UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
ACHA DIVISION I
The Alabama Hockey Club was founded in 2005 by the University of Alabama students. The team is now in its twelfth season and plays all of its home games in Pelham, AL at the Pelham Civic Complex. The organization is managed by the University of Alabama students.
The program elevated its status to ACHA Division I in 2015 and now competes at the highest level of ACHA college hockey. Alabama is one of two SEC schools to have a program competing at this level.
THE FIRST FIFTEEN
The Alabama Hockey program started as an idea in three students’ heads. Will Damare, Adam English and Josh Stokes began the process of getting men’s ice hockey sanctioned as a club sport at The University of Alabama. The hockey program joined over 40 other teams as a member of Alabama’s Club Sports program in the fall of 2005.
With a budget of just $3,200 - by contrast, each player paid $3,000 in dues for the 2016-17 season - the program set its sights on two games with Vanderbilt at the end of the 2005-06 season. With a 15-man roster, five players short of a full 20-player lineup, Alabama played the first game in program history on Feb. 18, 2005. The team lost to Vanderbilt 6-1, and Ryan Simons scored the first goal in school history. Darren Awender was the first coach.
Though Alabama lost both games to the Commodores, they sparked interest in the program. Word spread about the new team and the club saw tremendous growth for the 2006-07 season. Alabama joined the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) at the Division-III level. The ACHA sponsors the highest level of collegiate hockey outside of the NCAA’s 134 collegiate hockey programs.
With a full roster of players from around the country, the team embarked on an ambitious 15 game schedule for its first full season. Alabama won its first game on Sept. 30, 2006, in a revenge game against Vanderbilt. Alabama Hockey’s reputation began to grow further and inspired other teams in the region.
THE AWENDER YEARS
Darren Awender coached the program for three years. In the program’s first full season, Alabama finished with an 8-11 record, claiming victories over future SECHC opponents Vanderbilt and Florida.
Awender remained the head coach for the 2007-08 season and would lead the team to the ACHA D-III South Regional. The team went 13-12 for its first-ever winning record but lost both games at the regional.
NEW TEAM NEW CONFERENCE
Since the club’s formation, Alabama has helped other SEC schools create and improve their own hockey clubs including Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, and Arkansas. Prior to the 2008-09 season, Alabama joined Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to form the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference (SECHC). LSU and Ole Miss would join in 2009-10, and Auburn came into the fold for the 2010-11 season to push the league to 11 teams, the largest it’s ever been.
The SECHC required all members to compete at the ACHA D-III level, excluding Kentucky, Missouri and Texas A&M which all field teams at the Division-II level.
Alabama hosted the inaugural SECHC Conference Tournament at the Pelham Civic Complex from Feb. 27 - March 1, 2009. The teams were seeded by their final rankings in ACHA’s South Region and Tennessee defeated Georgia in the first SECHC Championship game. Alabama hosted the SECHC tournament at Pelham four times during its seven-year tenure in the conference.
THE CHEESEMAN YEARS
Along with the move to the SECHC came a new head coach. Jeff Cheeseman would helm the Alabama program for two seasons. Alabama finished the 2008-09 season with a 20-8 record and was 8-2 in SECHC play. Despite only losing once each to Tennessee and Georgia during the regular season, Alabama made an early exit in the inaugural SECHC Tournament. Alabama once again made the ACHA D-III Regionals, but again failed to advance to the national tournament.
With the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Alabama was honored with its first ACHA Academic All-American. David Plummer took home the award followed by Jonathan Davis in 2009-10.
The 2009-10 season saw the first change in the captaincy in four years. Adam English had served as captain from 2005-06 to 2008-09 and was named an ACHA All-American every year he played. Cheeseman had more success in his second season behind the bench. Despite the team’s record dropping to 15-10-4, Alabama won the consolation game to take third place in the 2010 SECHC Tournament.
The 500th goal in team history was scored under Cheeseman on Jan. 15, 2010 in a 9-4 victory over Mississippi State.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
In its short history, Alabama Hockey has sadly lost three players to tragic accidents or illnesses. The three players’ numbers have all been honored in the team’s Hall of Fame.
Brent Ullom was a member of the First Fifteen even though he was battling cancer in his foot. He wore a customized foot brace to be able to skate. In 2006, he dressed for the first game in program history but did not see time on the ice. The next night he played two shifts on defense in what would be the final game of his life. Ullom’s cancer came out of remission and he moved to an assistant coaching role. He passed away on Jan. 26, 2007. The Brent Ullom award is named in his honor.
Alabama Hockey lost David Mosier on August 4, 2011. His vivacious love for life set him apart. His charismatic and captivating personality coupled with his innate ability to make everyone laugh made him dear to many hearts. Mosier, from Piscataway, New Jersey, scored 10 goals and assisted on 17 others to rank second in team scoring as Alabama reached the ACHA D-III South Regional. The following week the dean’s list scholar was named to the all-tournament team at the SECHC Tournament.
Steve Fillo passed away early in the morning on August 30, 2009, due to injuries caused by a one-car accident after the team’s training camp concluded Saturday, Aug. 29. His brother Joey was with his brother when the two were traveling from the Pelham Civic Complex, 56 miles from the Tuscaloosa campus. Fillo would have been a sophomore. During a scrimmage at training camp that year, he scored a hat trick. Fillo recorded three goals and three assists in 11 games in the 2008-2009 season.
THE IRON CUP
Alabama and Auburn met on the ice for the first time in the 2010-11 season. The inaugural games of what has become known as the Iron Cup took place on Jan. 14-16, 2010. Throughout the series, Alabama has outscored the Tigers 160-38 and has not lost in 17 games over six seasons.
The programs name an MVP after the final game of the series each year. Zach Dailey took home the honor in 2010-11 and has since been followed by Sean Keeler, Andre Morard, Brian Puffer, Jeff Frenkel and, most recently, Dylan Teed.
THE QUENNEVILLE YEARS
The winningest coach in program history, Mike Quenneville, came to Alabama prior to the 2010-11 season. Under his tenure, Alabama advanced to three national tournaments and set numerous records. Quenneville was a three-time John Hoos SECHC Coach of the Year.
Notable players under Quenneville include Mark Wysock, the program’s career leaders in games played, and Sean Vinson, who holds the career record for wins in net.
Quenneville was the first coach to take on Auburn and led the team back to ACHA regionals for the third consecutive season in 2010-11.
The 2011-12 season would prove to be one of the most successful in Alabama Hockey history. The team won 20-plus games for the second year in a row and took home its first and only SECHC championship. Alabama went 2-0 to win the South Regional and advanced to the national tournament for the first time in program history.
The following year saw the team win 20-plus games again and finish as SECHC runners-up to Arkansas, another SECHC power that now competes at the ACHA Division-I level. The program returned to the national tournament and won its first game at the event with a 4-2 defeat of Iowa State on March 12, 2013.
Alabama advance to the South Regional for the fourth straight year and fifth time overall in 2013-14. In its final year as a member of the SECHC, the team again took third place at the conference tournament. The program received an automatic bid to the national tournament for its third appearance. This time Alabama would host nationals at the Pelham Civic Complex.
The team nearly advanced out of pool play for the first time, but fell just short after losing in overtime to Colorado State. Michael Ahearn was named to the ACHA All-South Region Second Team and Jeff Frenkel received third-team honors.
MOVING ON UP
In 2015, Alabama Hockey was promoted to the Division-I level of ACHA hockey. The team now competes as an independent without a conference.
Alabama’s first D-I game was against West Virginia. The team took home a 6-3 win to begin their D-I history.
In Quenneville’s final season as head coach, Alabama went 15-15-1 and ended the year with a 6-5 shootout win on the road over No. 10 Oklahoma.
BIERCHEN COMES HOME
John Bierchen took over as head coach in April 2016. He is the only player to have returned to the program as a head coach. Bierchen’s debut in net came against Mississippi State on Oct. 7, 2011. He won 11-1.
Bierchen played for one year under Quenneville and was a part of the 2012 SECHC Championship squad. After the tournament, he was named Tournament MVP.