Future Seawolf Matt Johnson boosts current Anchorage Wolverines during playoff push
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Matt Johnson has known for some time that he was going to play hockey in Anchorage, but he wasn’t expecting to skate in front of the community just yet.
The Calgary, Alberta native began his 2021-22 junior hockey season by scoring a goal against the Anchorage Wolverines while playing with the El Paso Rhinos in the first game of the North American Hockey League season.
Tallying 16 points in the first 18 games of the season, Johnson’s on ice talent got the notice of University of Alaska Anchorage head hockey coach Matt Shasby, where the 20-year-old committed to skate for the newly revived Seawolves next year.
“I really liked coach Shasby, he seemed like he knew a whole lot about hockey and I just was excited about the opportunity to be a part of a new team and kind of come in right away and make an impact,” Johnson said. “Sometimes when you go to the bigger schools, like you don’t make an impact as a freshman.”
At this point, Johnson knew he was going to play in front of the rich hockey community of Alaska — but expected to begin skating here next winter.
In February, Johnson received word that he would be getting a head start on his hockey career in Anchorage. The 6 foot 1 inch center was traded from the Rhinos to the Wolverines where he would get introduced to the area and the people several months ahead of schedule.
“It has been awesome, people seem to really care about hockey here and like everyone is really invested in it all, so it has been really cool,” Johnson said. “It has been great, I haven’t been here too long so I haven’t met a whole lot of people, but the people that I have met have been really welcoming and are really excited that I am going to continue to be in Anchorage with UAA, so it has been really fun.”
Johnson made an instant impact when he arrived, scoring a goal in his first game wearing a Wolverines sweater.
“He has been a good addition to us and I think he is starting to get some confidence now,” Wolverines head coach Mike Aikens said. “We knew, or we were hoping, that he would come in and be a 20-year-old leader, he’s got junior experience, he can score some goals, he has got a great stick, he finally really started to let loose last weekend and we started to see what he is capable of doing.”
Aikens made reference to Johnson’s two-goal performance against the Kenai River Brown Bears last weekend in a 7-2 victory.
“These guys are awesome,” Johnson said of his Wolverines teammates. “They really want to win and that is super obvious. It has been really fun to be a part of a winning team and hopefully we can continue that success.”
Through 50 games of the 2021-22 season, Johnson has produced 20 goals and 21 assists, including five goals and four assists in 14 games with Anchorage.
Johnson’s addition and contributions came at the right time, as the Wolverines are currently in the midst of a heated Midwest Division playoff chase where the top four teams make the postseason. Each team will play 60 games during the regular season, and the Wolverines are trailing the division leaders, but also have more games to play.
As of Friday evening, The Springfield Jr. Blues (55 games) and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (56 games) sit atop the division with 71 points, the Minnesota Wilderness (55 games) are in third with 66 points, the Wolverines (53 games) are currently in fourth with 63 points, while the Janesville Jets (53 games) sit on the outside playoff picture with 61 points.
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