The 2017-2018 UAH Chargers will make their debut October 6th when they make the trip to South Bend, IN to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Before UAH can focus on a team who made it all the way to the Frozen Four last season, they must first look inward.
Coach Mike Corbett is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Chargers, and is preparing for the new season with changes in his leadership corps, as well as eight incoming freshmen. The Chargers look to the next generation of leadership, Seniors Max McHugh, Brandon Parker and Brennan Saulnier will be stepping up to lead a talented Charger team. The key for this year’s UAH hockey team lies in its favorite son.
After speaking with Coach Mike Corbett, the Huntsville born and raised Josh Kestner could be the catalyst the Chargers need to make this season a successful one. Kestner had a strong season in 2016-2017 finishing with 9 goals and 13 assists. Kestner’s potential for a breakout year is what this Charger team is counting on as they look to climb the ranks of the WCHA.
“I’m looking to go out with a bang. Our goal for this season is the playoffs,” said Kestner. “I got a taste of a bigger role last year, and am expected to deliver and execute. I thrive on being depended on.”
Kestner however, is no longer the lone representative from the city of Huntsville as freshman Teddy Rotenberger makes his way to the Chargers after his time with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The defenseman will not only play for the hometown team, but take the torch from Kestner as he graduates after this season.
“Teddy is a great kid, he gets the job done and is reliable,” Kestner said of Rotenberger.
The Chargers look to begin this season like they began last season. The team got off to a hot start after sweeping Ferris State on the road, but couldn’t maintain that momentum as they wound up with an overall record of 9-22-3.
“We’re focused on ourselves, had a lot of off-season team building, off ice drills. This is a close group,” Corbett said. “We’re working on our game and making sure we’re comfortable with how we play.”
With Notre Dame on the horizon, the team knows what needs to be done. Josh Kestner weighed in on the opening series, “We’re going to give them a run for their money, we’re going in for points. These non-conference games are important in the push to the playoffs.”
The Chargers already face a bump in the road as they will most likely be without Senior forward Max McHugh for the season opener. McHugh is battling an injury.
“We expect Max to come in and contribute but right now we’re just making sure he gets to where he needs to be,” Corbett stated.
McHugh was second in points for the Chargers with 19 last season with 8 goals and 11 assists, only Josh Kestner had more with 22 points.
The schedule doesn’t help the Chargers coming out of the gate either. After opening up with two games at Notre Dame, UAH spends the entire month of October on the road visiting Michigan Tech, Cornell and Arizona State. The Chargers won’t play at home until November 10th when they host Alaska Anchorage. Following a three series home stand in the month of November, they’re back on the road for all of December and won’t be back in Huntsville until the end of January.
Despite all of this, UAH has developed an identity as a darkhorse. This team is made up of players who have shown signs of greatness, all they need is that next step. Defenseman Kurt Gosselin was a two-time WCHA Player of the Week for UAH last year, and was named 3rd Team All-WCHA. Gosselin racked up 18 points, including a hat trick, last season. Look for Senior Brennan Saulnier (15 points) and Junior Cam Knight (18 points) to help pick up the scoring as well.
Senior netminder Jordan Uhelski is now solidified as starter for this year’s team. Uhelski led the Chargers triad of goaltenders last season with a record of 6-9-3, a 2.78 GAA, and a save percentage of .906. Coach Corbett knows Uhelski is the right man for the job.
“We have a lot of faith in Uhelski,” said Corbett. “He played well for us last year and he’s earned his spot as the number one goaltender.”
Newcomers Mark Sinclair and Josh Astorino provide the future for UAH goaltending while Uhelski provides its present. Sinclair, who is making his way over from Chilliwack in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), had a 2.59 GAA with a save percentage of .910 for the Chiefs last season; while Astorino played for the Georgetown Raiders of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), posting an impressive 1.93 GAA and a .936 save percentage.
When asked about his expectations, Coach Corbett stated that he is excited to see how this team develops over the season, but most of all appreciates the support shown from the community and the fans of Huntsville. Recent donations from boosters to the team look to propel success as young talent develops and a strong senior class looks to leave its mark on a storied history of UAH hockey.