Seawolf hockey forward and sophomore Tanner Schachle grew up in a UAF Nanooks household.
Both of his parents, Trent and Holli Schachle, attended UAF. His father played for the Nanooks hockey team from 1992-1996. He also competed in the inaugural Governor’s Cup game in 1994, where the Nanooks took the first installment of the Gov. Cup.
“It’s nice listening to [my dad] talk about his glory days of winning while playing for the Nanooks, but his time is over and it’s our time to win,” Schachle said.
The Governor’s Cup, the trophy handed to the winner of the four-game series between the Seawolves and Nanooks, hasn’t been back in Anchorage since 2009, ten seasons ago. For the Gov. Cup to be brought back to Anchorage, Schachle plans to play a big part in the contest on Feb. 28 and 29.
“The Nanooks are a big and strong team. We need to play like men,” Schachle said. “They’re a big and physical team, and we’ll need to match that.”
Schachle has been one of the main building blocks for UAA throughout the 2020 season, with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 27 games, more than doubling his total from last season, according to College Hockey News.
“The biggest difference in my sophomore season versus my freshman year is confidence and knowing you can perform at a high level,” Schachle said. “My senses are sharpened and I’ve gained some weight in a good way in the last year as well.”
The improvement from the 6 foot, 4 inch, 218-pound sophomore hasn’t gone unnoticed by UAA head coach Matt Curley.
“Tanner [Schachle] has taken a really nice step for us, both on and off the ice. He’s matured a bit as a player, his production has increased and he’s been playing some really good hockey,” Curley said. “Schachle is a big piece of the revitalization here and a big reason we are in the position [that] we’re in.”
The Governor’s Cup tradition began in 1994. In the first tournament, the Seawolves and Nanooks split the series at one win per team. The rules of the Gov. Cup are that if the series is tied at the end of the last game between the two, the winner is decided in a shootout. UAF came out on top in the first Gov. Cup in a shootout 3-1. Since 2009, Fairbanks has won in a shootout four times in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
The Nanooks dominated over the Seawolves in the 2010s. Fairbanks held a record of 25-11 in the last 10 Gov. Cups. The Nanooks have also outscored the Seawolves by a total of 106-77, according to the College Hockey News archives.
However, for three years (2010-2012), the Governor’s Cup was vacated from the Nanook’s due to NCAA violations. The violations were caused by athletes not declaring a major, not taking sufficient credits toward their major or not meeting transfer requirements from different colleges, according to a 2016 Anchorage Daily News by Beth Bragg.
Curley emphasized the importance of this year’s Governor’s Cup for UAA.
“We haven’t won the Governor’s Cup in over a decade, and for a lot of guys in that locker room, they were little kids the last time the University of Alaska Anchorage was able to say they were Gov. Cup champions,” Curley said. “It has been our number one goal as a staff and team to win our championship up here.”
With the first two games of the series this season played in Anchorage, each team winning one game, it will all come down to the fourth game of the series on Feb. 29, where the Governor’s Cup champion will be crowned.
UAA is in better shape than previous years, already with more goals for the season than in 2018-2019, with 63 compared to 40 from last season, according to College Hockey News.
At the moment, the Seawolves are also on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014, where they defeated the Nanooks in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
Making the playoffs would be incredible for the program, Curley said.
“To be in this position is where we want to be in right now, being one of the top eight teams in the WCHA. Despite tough losses, we’re in a position to accomplish our goal,” Curley said.
In a home series facing Minnesota State-Mankato on Feb. 1, a top-three program in the nation, the Mavericks clawed back from two goals down in the last minute of the game to tie the game up. The second goal from Mankato’s Ian Scheid knotted the contest up at 2-2 with one second remaining. Minnesota State wound up winning the game 3-2 in 3-on-3 overtime.
In an early February match against Bowling Green, the Seawolves stormed back against the Falcons, tying up the game with 29 seconds left in regulation. The celebration was short-lived, however, when Bowling Green’s Alec Rauhauser ripped a shot past UAA goaltender Kris Carlson, giving them all three possible WCHA points in the game.
“Those were tough losses, I won’t sugar coat it… but the fact that we were in those positions, those were two [NCAA] tournament teams from a year ago. Mankato will be back, and Bowling Green is pushing for home ice in the playoffs,” Curley said. “We went toe to toe with both of those teams, showing our growth from last year. We were not in those positions a year ago.”
With the Seawolves in the driver’s seat, controlling their own destiny to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2014, they need one win or a tie against Fairbanks to punch their ticket to the WCHA playoffs.
“We live in a world of instant gratification and instant satisfaction, but the reality of this business is progress takes time, change is slow and success is built,” Curley said.
The Seawolves play at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks on Feb. 28 and 29 to finish out the regular season against the UAF Nanooks. For more information, visit goseawolves.com.