October, 2005
UAH Emerges as Preseason Favorites
By Darren Lowry

After finishing as the runner-up to Bemidji State in the 2004-05 season, the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (18-10-4, 14-5-1) have emerged as the narrow favorites in the College Hockey America conference in 2005-06, according to a recent coaches poll.     

Bemidji State, which defeated UAH 3-0 in the CHA championship game last season, and Wayne State finished closely behind UAH in the poll. Niagara, Air Force, and Robert Morris round out the teams in the CHA.

“We had a strong year last year,” assistant coach Nathan Bowen said. “Bimidji State had  a strong team as well, and beat us.”

Head coach Doug Ross, who is entering his 24th season with the team, returns for another season the Chargers. Ross ranks 15th all-time in NCAA history with 478 wins, and ranks 5th among active coaches.

Forwards

The Chargers will have to find offensive production from different sources this year, as two of the top three scorers have moved on.

Huntsville native Jared Ross finished off his career with 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists), capping off a stellar career in which he re-wrote the UAH record books, finishing second all-time in points scored and third all-time in both goals and assists.

Ross won’t be going too far, however. In fact, he won’t even leave the South. The ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators signed Ross to a professional contract in July.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Ross said. “We’re excited about his opportunity, which is a big step for our program and him.”

The team is also losing its third-leading scorer, Craig Bushey, who ended last season with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists).


However, the Chargers return leading scorer and pre-season CHA All-Conference pick Bruce Mulherin, who netted a team-high 24 goals to go along with his 18 assists. Mulherin will have to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden for the Chargers this season.

“Bruce is a very gifted player with great side-to-side speed,” Bowen said. “Every time he is on the ice, he is a threat to score.”

The team must get improved production from juniors Steve Canter, Brett McConnachie and Grant Selinger, who netted 19, 13, and 12 points, respectively.

Other forwards who must step up include juniors David Nimmo, Dominik Rozman, Chris Martini and sophomores Tyler Hilbert, Denny Reagan and Derek Conter.

“We should see players like Hilbert step up this season,” Bowen said. “Ross leaves some big shoes to fill, but his opening creates opportunities for other players to spread out offense.”

 

Defense

The team’s admitted strength is their defense. Despite losing departing seniors Doug Watkins and Ryan Brown, UAH returns both of their top-scoring defensemen in Jeremy Schreiber and Jeff Winchester this season. Schreiber, who will take over as the team’s captain, netted 23 points last season, while Winchester finished with 21.

“Jeremy’s been the most consistent player for us,” Bowen said. “He’s been an offensive contributor since his freshman year, and he is a solid person who brings a lot of character to our team.”

Bowen also praised Winchester, saying, “Jeff has the ability with his physical style of play to manhandle the other team. We need him to produce that in all three periods of every game this year.”

Rounding out the returning defensive corps will be Mike Salekin and Shaun Arvai as well as sparingly-used Matt Montes and A.J. Larivee, all of whom figure to get more playing time in 2005-06.

Goalies

Senior Scott Munroe returns as the starter for the Chargers, after posting a 16-10-4 record with a 2.29 G.A.A. last season. Munroe’s stamina was put to the test last year, as he played nearly as many minutes in 2004-05 as he had in his previous two seasons combined. Certainly, he will have to again make a lot of quality starts for UAH for the team to be successful.

“Scotty had an outstanding freshman year, struggled his sophomore year, but regained his confidence last year,” Bowen said. “If he decides to dedicate himself, he can be that goalie to lead us to the playoffs.”

Sophomores Marc Narduzzi and Paul Gibson will fight for the spot of Munroe’s backup. Narduzzi picked up two wins last season in limited playing time, while Gibson has yet to see ice time for the Chargers.

Schedule

UAH will have a road-heavy schedule in 2005-06, as all but two of the team’s non-conference series are away from the Von Braun Center.

After opening the season at home against Windsor on Oct. 14-15 with an exhibition series, seven of the team’s first eight series of the season are on the road, including the team’s opening two games at Maine in October, and match-ups against Ohio State, Princeton, Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota State in December.

Bowen says that the non-conference schedule is designed to toughen the team by playing against tough opponents.

“When we won the Div.-II championship a few years ago, we played several teams that were better than us. But in doing so, we developed good team chemistry and an environment where guys were willing to go to war for each other.”

Bowen added that the team hopes to create a similar environment this season.

“Our big keys will be how hard we work and how we dedicate ourselves off the ice.”





 
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