Location: Von Braun Center, Huntsville, Alabama
Friday, October 9 – 7:07 PM
Saturday, October 10 – 7:07 PM
Broadcast: WCHA.TV (PPV)
The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers open their campaign this weekend with a two-game series on Friday and Saturday versus the Connecticut Huskies.
The Chargers hold an 8-2 all-time record in the ten games between the two in a series that dates back to December 9, 1988. The last time the two teams faced off was on November 27, 2010, with the Chargers defeating the Huskies 6-2 in the consolation game of the RPI Holiday Tournament in Troy, New York.
The Huskies roll into Huntsville coming off of a 10-19-7 season in which they ranked near UAH in virtually every scoring category, finishing slightly ahead of the Chargers in goals per game, goals allowed per game and penalty kill percentage, while finishing slightly behind on penalty kill percentage.
UConn changed conferences last season, moving to Hockey East from the Atlantic Hockey conference.
These two teams are very similar. Both are coached by third year coaches who finally have a decent amount of their own recruits on board and players who have spent enough time with their new coaches to understand their style. Both teams expect this season to be an upswing and the offseason recruiting has lent credence to that story. A win for either team in either of these games should be a very respectable one, while a loss will not be a season-definer.
Alabama-Huntsville Key Players:
Carmine Guerriero, G, Junior
Carmine Guerriero may be the most underrated goaltender in the WCHA if not all of college hockey.Coming off of a horrendous 1-17-0 freshman year with the Chargers, Guerriero’s sophomore record of 8-18-3 was not exactly shiny on paper. In fact, his 9-35-3 record for his career so far would be simply disappointing on the surface. However, when one digs just a little deeper, they discover that Guerriero’s .928 sophomore save percentage ranked him 14th among 79 eligible NCAA goaltenders. The 1,032 shots he faced were 15thin the NCAA, but he only played the 28th most minutes, meaning that he faced the second most shots per game of any goalie in the NCAA. Ignoring all of the season statistics, Guerriero in a nutshell was on display at the WCHA tournament, making a WCHA-record 77 saves before letting in the winning goal at 118:49 in a triple-overtime loss to Michigan Tech. Less than 24 hours later, Guerriero was back on the ice for the second game of the series. This weekend will be his first time on the ice for the Chargers since that weekend, so it will be interesting to see if this begins the Carmine Guerriero coming-out party.
Jetlan Houcher, F, Paradise Valley, Alberta
Possibly the most exciting player in UAH’s 2015 recruiting class, Houcher was drafted in the third round of the 2009 WHL Draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Houcher spent the last two and a half seasons with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL. Last season, Houcher was a finalist for the AJHL MVP while leading the league in goals (39) and finishing third in points scored (71). With the Oil Barons where he scored a total of 167 points (87 – 80) in 163 games. Houcher actually received one vote in the preseason media poll for WCHA Rookie of the Year…from Penalty Box Radio’s Justin Bradford.
Max McHugh, F, Sophomore
As a freshman, McHugh provided an immediate boost to a Chargers offense that had been the NCAA’s worst over the prior two seasons. With a team-leading 23 points (12 – 11), McHugh was the WCHA’s fourth-highest scoring freshman and the NCAA’s 19th highest scoring freshman on his way to WCHA All-Rookie Team honors. His .218 goal per shot on goal ratio ranked 8th overall in the NCAA. In his freshman season, he became UAH’s first double-digit goal scorer since 2008-09 and scored more points than any other UAH player had in any season since 2006-07. McHugh cannot afford to have a sophomore slump, as he will be expected to carry a large portion of the scoring load for the Chargers this season.
Connecticut Key Players:
Max Letunov, F, Freshman
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2014, Letunov’s rights were traded to Arizona during at the 2015 NHL trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Letunov was committed to play at Boston until admissions complications came into play. Thus, the Russian forward decommitted and came to UConn. A highly touted prospect who was also drafted in the first round of the 2013 KHL Draft by Salavat Yulaev Ufa and the 2014 CHL Import Draft by the Swift Current Broncos, Letunov should make a very big, immediate impact for the Huskies.
Rob Nichols, G, Junior
During his sophomore season, despite a record of 9-19-7, Nichols posted a fairly respectable .918 save percentage. In addition, his seven ties were the NCAA high last season. It was a drop-off from a freshman season in which Nichols finished 8-2-2 with a 1.91 GAA and .939 save percentage. In 48 collegiate games, Nichols has registered six shutouts, meaning that once every eight games on average he shuts out his opponent.
Shawn Pauly, F, Senior
The leading scorer for the Huskies last season will be making his senior debut. In each of his three collegiate seasons, he has scored at least 20 points. A consistent player, Pauly will be auditioning this season for a role on a higher level once his college career winds to a close. Thus, he’ll be looking for a big start on the final opening weekend of his Connecticut career.