Year two of the Alabama-Huntsville reclamation project is underway, and coach Mike Corbett is excited with where his program is going. Despite a 2-35-1 campaign in 2013-14 — their first in the WCHA — there’s some hope for the Chargers.
“Last year at certain times it was a tough season as far as wins and losses,” Corbett said. “For us, everything started this past spring with our group. We’re building our program, no doubt about that.”
The Chargers had 11 freshmen on last season’s roster, and many of them are returning a year older and a year more experienced.
“We all know the success of our team is going to be our juniors becoming seniors, sophomores becoming juniors and everybody moving up one year. We have some experience in the WCHA,” he said. “The biggest lesson they’ve learned is what it takes night in and night out to compete in this league.”
To win more games this year, the Chargers will need to win some low-scoring games as their young team — they have eight sophomores and 10 newcomers — finds its scoring touch. Luckily for them, UAH returns a pair of capable sophomore goaltenders in Matt Larose and Carmine Guerriero.
“Those guys kept us in a lot of games where it could have been some even bigger scores at times, and they were very instrumental in the two wins we did have,” Corbett said. “We’re excited about those guys. There’s no better place to start to build a program than in net. They will continue to battle for No. 1, but we really believe we have a 1a and a 1b.”
As for scoring, the Chargers return four of their top six scorers and will rely on juniors Jack Prince (the leading scorer last year with 13 points), Chad Brears and Frank Misuraca and sophomore Matt Salhany.
But Corbett said he expects to use all eight freshman, too. Look for Max McHugh and Huntsville native Josh Kestner to contribute early on.
“We’ve brought in some guys to help us compete better in the WCHA and help us win some games,” Corbett said. “We’re gonna throw some of those guys into the fire right off the bat. I think we’re going to compete a lot better this year.”
About the Chargers
2013-14 record: 2-35-1
2013-14 conference record: 2-25-1 (10th)
2014-15 predicted finish (coaches poll): 10th
Key losses: F Alex Allan, D Steven Koshey
Key returnees: G Carmine Guerriero, G Matt Larose, F Jack Prince, F Matt Salhany, F Chad Brears
Impact rookie: Corbett said Huntsville native Josh Kestner drew comparisons to another Huntsville native playing Division I hockey: former St. Cloud State forward Nic Dowd. “We’re hoping he can become somewhat of the player Nicky Dowd has became in college,” Corbett said of the 6-foot freshman. Kestner scored 19 goals with 24 assists in 44 regular season games in 2012-13 for Sarnia of the Greater Ontario Hockey League.
Why the Chargers will finish higher than predicted in the coaches poll: UAH was a unanimous choice by both coaches and the media to finish last in the league. But it’s almost inconceivable that the Chargers won’t be a better team this season. They earned just five total points in the conference last year, winning two games and tying another. But this season, with more experience and a pair of solid goaltenders in Carmine Guerriero and Matt Larose, it would be hard to imagine the Chargers not stealing some wins. They may not be competing for the MacNaughton Cup just yet, but expect the Chargers to stay somewhat competitive with the bottom tier of the league.
Why the Chargers will finish as predicted in the coaches poll: Someone has to finish last, and if the Chargers play anything like they did last season, it will be them. However, it’s hard to imagine that will be the case. Even if they do finish last again, look for a much-improved team in Huntsville.