Seawolves goaltender Kris Carlson finds his stride and home in UAA hockey

UAA hockey has a strong history of goaltenders, from Paul “The Wall” Krake, who had the most games played and wins in program history in the early 1990s, Nathan Lawson in the mid-2000 with a career with the New York Islanders in the National Hockey League, or NHL, to Olivier Mantha in the 2010s, who now has the all-time lead in the program in save percentage (.910) and career games played (122).

Kris Carlson, goaltender for the UAA hockey team, is getting used to life in Alaska along with playing at the collegiate level. Photo courtesy of goseawolves.com.

Current Seawolves goaltender, No. 30 Kris Carlson, has blossomed in his junior year, notched his first win at the collegiate level against Lake Superior State on Jan. 4., and currently ranks fourth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in save percentage as of Jan. 17 (.917).

“[The win was] hard to describe… it’s a weight off my shoulders, monkey off the back, whatever phrase you want to say, but it felt good to get that out of the way,” Carlson said.

Carlson was born in Virginia and started playing hockey at a young age when his family lived in Denver and had season tickets to the Denver University hockey games.

“I was gravitated to the pads as a kid. I was always gravitated to watching the goalies play,” he said. “I’ve looked up to Martin Brodeur when I was younger and tried to model my game after Pekka Rinne, but I try to be my own goalie and have my own style.”

Martin Brodeur has the NHL all-time record in wins during his successful career with the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues. Pekka Rinne plays for the Nashville Predators.

Carlson played hockey for Westfield High School in New Jersey, graduating in 2015. He went on to play for the Providence College Friars in 2016-17, leaving after one season.

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“[I left Providence] on mutual terms… they had some goalies coming in. I wasn’t getting any time in the net. It was a good decision for both sides,” he said.

After Providence, Carlson spent a season split in the United States Hockey League for the Central Illinois Flying Aces, finishing the year in the United States Premier Hockey League with the Jersey Hitmen in New Jersey.

Carlson joined the Seawolf hockey team in 2018. Coming off the 2018-19 season where he did not have a win in 15 games played, with a save percentage of .896, according to statistics from College Hockey News, Carlson said the biggest part of the improvement to his game this season is “experience, playing games, gaining confidence in the net.”

Now, having played in a total of 28 games in two seasons for the Seawolves, he has found his game and a home, after bouncing around from team to team before ending up in Anchorage. With not much stability from year to year, this is the first in both his junior hockey and collegiate careers that Carlson is on the same squad for two consecutive years.

“It’s been a wild ride… it helps having the experience going through traveling with many teams,” Carlson said.

Although Carlson enjoyed his time in Alaska so far, it “hasn’t been what I expected,” he said.

“[It’s not] the stereotypical Alaska experience of snow and igloos… it’s just a normal town. The only real difference from everywhere else is the travel,” he said.

The reason Carlson chose the Seawolves hockey team was a simple one, he said.

“It was the offer I had… I didn’t have much [going] late into the recruiting season. I got the call from coach Curley and it just ended up being a good fit,” he said.

Catch Carlson, along with the rest of the UAA Seawolves hockey team, on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in the Seawolf Sports Complex in their next home game against Minnesota State.