NCAA

Alabama-Huntsville coach steps down one week after program is saved

A week after a $500,000 fundraising goal was met to save the program, Alabama-Huntsville hockey coach Mike Corbett has resigned.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, with assistant coach Gavin Morgan joining Corbett in leaving the program. Assistant Lance West will take on the role of acting head coach.

“I want to thank all of you for your support and supporting the players during this time,” Corbett wrote in an email to supporters obtained by WZDX. “It meant a lot to me and them. I wish things were different and the results were better, I truly do. I own that. I will not make excuses and I will tell you I came to work everyday and put everything I had into it. Not always making the right decisions, but doing what I thought was right for the program every day. Myself and my staff embraced it and fought the good fight every day. Only we know how that was and it was difficult but continued to put the program and the players first.”

The Chargers were 2-26-6 this past season, the seventh with Corbett in charge.

According to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, Corbett faced plenty of obstacles at the school.

According to insiders, Corbett wanted to leave on his own terms. The coach had led the Chargers for seven seasons and dealt with a lot of challenges, from a lack of recruiting money to the loss of a conference when seven WCHA schools announced they would be leaving Alabama-Huntsville and the two Alaska schools behind to form a new CCHA in 2021-22.

On May 22 UAH announced it was cutting its hockey and tennis programs, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters and alumni, including Flames goalie Cam Talbot, backed a fundraising campaign that saw the goal reached before Friday’s deadline. The school then approved a $1.5 million budget for next season.

There is no guarantee beyond 2020-21 that the program will keep playing, but there is now time to create a sustainable, long-term plan.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Supporters quickly raise $500K to try and save Alabama-Huntsville hockey program

UAH Hockey University of Alabama-Huntsville logo $500K
via UAH Chargers

Mere days after it looked like the University of Alabama-Huntsville men’s hockey program was going to get cut, supporters raised a whopping $500K in hopes of keeping the UAH program alive.

With another $500K expected to come from boosters, the University of Alabama-Huntsville men’s ice hockey program reached the seemingly unrealistic goal of $1M to try to avoid the end of a program that stretches back four decades.

UAH supporters drove that $500K by combining a Go Fund Me account with T-shirt sales.

Now, this doesn’t outright guarantee the continuation of UAH’s men’s program.

“[School president Darren Dawson] did make us a verbal commitment that if you get to that number, we’ll make it happen,” former UAH player Sheldon Wolitski told AL.com. “We’re hoping he’s going to honor his word. We were asking for a formal statement from him to say that. It would be a shame to put all this effort and we raise it and he doesn’t follow through.”

Even if school officials stick to that verbal commitment, there are some hurdles to clear.

Not the first time the UAH men’s ice hockey program has been saved

Paul Gattis (also of AL.com) argues that the UAH men’s ice hockey program needs more than just money to survive. This is not, after all, the first time that this program needed saving. It was teetering on being canceled back in 2011 before victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Even so, it’s pretty remarkable, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Does it justify comparing UAH officials to “Dr. Evil?” I’d zip it on that one.)

Those fighting for the UAH men’s ice hockey program aim to preserve something quite unusual, as Joseph Goodman noted as fundraising intensified:

UAH hockey is the only NCAA Division I hockey program in the South. How cool is that? It’s one of one — a singular, special thing just like the city it skates for and represents.

Will we see this program survive after giving Cam Talbot and others the chance to chase their dreams? It seems a lot more likely after an eventful week.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NCAA leading scorer Dugan agrees to join Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS — NCAA leading scorer Jack Dugan agreed Monday to turn pro and join the Vegas Golden Knights.

Dugan was a fifth-round pick of the Golden Knights during their first draft in 2017. Because of his age, his NHL entry-level contract beginning next season would be for two years.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward from Pittsburgh had 10 goals and 42 assists for 52 points during his sophomore season at Providence College. Dugan was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the nation’s top college player.

”We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue to play a key role in the development of Jack Dugan as both a hockey player and as a young man within our organization,” Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. ”Jack took significant steps in his growth over the past two seasons as one of the best all-around players in college hockey and has proven that he is ready for the next challenge in his young career.”

Dugan, 21, led the NCAA this season with 1.53 points a game, 1.24 assists a game, 22 power-play points and 30 even-strength points.

”Thankful for these past two years at Providence,” Dugan tweeted. ”I couldn’t be more grateful for this next opportunity and excited to get going with Vegas whenever that may be.”

Minnesota Duluth star Scott Perunovich wins Hobey Baker Award

Getty Images

Minnesota Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award on Saturday night as college hockey’s top player, becoming the Bulldogs’ record sixth recipient.

Perunovich, a junior from Hibbing, Minnesota, who recently signed with the St. Louis Blues, edged North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi and Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman for the award announced on ESPN.

