The SFU Men’s Hockey Team will travel to play four exhibition games against NCAA Division I competition during the 2016/17 season, facing the University of Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks in the preseason, and the Arizona State Sun Devils in back-to-back games in February.
“The hockey’s fast, it’s up and down, and it’s aggressive,” said head coach Mark Coletta of Division I hockey. “It’s always good to play against challenging opponents at the highest level. I think it’s a good thing for recruiting, I think it’s a good thing for the SFU hockey program, I think it’s a good thing for SFU as an institution.”
To begin their preseason trip, SFU will take on the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, September 30. The Seawolves alumni include NHL players Jay Beagle and Curtis Glencross.
Then the Clan will take on the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks on Sunday, October 2 in Fairbanks, Alaska. The Nanooks are a historic franchise having played their first season in 1925, with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010. Last season, Burnaby product Tyler Morley was their Captain, while his younger brother Brandon will be with the team again in 2016/17.
“The Alaska trip is going to go off at the beginning of the season, early October, we’ve been doing this regularly now for the last three years, so it’s a good chance to get away and get a road trip in and play some competitive games at the beginning of the season, and get some team bonding in as well,” said Coletta.
While in most sports the Nanooks and Seawolves play in the Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, the same division that SFU’s varsity teams play in, for hockey, they play in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, a Division I conference consisting of schools located from Alaska to Alabama.
In February, SFU will face the Arizona State Sun Devils in back-to-back games in Tempe, AZ on February 10 and 11. The Sun Devils are entering their first full year of NCAA competition, having begun the transition from the ACHA to the NCAA last season.
Back in 2012, SFU welcomed the the ACHA Sun Devils at the inaugural Great Northwest Showcase in Burnaby. The Clan have another connection to the Sun Devils as Forward Mac Barden played for ASU in 2014/15 before transferring to SFU.
Between the three teams, a total of four NHL draft picks are currently listed on the roster. On Alaska-Fairbanks, sophomore defenceman Nikolas Koberstein was drafted 125th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. On Arizona, Wade Murphy (185th, 2013, Nashville), Robbie Baillargeon (136th, 2012, Ottawa), Joey Daccord (199th, 2015, Ottawa) lead the charge, and features Riley Simpson, son of Craig Simpson, former Edmonton Oiler and current Hockey Night in Canada colour commentator, and brother of Dillon Simpson, a defenceman prospect in the Oilers system.
This will be the Clan’s first games against NCAA competition since Simon Fraser University announced that they would commission a feasibility study to determine if Division I hockey would work at SFU. Results from the study are expected back in the fall.
“We have a good returning group, we’ve got a real good recruiting class with a lot of talent and a lot of character. We know team unity is going to be very important, there’s a process that we have to follow to get to that BCIHL Championship,” said Coletta. “We have a really good group of character, we have a really good group of skill, now it’s just a matter of putting that all together and becoming a team, and how long that takes, it’s going to be incumbent on us and the leadership group.”
This will mark the fourth consecutive season with exhibition games against NCAA opponents. Last season, SFU played against the defending NCAA champions, the Providence Friars, and the Northeastern Huskies.