One-on-One: UAA’s Matt Shasby sits down with Sports Director Jordan Rodenberger to discuss the state of Seawolf hockey
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — At the date of hire, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves were without a player on the roster, another coach on the staff and did not have a game scheduled for the 2022-23 season. Since then, Matt Shasby has hired an assistant coach, signed his first player and has confirmed a number of games for next season’s independent schedule.
Alaska News Source Sports Director Jordan Rodenberger sat down with Shasby as he rebuilds a Division I hockey program from scratch.
Q: Joined now by Matt Shasby, new head coach of UAA hockey. It’s been a few weeks since that phrase has settled in, you know when I say that, Matt Shasby new Head Coach UAA hockey, how does that feel, what goes through your mind?
A: “It is the greatest honor of my professional career I walk in everyday to this rink, mind’s blown, come down in this locker room, see the jerseys hanging up knowing that I am in charge of this program moving forward is an incredible opportunity.”
Q: During this few week span what has the community response been like what is the feed back you have heard from the community?
A: “It’s been a blast, you go out to eat or you go to the local rinks — the people that are coming up to you congratulating you, excited about the future of this program, and that is what I want to see is those young and those young families excited about UAA hockey and it is my job to get the word out”
Q: Definitely and when you see that excitement and that hype surrounding it what does that say about the anchorage and Alaska hockey community in general?
A: “It’s a thriving community and the way that people stood on the table and raised that $3 million they understand the importance of college hockey in the Southcentral area, they know that for hockey to be successful overall we need new Seawolves coming in and those Seawolves stick around in our community and become the next head coaches of the next wave of hockey players and that is what we are excited to do generate those students athletes that go on to be the leaders in our community”
Q: What has been the exciting parts of gathering an independent schedule? Making calls and stuff, what is the exciting part of putting together a schedule from scratch?
A: “Right so, pretty quickly after I got the job I was very fortunate for a couple of college coaches to reach out offers for those starting games in 2022-23, I’ve been able to build around that. I think the schedule that I have been able to create for next season is going to be highly competitive, maybe more competitive than an expansion college hockey team should try and bite off the first year. But even in ‘23, ‘24 I would say 90% of that schedule is done and it will be, I would put it up against any schedule in college hockey and that is kind of the mind frame I wanted to take is a very good, challenging schedule the first two years and now those recruits that we are talking to see that we are playing a college hockey schedule that is as good as anywhere in the country, so they are signing up to play at the highest levels of college hockey.”
Q: And so is that important to you when putting together a schedule, to have more of these tough challenges rather than a cupcake schedule?
A: “Absolutely I mean just this coming year we have Arizona State and we have UMass Lowell, we have Colorado College. We have Maine, we have Long Island and Fairbanks that are all on our schedule for this coming year. And the following year we have the defending national champion UMass Amherst, we have Penn State, we have Colorado college again, and Arizona State again. There are schools that are wanting to play us. They are not afraid to throw us a bone here to get the program started and that has been, it has been college guys wanting Alaska college hockey to be successful so they are willing to play us these first two years.
Q: You can go to the East Coast and these kids, can get these experiences rather than just Midwest or something like that.
A: “And that is the benefit of and independent schedule is that these kids are going to be able to play in new barns all over the country every year. So next year we are playing in Arizona State’s brand new rink we will be playing in Colorado College’s brand new rink, we are playing in UConn’s brand new rink that also opens next year so — and then the following year we are playing at other new rinks at other locations. And then on top of that we are hoping to have a facility open by that ‘23-’24 season.”
Q: Absolutely. You mentioned Fairbanks and something many folks are going to circle is how important is that rivalry in that context to the Alaska hockey community?
A: “It is huge, you see the local fans show up. You even get the UAF alumni coming to the games here at the Sullivan Arena. It’s a huge part of our program to hype up that Governor’s Cup, that interstate rival and for those kids that come in as a freshman, you want to leave here after four years owning that Governor’s Cup and it is a pride thing for sure.”
Q: And Coach, we have seen the reinstatement of the program, we have seen a new established junior hockey program here in Anchorage. When you think about the future of hockey in Anchorage and in Alaska what do you see?
A: “I see a community that has a rebirth just like our program, with the Aces stepping aside and UAA taking a break and then junior hockey coming in, you can see the hunger for the higher level of hockey and the impact that it is going to have on our next wave, our next generation of hockey players. I have some big things planned within our program to start to get to areas within our community that maybe need a little bit of a nudge to get into the game and to grow the game just within our city of Anchorage. Anchorage I think, again, the sport is going to have the opportunity to grow and reach out over the next couple of years and the Seawolves are going to be on the forefront of that.”
Q: Perfect. And have you had any welcome to college hockey moments, welcome to being an NCAA Division I coach moments, yet so far?
A: “I think so. I did a podcast the other day with college hockey Southwest and to be on that scale, to now branch out and represent our brand and represent our university on a national scale, or you know, the fans that reach that podcast or that podcast reached, I think that was a welcome to college hockey moment, that I am representing the program now and that we are a live brand that are going to quickly establish ourselves in the college game.”
Q: And when you think back to you skating in these jerseys and for the program, what sort of sense of feeling, or what did you take away during that time that said something that, ‘I want to eventually circle back and be apart of again’?
A: “Well I think it has been a part of my life since I was 5, 6 years old, going to hockey camps that the Seawolves put on and then going to the games your entire life. And when it came an opportunity for me to put on the jersey, there was no other question, there was no other place I wanted to be and I got to put the jersey on for four years. I feel like we had a successful four years and I always knew that my heart was with this program, and if the opportunity came to be a part of it in any manner — head coach is another level — but to be a part of it in any manner was always going to be a dream of mine and this opportunity, like I said, is the greatest honor in my professional career and everyday I wake up I have the best job in the world, and I don’t stop doing it ‘till I sleep and I wake up the next day ... it is who I am now.”
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