‘A new sense of energy’: UAA hockey schedule announced for upcoming season

WCHA announced its 18-games league schedule on Wednesday
The UAA hockey team practices in preparation for the 2020-21 season.
The UAA hockey team practices in preparation for the 2020-21 season.(KTUU)
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:13 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A lot of unknowns face the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey team, but a schedule for the upcoming season is not one of them. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association announced its plans for an 18-game league schedule on Wednesday.

“Excited, to say the least,” said UAA head hockey coach Matt Curley. “To get to this point is a big first step.”

The league’s announcement said the schedule will play out under the WCHA return to play protocols which means COVID-19 testing for players, coaches, staff and game officials, along with following state and local health guidelines. The league says it will determine the details of its postseason tournament in the upcoming weeks.

The UAA hockey team will start its season with a four-game non-conference series against in-state rival University of Alaska Fairbanks. The first two games will be played in Fairbanks on Dec. 4-5, and the final two games will be played on Dec. 11-12 in Anchorage. The Seawolf hockey team will begin conference play the next weekend when they host Minnesota State.

“I think it gives a new sense of energy,” Curley said discussing the schedule on Wednesday. “It’s been great the past few weeks getting back on the ice for at least a few hours a day.”

This week was the first time UAA had been able to practice as a team, previously skating in small groups before slowly working up towards larger groups wearing masks and social distancing.

The WCHA’s announcement is good news for many UAA hockey fans who worried they might have seen the last of the Seawolf hockey program if they didn’t play this season. This August, Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and Athletic Director Greg Myford announced the university would be eliminating four sports in 2021-22, including hockey to save $2.5 million per year.

In September, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved the cuts but offered a road to reinstatement if supporters could raise two years' worth — one year of cash, one year of firm pledges — of expenses leaving the hockey team to raise $1.5 million, plus an additional $1.5 million in pledges by Feb. 15, 2021

“This year has offered more challenges than we would have ever anticipated,” said Curley. “We lost a few guys with the announcement of our program early on.”

While it wasn’t the offseason he had envisioned, Curley looks forward to the roster returning for the 2020-21 season. The Seawolves just missed the WCHA playoffs last season finishing with four victories, seven tied games and six one-goal losses.

“We have a great group coming back,” Curley said. “I’m hopeful the returning guys take another step.”

The UAA bench will be missing former assistant Coach Mark Phalon who took a job as the associate head coach at Niagara University in New York. Curley said Phalon was his first phone call when he got hired in 2018 and understood his decision to work closer to home.

“Mark has left a huge influence on our program,” Curley said. “He’s going to be missed.”

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