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UAF Hockey continues to piece together 2021-22 independent schedule

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:56 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - When the Minnesota State Mavericks fell in the NCAA Men’s Division I Hockey Championship Frozen Four on April 8, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as we know it was over. However, the conference and its programs have been preparing for this date for nearly two years.

In June of 2019, seven of the ten teams within the WCHA announced their departure from the conference, with Bemidji State, Bowling Green State, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State (Mankato) and Northern Michigan joining forces to revive the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. This left the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alabama-Huntsville and Alaska Fairbanks, who had been a part of the league since 2013-14, on the outside looking in.

Eight teams skated in a 14-game WCHA schedule this season, the 75th and final (for now) in the conference’s history.

UAF is charging forward with an independent slate for the 2021-22 season after administration opted-out of competing this year. In February, the program announced its plans for a 34-game independent schedule across several conferences including the Big Ten, Hockey East, Atlantic Hockey, and the revived CCHA, who disbanded after the 2012-13 season.

The first opponent named was Arizona State, which actually has some similarities with Alaska Fairbanks when excluding the weather. ASU and UAF will be two of just a few NCAA Division I programs to play an independent schedule for 2021-22 and the Sun Devils one of three DI team in the Western Region of the United States, as UAA continues the fight to save their program. The other schools announced during the first wave were Boston University (10-5-1 in 2020-21) and the University of Maine (3-11-2).

Three more schools were officially announced Thursday, with the Blue and Gold scheduling matchups with Clarkson University (11-7-4), University of Denver (10-13-1) and Minnesota Duluth (15-11-2).

Clarkson will visit Fairbanks October 8-9 for UAF’s home-opener, before the Nanooks return the favor and travel to Potsdam, New York to face Clarkson October 22-23.

Alaska and Denver will meet for the third consecutive season, with the Pioneers owning a 3-0-1 record during the previous four meetings. Denver’s staff features former UAF head coaches Dallas Ferguson (2008-2017) and Tavis MacMillan (2005-07) serving as assistants, while Anchorage-native David Carle serves as the head coach. When UAF head coach Erik Largen was hired at 31-years old on April 29, 2018, he was the youngest head coach in NCAA Men’s Division I hockey. That lasted about four weeks, as Anchorage-native David Carle was named Denver’s head coach on May 25, 2018 at 28-years old. UAF will take on Denver on the road, but dates and times are to be announced.

Minnesota Duluth, the 2019 National Champions, will be on the Nanooks’ schedule for the first time since 1988. The Bulldogs made it the Frozen Four this year, falling to the University of Massachusetts 3-2 in overtime. This series will also take place on the road, with dates TBD.

“We are excited to announce early home games against Clarkson University,” said UAF head coach Erik Largen in a team press release. “They always seem to be in contention to make national tournaments and will make for an exciting opening-weekend. Playing against other prominent programs, including Frozen Four participant, UMD, will help in our development of our student-athletes. Alongside those two, we are excited to, once again, play eight-time National Champion, Denver.”

In addition to announcing more games, the program also confirmed they will be skating in the Carlson Center for 2021-22, the barn they have occupied since 1990.

“We are really excited to be in the Carlson Center for the long term,” Largen added. “This will provide our student-athletes and Nanook Nation with a fantastic college hockey experience, both on the ice and in attendance. We can’t wait for next season and for our brand-new game experience.”

Information regarding ticket sales are expected to be released by the University in the coming weeks.

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