“I’m extremely honored and humbled,” Perunovich said. “Five other Bulldogs have won this prestigious award, so it is just a privilege to join them.”

Perunovich joined Tom Kurvers (1984). Bill Watson (1985), Chris Marinucci (1994), Junior Lessard (2004) and Jack Connolly (2012) in the Bulldogs’ Hobey Baker club.

Perunovich was second in the nation with 34 assists and had six goals in 34 games, becoming the first defenseman to lead the National Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring. He was drafted by the Blues in the second round in 2018.

“He is a difference-maker, that’s for sure,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “He’s the type of impact player who can take control of a game. He’s had a tremendous season —- and a tremendous three-year career here — and is certainly deserving of this award.”

The season was canceled March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The award announcement was originally set for Friday night on the eve of the NCAA championship game in Detroit, where Perunovich and the Bulldogs hoped to play for a third straight title.

The undrafted Kawaguchi had 15 goals and 30 assists in 33 games. He’s returning to North Dakota for his senior season

Swayman was 18-11-5 with a 2.07 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. He recently signed with the Boston Bruins.

The award is named in honor of Baker, the former Princeton hockey and football star who was World War I fighter pilot. He was killed in a plane crash in France after he was scheduled to return home.

Signing college free agents is rare NHL business going on

Colton Poolman had a good feeling about what was to come.

He and his North Dakota teammates were ranked third in the country with the conference tournament coming up. They felt they had as good a chance as anyone to win the NCAA title until the season was abruptly canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

”It was a pretty depressing feeling around the rink, and guys were a little sad,” Poolman said. ”But after all that was done, you’ve just got to kind of flip the page and look at what’s next.”

For Poolman and others who had not been drafted by an NHL team, flipping the page happened fast. Because hockey at every level is on hiatus and rinks are empty, signing college free agents is the only real business that can be done in the NHL right now, and more than a dozen have inked contracts since the season was paused March 12.

”We’re trying (to think, ‘How do we use this time the most effectively we can?”’ said Calgary general manager Brad Treliving, who signed Poolman and top college prospect Connor Mackey to deals last week. ”This is some of the only work that can get done. Even with your own players, you have uncertainties about (next season’s salary) cap. There’s really a small market of players that are really future (entry-level) contracts that are going to be signed right now.”

This is typically the time of year teams compete over the top undrafted talent. Typically, signings happen after teams are eliminated from postseason play, which allows some players to step right into the NHL to burn a year of the initial contract.

Nothing is typical in sports right now, so executives, agents and prospects adjusted. Dean Grillo, who represents Poolman and college roommate Cole Smith – a Nashville signing – had his clients prepared to think about pro hockey at the end of March or sometime in April, factoring in potentially deep tournament runs.

Once the season was canceled, Treliving and other NHL executives moved into action and Grillo said interest in the high-end players accelerated.

”If these are the right opportunities and the right teams that we’ve done our research on, I guess why wouldn’t you move forward,” Grillo said.

Last week, the Buffalo Sabres signed forwards Brandon Biro from Penn State and Dawson DiPietro from Western Michigan; the New York Rangers signed DiPietro teammate Austin Rueschhoff; the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday signed UMass winger Mitchell Chaffee; and the Florida Panthers on Thursday signed Bowling Green defenseman Alec Rauhauser.

Players described the quick turnaround from season over to pro contract as a roller-coaster ride.

”Woke up (last) Thursday going to practice, knowing you’re going to have a game and then it going to no fans and then literally an hour and a half later to the season’s canceled. Almost hard to put into words,” Rueschhoff said. ”Even now I’m still kind of dwelling that my college career is over and having those memories and knowing you’re not going to have those memories anymore is sad. But there’s always a positive and I’m super excited to (join the Rangers) and excited to get to New York as soon as everything calms down and super excited to get my career going.”

Northeastern’s Brendan Van Riemsdyk, whose brothers James and Trevor are already in the NHL, thinks he could be starting in the ECHL next season after the weird conclusion to his college career.

”Being a senior, it was really weird to hear that your college career was going to be over while you still had games left on the table,” he said.

With the remainder of the ECHL season cancelled, the American Hockey League pausing along with the NHL and the real possibility of hockey into late summer, some of these players’ next games could be months away. The 2020 draft set for June was postponed, and agents doubt teams will hold the development camps that usually take place in July.

Rueschhoff is trying to stay in shape. Biro, after not even getting the chance to say goodbye to nine fellow seniors at Penn State, is stuck at a friend’s place in Ottawa after crossing the border because of Canada’s quarantine regulations before he can return home to Edmonton.

At least those players and the others who signed can now look forward to a pro career – eventually.

”It’s unfortunate you can’t get rolling into pro hockey right away, but it’s OK,” Mackey said. ”It happens. You just can’t plan for this stuff.”