Matthew Jennings: Read what he brings to the Herd at UAH

Graphic Credit: Total Package Hockey

Photo Credit: Ohio State University Athletics

Matthew Jennings is a Buford Georgia native who spent the first three years of his college hockey career at Ohio State. Through overcoming injuries, the Georgian has gotten a chance to play the game he loves as part of a hockey family. His Dad Steve taught him about hockey, and he has always been encouraged by him. Steve taught him the value of hard work on and off the ice, and has been one of his coaches through the Total Package Hockey program. Jennings praised the honesty of his dad, and his ability to keep things on the level with him. That same honesty and ability to build relationships is something Jennings has taken into his hockey career.

Jennings is a consistent two way center who has a battle level that made his game ideal for what the Chargers Coaching staff is looking for. While he has battled injuries in his time at Ohio State, his resume with the Buckeyes and the Green Bay Gamblers speak to the type of player he is. He is a hard nosed, two way forward that prides himself on outworking the opponent at all times. In a way, parts of his game are similar to one of his friends, and the other Buford native to play hockey for the Chargers, Connor Wood who is good friends with Jennings. Of the school and the hockey program, according to Jennings, Wood told him ” nothing but positives.”

On what the coaching staff told him, he said that the staff said that there was ” nothing guaranteed”, and that he will have to earn every second of ice time. That does not at all phase Jennings, and he praised the staff at large personally, saying ” I like them both as people.” For the type of culture all three coaches have talked about building, adding a player with the mentality of Jennings, and one with solid two way potential, is an ideal add for a team looking for more depth at its center position.

With Jennings’ family now living two hours away from Huntsville, they will get to see him play in a lot of games. While his entire family is happy that Jennings is a lot closer to home, Jennings singled out the excitement of one of his family members. As he said ” my mom is pumped.”

When his hockey career comes to an end, Jennings wants to be a financial planner. He belives it combines the best of what he likes most, relationship building and numbers. As he said, “I Really like Math…. also you get to have personal connections with people.. its not all crunching numbers.”

As for his time asa Buckeye, Jennings is nothing but thankful for the relationships he has built with his former teammates. Multiple times when talking about the game and what he cherishes most about it, the ability to form lasting bonds with his team, no matter at what level of the game he has played it at, means the most to him. As a Charger, he now has the ability to forge new relationships, and provide another example to a young group working to improve on its past season, and learn from how they arrived at its conclusion.

Growing up, playing for the TPH program Jennings would get to come to the Von Braun Center at least once a season. He saw what Charger Hockey meant, and was part of the superb atmosphere that its fans bring to games every night. Now, he will be one of the players that those same youth hockey players in attendance get to look up to, playing closer to his family. While nothing is guaranteed for where the forward will play this season or how much, his path to rehab after his injury at Ohio State, combined with his tenacious effort on and off the ice to improve, it is clear that Jennings is ready to help lead the Herd to greater heights this season. On getting to come back and play as a Charger, after growing up getting his love for the game of college hockey at UAH games, Jennings aptly said ” Its kind of funny how the universe works.”

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UAH Hockey: One game season time-some thoughts

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

Think back in this game for a minute. On a five-on-three power play, against a very good Lake Superior State team, trailing 2-0, Lucas Bahn walked in and got around Yuki Miura and beat Mareks Mitens (LSSU netminder) clean. The game, for a brief moment was 2-1, but the Chargers looked ready to make a comeback. Then six seconds later, Pete Veillette got a turnover shorthanded and had all day to beat David Fessenden to regain the two goal lead for the Lakers who would go on to win 6-1 on the night. Now the Chargers will play in nothing but one game seasons the rest of the way. Should they win tomorrow, they get another one game season on Sunday, and so on. Here are some takeaways from tonight’s game.

Lucas Bahn is a leader on this team

It is hard to believe he is only a sophomore on this group. He plays like a senior pretty much every night. His power play goal was the highlight of the night for the Chargers, and the defender he deked, Yuki Miura, is one of the best penalty-killing forwards in the WCHA. His goal stands as the only marker that has beaten Mareks Mitens clean from the Chargers all season. As Head Coach Lance West said of his play ” Lucas has been great all year. He is our anchor back there and quietly goes about his job with a workman like attitude. I love the kid and how he approaches working.” Associate Head Coach Karlis Zirnis added ” Lucas has been playing great hockey for us. He is a very smart player and we depend on him a lot on both ends of the ice.”

Hit the net more

If we told you that despite the score, the Chargers actually played about as well as they did against Bemidji State in terms of finding chances, well, the metrics provide us some back up. They got 30 shot attempts, but in similar percentages to last weekend, their opponent only had to face 13 of them. The Lakers only had 50 shot attempts, but six of them found their way into the UAH net. The Chargers, once again, generated plenty of chances, but need to figure out other ways to hit the net. When your opponent only has five blocked shots on 30 attempts, and you only put 13 on net, well the math equates to many shots missing. Some were closer than others, but that is probably the most quantifiable aspect of tonight that the staff and players would like to correct tomorrow.

Delete the past

Every game from now on for this group is a chance to play another one. Tonight was the last time this team can lose and have another game to play. The effort from the group was there. The focus is now all on tomorrow, and trying to extend the series. As Zirnis said of tomorrow about his group, ” come out and compete and believe that you can play against anybody.” Game two happens tomorrow at 4:07 PM (central time).

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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.

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

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

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

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

On what UAH learned from the weekend series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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