UAA hockey starts the new season with 12 new freshmen, in contrast to their 2016-17 season, which left the team with a scarce amount of players. The team finished up the season with 7 wins, 21 losses and 6 ties before bidding farewell to five graduating seniors.
Departing from the team were Brad Duwe, Dylan Hubbs, Rasmus Reijola, Connor Wright and Chase Van Allen. To make up for those loses, the team added a new goalie and defensemen. iIn addition, several locals joined the team.
Of the new additions, the vast majority are relocating from Canada, including players from Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia and Manitoba. In addition, two Anchorage locals and an Ohioan joined the team for the 2017-18 season.
Head coach Matt Thomas is confident in the abilities of all the incomers.
“They all come from programs that won, and they were leaders and impactful players on those teams. We expect them to create a more competitive environment for our returning players to strengthen a lot of very important areas. We are excited to see them push us to the next level,” Thomas said.
Brody Claeys from St. Rose, Manitoba played for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. As a goalie, Claeys regularly was a starter on the team and even earned the team’s MVP award this past year. For his 2016-17 season, Claeys maintained his goalie position for 45 games, averaging a 0.908 save percentage.
Another Canadian, Trey DeGraff, comes to the Seawolves to play as a forward from his junior team of the Okotoks Oilers. The Alberta local boasts the impressive accomplishment of being the third-leading scorer in franchise history, 144 total in 167 games.
“Trey is a well-rounded player who can adapt his game to different roles. He is a leader and a consistent performer who will develop into a solid contributor for our team,” Thomas said.
A second of seven new forwards is Drake Glover, also an Anchorage local. However, Glover didn’t always play in Alaska. After graduating from Dimond High School in 2013, Glover moved on to play with the Weyburn Red Wings for two years and for his final juniors year, played for the Lone Star Bahamas. Glover made many accomplishments while on both teams, including 13 goals and 47 assists in his 2015 season on the Red Wings and 47 points in 52 games during his final year on the Bahamas.
After competing outside of Alaska, Glover was ready to return and play for UAA.
“I’ve always watched UAA hockey growing up being from Anchorage and I’ve always imagined myself playing here so to actually be able to is unbelievable. I think one of my goals would be to win a conference championship and go to the NCAA tournament. That would be an unreal experience and it would be great for the program,” Glover said.
Another forward addition and Canadian is Jason Lavallee. A top forward in the SJHL, Lavallee played on the Flin Flon Bombers and brings an impressive history of point scoring to UAA. At eighth in the SJHL and fourth in the league, Lavallee scored 30 goals in 2016-17 and 39 in 2015-16 season.
Similar to Glover, Lavallee joined the team with high goals driven by past successes.
“[I hope] to develop myself as an elite player to have the chance to play at a higher level. My biggest prior accomplishment was winning the championship three years ago and going to the final in my last two years of junior,” Lavallee said.
Zac Masson, an Ontario local, is the fourth forward to join the Seawolves. Masson was a consistent starter and assistant captain for his junior team of Langley Rivermen (BCHL) claiming a spot in 175 regular season games and 17 playoff games, scoring 15 goals and 39 assists in the 2016-17 season.
The first of three new defensemen and the second of the only two Alaskans is Aaron McPheters. Just like Glover, McPheters graduated in 2013 from South Anchorage High School. McPheters moved around quite a bit before ending up back with the Seawolves. First, he spent some time in Connecticut playing with Select Hockey Academy before playing for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs the past two years. McPheters joins UAA with a previous 6-41 record.
Assistant coach Louis Mass has confidence in McPheters.
“Aaron is a solid, puck-moving defenseman with a high level on-ice IQ and poise beyond his years. He’s a prototypical power play quarterback. We have high expectations for Aaron,” Mass said.
A second defensemen joining UAA is Eric Sinclair, a second Seawolf coming from the Flin Flon Bombers. With an impressive record, 46 points in 44 games last season, Sinclair is coming in as a valuable asset to the Seawolves. The two-time Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Defensemen of the Year also boasts the title as team MVP and the accomplishment of being fourth in the league with 12 power-play goals.
The only American joining the team outside of Alaska is Joe Sofo from Ohio, who comes in as another forward. At the junior level, Sofo was Coulee Region Chill’s third-leading scorer with 51 points in 57 games, including two game-winning goals.
“Joe brings speed to our lineup. He has had a knack for scoring big goals and he will be a threat on the Olympic-sized ice at the Sullivan Arena due to his quickness,” Thomas said.
The second of two goalies coming to UAA is Kristian Stead from British Colombia. With a 0.936 save percentage in 42 games in 2016-17, Stead holds an impressive record, including a 0.946 percentage in playoffs. In addition, Stead helped his team finish with a record of 29 wins and 7 shutouts in the previous year.
Brandon Switzer is the third Flin Flon Bomber to join the Seawolves, Switzer overcame a ruptured ACL to boast 32 goals and 43 assists in 53 games during his final junior season.
Thomas recognized the dedication Switzer had to hockey and realized he would be a valuable asset to the Seawolves.
“Character and desire are two words that kept coming up in conversations about Brandon. His injury was a setback but he has worked extremely hard to recover and we believe that he can make a significant impact over his four years. He has the skill level to create offense,” Thomas said.
The final of three new defensemen is B.C. local Cameron Trott. From the Vernon Vipers to the UAA Seawolves, Trott comes to play with a previous record of six goals and 20 assists. In addition, Trott took a spot on the lineup in the team’s playoffs in 2015-16.
The final of 12 additions comes forward Jordan Xavier. The Calgary, Alberta local comes in with 155 junior games played. His play history is spread between three different junior teams including the Okotoks, Calgary Mustangs and Fort McMurray Oil Barrons. His time spent on those teams resulted in a final record of 54 totals in 56 games.
The 12 new freshmen only add to the 17 returners that the Seawolves currently have. After the loss of several valuable players, UAA hockey will debut their new lineup on Sept. 29 for a Green and Gold scrimmage game at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.