Good opening months key to Alabama-Huntsville’s season

Chris Luongo believes the time is now for Alabama-Huntsville to get started in the right direction.

“If there is a spot on our schedule that is key, it’s between now and mid-November because we have four series at home between now and then,” Luongo said. “The second half of the year is going to be on the road at Maine, on the road at [Minnesota-]Duluth, on the road at Denver, so it’s going to be a challenging stretch.”

The Chargers are trying to get turned in a new direction after going 4-26-2 in Luongo’s first season. They opened the 2011-12 season by dropping a pair of one-goal games to Lake Superior State.

“We’re going to have to make some hay here,” Luongo said of the early part of the schedule. “That’s especially challenging with an extremely young team, but the guys are up to it and they’re extremely excited about the season.”

Alabama-Huntsville’s independent schedule includes eight teams that made the NCAA tournament a year ago.

The Chargers have nine newcomers on the roster, led by defenseman Graeme Strukoff and Ben Reinhardt and forward Kyle Lysaght. Craig Pierce, another freshman, had one of three Alabama-Huntsville goals on the opening weekend.

Jamie Easton, Mac Roy and Justin Cseter, three of the top five scorers, return from a squad that averaged fewer than two goals per game.

About the Chargers

2010-11 record: 4-26-2

Key losses: Forwards Neil Ruffini, Keenan Desmet and Chris Fairbanks; defensemen Ryan Burkholder and Matt Baxter

Players to watch: Goaltender Clarke Saunders; forwards Jamie Easton, Brice Geoffrion, Mac Roy and Justin Cseter; defensemen Curtis deBruyn and Tom Durnie

Impact rookie: Defenseman Graeme Strukoff

Why the Chargers will finish better than last year: All three goaltenders return behind a defense that features team captain Curtis deBruyn and four-year player Tom Durnie and adds promising freshmen Graeme Strukoff and Ben Reinhardt.

Why the Chargers will not finish better than last year: A team that scored fewer than two goals per game last season and managed just three in the first two games this season does not return a player who scored more than six goals a year ago.