The SFU Men’s Hockey Team are headed to Alaska, ready to take on NCAA Division I opponents the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves and the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.
“[We expect] intense, fast, hard hockey. There’s no trapping with these NCAA teams, they play an in-your-face, up and down the ice game, really aggressive,” said head coach Mark Coletta.
The Clan open the trip against Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves Friday night at 8 pm at the MTA Events Center in Palmer, Alaska. The Seawolves leading goal scorer Tad Kozun, who had 13 goals last season, was teammates with Clan goalie Jordan Liem for two seasons with the Nipawin Hawks in the SJHL, while Anchorage’s leading point-getter Matt Anholt was teammates with Dustin Cave on the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL in 2012/13 season.
Alaska-Anchorage features three BC born players, including 2014/15 Chilliwack Chiefs captain Eric Roberts. Sean MacTavish, the son of former Edmonton Oiler forward Craig MacTavish, is a sophomore forward. The Seawolves led their conference in penalty minutes per game last season.
Various Seawolves alumni have gone on to play in the NHL including Jay Beagle and Curtis Glencross. Alumnus Joey Crabb, who played 179 NHL games, is listed as a volunteer coach with the team.
Then on Sunday night, SFU takes on the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska at 4 pm. Alaska-Fairbanks made the NCAA Tournament in 2010.
The Nanooks are captained by Burnaby product Brandon Morley, who played with the Surrey Eagles and the Coquitlam Express in the BCHL. Alaska-Fairbanks features one NHL Draft pick, sophomore defenceman Nikolas Koberstein was drafted 125th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2014. Notable Nanooks alumni include St Louis Blues defence Colton Parayko, who played with the team from 2012-2015.
SFU are coming off a 6-1 preseason loss to Trinity Western, in which Brandon Tidy scored the team’s only goal. Coletta, however, is confident the team put in the work to get back on track.
“The guys were a little bit complacent,” he explained. “A good week of practice, a good week of preparation, [. . .] we had a good team meeting and we laid out the guidelines.
“We’ve got to be as quick as we were against UBC, we’ve got to play with a relentless forecheck, a relentless attitude and make sure that our guys are coming to the rink prepared.”
This marks the fourth consecutive season that the Clan have matched up against NCAA Division I talent.
“Regardless of the result, I think it’s great to get away and do some team bonding. It’s a great experience to play in a great institution like Fairbanks and Anchorage, to see how they conduct business,” said Coletta. “It’s good for our guys to get a taste of that action and get ready for our regular season.
“[We have] some really tough opponents in our own league, so we want to be prepared and I think playing Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage will do that.”
This won’t be the last time this season that SFU faces off against Division I opponents. In February, the Clan will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a two game series.
“It’s a barometer to see where we’re at. We’re building a team over the last [few] years, and each year we’re getting better, we’re bringing in top end talent, we have a good group of people surrounding us,” said Coletta.
SFU will open the regular season on the road the following weekend, with games against Eastern Washington on the Friday, and versus Selkirk on the Saturday. The Clan’s home opener will be against Selkirk College on Saturday, October 15 at 7 pm.