with a flexibility in his game similar to Mitens. Grigals frame allows him to play a more conservative style than some of his peers in this conference, but Grigals confidence in net regardless of score is a big asset. Assuming there are development camps next summer, he will get a chance to show his stuff to a few NHL teams this next summer if he can command the net this season.

No drafted prospect

8. Alabama Huntsville

Pictured is Lucas Bahn, sophomore defender for the Chargers

Like their Alaska breatheren, the Chargers need to find a new conference after this season. With that said, the Chargers have had themselves an offseason with a lot more activity than one would normally want. First, right before Memorial Day, their program was discontinued, before being allowed to raise over 700,000 dollars to reinstate it for this year as they look to find a new conference. In all of this, only one of the original recruits from the class now departed head coach Mike Corbett signed stayed with the program (Ayo Adinye), and new head coach and program alum, Lance West had to sign a vast recruiting class pretty quickly. This team also lost its starting goalie, and a few of its top players to other programs as well. With all of that being said all of those players that West has brought in, combined with returners, have some promise to establish Charger Hockey this fall.

Top UDFA to watch

Connor Wood is a senior leader for this team who will need to step up to provide a bit more offense than he as in previous years. He is defensively the best forward the Chargers have coming into this season and needs to improve offensively. That being said, we expect him to earn a minor league deal to try and work his way up the ladder.

9. Ferris State

The Bulldogs are a young team, like the Chargers, and like Alabama Huntsville, have a lot of questions to answer coming into this season. Roni Salmenkangas leads this team in net, and will have to face a lot of high shot games to have a chance to get the Bulldogs into the postseason.


Salmenkangas is another good goalie in this league, and could set himself up to earn a development camp look this upcoming summer. While looking at his stats from the past year, keep in mind that like Sinclair and others, he had to face high volume games with regularity and did not have much help in his own end. His style and frame, combined with his high hockey sense make him a developmental prospect to watch if he can help the Bulldogs rise up the standings this year.

No drafted prospect

10. Alaska Anchorage

The Seawolves are currently trying to save their program beyond this season, and facing a similar lack of funding issue that the Chargers did. With that said, the Seawolves finished last in the conference last season, and will have some work to do.


Joe Sofo will be a key piece for this team. Like Wood with Alabama-Huntsville, Sofo is a defensively sound forward and a senior leader. If the Seawolves want to move up the standings, he will have to chip in more offense than he has in previous seasons for that to have a chance.

No Drafted prospect

Words from Conor Witherspoon: UAH Hockey building for the future

The Chargers of Alabama Huntsville have had an eventful past month. Their program was cut and then subsequently given four days to raise 750 thousand dollars to keep it going for a year while looking for a new conference home following the 2020-2021 season. After raising well in advance of the needed sum, the Chargers are now lead by acting Head Coach Lance West. He has scoured the continent for more players to fill the gaps caused by multiple transfers and some recruits choosing to go elsewhere when the program was cut before being reinstated one week later. The team and its newly formed Advisory Board are laying down building blocks for a strong pitch to multiple conferences to find a permanent home following the 2020-2021 season.

That leads us to Conor Witherspoon, the Michigan native has had a wonderful junior hockey career culminating in two years being a key piece of the Shreveport Mudbugs in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The playmaking forward finished his last season in the NAHL with 30 assists and five goals in 52 games.

Witherspoon is a 5’11” defensively sound forward from Metamora, Michigan. One thing to keep an eye on with his development is his propensity to be a leader. In his last two years playing for his Flint Powers Catholic High School side he was an alternate captain, and in his final year with the Mudbugs he earned the honor as well. For the Chargers and West to add to the long-term legacy of UAH Hockey and ensure its success in Division One Men’s College Hockey, he needs a program of leaders to build around. Witherspoon and many in this recruiting class fit that mold.

As to what he wants to study at UAH, Witherspoon is leaning towards a business program of study at UAH, but is not sure what he wants to major in just yet.

Below is some more from Witherspoon on why he chose UAH, and more: