UND to get Huntsville's goalie after Chargers' program folds
Clarke Saunders took it pretty hard when he found out that Alabama-Huntsville was ending its men's hockey program. "It certainly wasn't easy," the Chargers' sophomore goaltender said. "We all chose to come here. This is where we wanted to get our...
Clarke Saunders took it pretty hard when he found out that Alabama-Huntsville was ending its men's hockey program.
"It certainly wasn't easy," the Chargers' sophomore goaltender said. "We all chose to come here. This is where we wanted to get our degree and spend four years. When we were told that the program wouldn't exist after this year, a lot of us took it pretty hard, myself included. It's tough to think about."
But the Brockville, Ont., product has found a silver lining: He will now play for one of college hockey's powerhouse programs next season.
Saunders will transfer to UND next fall, where he will be eligible immediately as a junior. He will provide UND with an experienced goaltender with size -- he's 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.
Although his Chargers haven't had a lot of success -- they are 1-15-1 -- Saunders has managed to post strong numbers in net. He has a .918 save percentage and a 3.32 goals-against average. He stopped 44 of 45 shots on Friday night in leading Huntsville to an upset win over Nebraska-Omaha.
Saunders played 19 games as a freshman and had a .898 save percentage and a 3.80 goals-against average.
He said that UND showed interest in him and talked to him while he was playing for the Brockville Braves of the Central Junior A Hockey League.
"This kind of fell in my lap," he said. "I'm obviously excited about it more than anything. I respect how well the program is run and the school. I had a couple of other schools interested, but I had talked to North Dakota when I was in juniors and knew a couple of their coaches already. Once I heard they were interested, I had my heart set on UND from the start."
Saunders said he's not focusing too much on next season, though.
"We still have half of the season here," he said. "My focus is on our team. But it's tough not to think about at times."
Huntsville is driving to Mankato, Minn., for a road series Friday and Saturday. Saunders will visit Grand Forks on Sunday. Then, he will re-join his teammates in Bemidji for the team's next series.
"There's still a lot for us to play for this season," he said. "We're playing for our teammates and trying to win as many games as we can."