The theme coming from University of Alabama in Huntsville head coach Mike Corbett has been “turning the corner” when it comes to the program for this upcoming season. The Chargers have been on the brink for a couple seasons now, but this one could be the year that they see real success. Corbett has recruited players that have put up good offensive numbers in their junior careers, and Max McHugh is one of them.
McHugh has had a successful first two years at UAH. In his freshman year, he played in all 38 games and scored the most goals for the team at 12. Last year, he played in all 34 games and led the team in goals and points. On top of that, McHugh was also a Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Scholar Athlete last year. Basically, this guy can play the game and balance academics at the same time. Because of this, it’s easy to see why McHugh is becoming a leader on his team not only due to production, but also mindset.
“Coach talks about turning the corner, which is exactly what we’re doing,” said McHugh. “Our outlook this year is to turn the corner and not look back. Just continue to move up the ladder. The way the guys have been training and the mindset of the guys is just different than it has been in years past. I feel like there’s not a lot of doubt in our minds that we can do this. That’s a mindset you have to have. Our expectations are to be towards the top the WCHA this year. Not only that, but I expect the same thing individually from myself and from my teammates. Our expectations are to be at the top.”
To get to the top and compete with the best, one has to train that way. McHugh spent his offseason extremely dedicated to this and worked with the coaching staff to get bigger and stronger.
“My offseason plan this summer has been by far the best that I’ve ever had in my training as a hockey player,” said McHugh. “I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt. I’m definitely stronger, and our strength coach would agree with that. That’s thanks to our coaching staff. They’ve helped me out with that. I did the plan and put in the extra work that I needed to put in. Training breeds confidence in my mind. I think that’s a huge thing based on this offseason.”
Last season, McHugh notched 22 points, a team high. He knows that he’ll have to continue to boost his production to help the Chargers climb in the rankings. While goal production fell from his freshman year, it’s not like McHugh is afraid to shoot the puck. He also led the team in shots on goal with 65 in the 2015-16 season. Working to boost his production for the 2016-17 season still goes back to offseason training and being ready to produce once the season begins this weekend.
“I amped up my training,” said McHugh. “I was training pretty hard before, but I don’t think it was enough to get more points and more opportunities. My body is able to do that. I feel faster and more confident in my shot. Things of that nature. In order to have that confidence, you have to put in the work to do it. If you amp your game up off the ice, it should translate on the ice.”
Playing more in the offensive zone and scoring more goals can start with stopping them at the other end. Just as Mike Corbett stated in his Q&A, having stability in the crease is one thing the Chargers haven’t had to worry about in years. The confidence for the squad can begin in the crease and work its way out.
“It’s pretty amazing that you can have three goalies that are that good on one team,” said McHugh. “We have Larose and Uhelski, both of those guys can play any given night and give their best for us, and that’s what we need. Even with Carmine out, no one is worried because we have those two guys. Once Carmine gets back, it’s like having a closer for a baseball team.”
What will be a true test of confidence will be how the team starts the season. The Chargers have three straight weekends on the road to begin the campaign, and it’s not an easy task. This weekend, they head to 20th-ranked Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan. Next weekend, they will travel to Connecticut to take on UCONN. Lastly, they will trek to the upper peninsula of Michigan to take on Michigan Tech. While it’s a difficult way to begin the season, McHugh sees it as a potential way for the team to form an early bond.
“I think that it’s going to help our team,” said McHugh on starting the season on the road. “Last year, we had a lot of home games [to start the season]. This year, having those trips right away kind of reminds me of juniors where you have these long bus trips and time where you can bond with your teammates. Especially for the younger guys, it’s good time to bond with the older guys. When you’re that close for that long, there’s nothing else you can do. It’s a pretty cool, unique experience that hockey players get to have. I think that and the fact that we’re going to be fresh, instead of having these long trips at the end of the season, will be kind of nice. We’re all looking forward to it.”
The confidence in McHugh’s voice could easily be heard. The beginning of this season just seems different. There was a demeanor in his voice that hadn’t been heard from any player on this team in the past three years. They’re ready to win.
UAH has their home opener October 21 & 22 against Lake Superior State. Click here for more information.