Four hockey seniors wrap up their time on Seawolf ice

Four UAA hockey players – Derek Hamelin, Caleb Hite, Nolan Kent and Jamie Collins – finished their collegiate career this year. In an interview with TNL the players shared their hockey stories.

Seawolves line up before starting their game. Photo by Justin Cox.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted nearly all sporting activities, the NCAA granted an extra year of athletic eligibility to collegiate athletes. This gave seniors Derek Hamelin, Caleb Hite, Nolan Kent and Jamie Collins an opportunity to compete for five years of collegiate hockey. The seniors spent this fifth year helping rebuild UAA's hockey legacy. 

Seawolf hockey was cut as a sport in 2020 due to state funding reductions, but two years and over $3 million later, UAA hockey is back. TNL sat down with the seniors to hear their hockey stories. 

Derek Hamelin 

Hamelin's hockey career began when he was only three years old. "My older brother played," said Hamelin. "When I was three I would watch him skate and I guess I wanted to be him."

From that point forward, Hamelin continued to play. At 14, he already knew that collegiate hockey was in his future. Hamelin left home in Quebec and headed to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to begin his schooling in the United States. 

After graduating from high school, he went to Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and played four years of collegiate hockey there before transferring to UAA this year. 

"I chose UAA because it would give me a good opportunity to play," said Hamelin. "It's obviously a program that came back after being gone for two years. I also know Aaron McPheters, [director of hockey operations]. I played with him when I was younger at South Kent Prep School and he spoke well about the place."

Hamelin was happy he got to finish his collegiate hockey career at UAA. He was also happy about how the season went. "I thought [the season] went well," said Hamelin. 

"I don't think many people thought we would win any games and we were able to beat some pretty good teams. The first weekend we beat Western Michigan, a top 10 ranked team in the nation. I was pretty happy about what we accomplished this year."

Hamelin hopes to play professional hockey in Europe next year. If this doesn't work out, he wants to go back to Quebec and start working. 

Though he's leaving the team, he wants them to remember he'll be cheering them on from the stands. "To all the freshmen, good luck the next three years, and to all the juniors and seniors, good luck with the new freshmen," said Hamelin. "Just keep on doing better, and I'll be watching, that's for sure." 

Caleb Hite

Hite's hockey career also began at a young age – when he was four years old. "Both of my older brothers played hockey and my dad wanted to play hockey his whole life but never played," said Hite. "He put my older brothers into the sport and I just followed in their footsteps."  

Hite grew up in Grand Blanc, Michigan, where he was constantly exposed to hockey. He watched lots of NCAA Division I hockey teams compete and decided he wanted to be a part of that culture. 

Hite went on to play three seasons for the University of Alaska Fairbanks before entering the junior hockey league in the North American Hockey League. 

He played one season for the Minnesota Magicians and then one season for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. In Fairbanks, Hite played for current UAA assistant coach Trevor Stewart. He then headed back to school to play as a Seawolf. 

"I came from UAF, so I'm familiar with Alaska," said Hite when asked why he chose UAA. "Trevor Stewart was also my head coach when I was playing junior hockey up in Fairbanks, so familiarity led me here." 

Like Hamelin, Hite was pleased with how the season played out. "I thought it was pretty successful," said Hite. "I didn't have many expectations coming in with a new team, but I thought we grew as the season went along and we finished the year pretty strong." 

Now that he's graduating, Hite plans to stay in Anchorage and work. He wishes the team luck in future seasons and said he knows they'll continue to grow from this season.

Jamie Collins

Collin's brother and dad inspired him to play hockey. 

"My brother played when he was young and I pretty much did whatever he did, so I started with hockey too. I started skating when I was three and began playing hockey when I was five or six." 

Collins' goal wasn't always to play collegiately, though. Instead, he just wanted to continue to progress as an athlete. But when he hit his teenage years he realized he had the potential to play in college and worked toward that goal. 

Prior to coming to UAA, Collins played four years at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. He then headed to UAA to play another year. 

"The coaches here and the school gave me an opportunity to play," said Collins. "It also gave me an opportunity to get my Master's degree which is kind of the best of both worlds."

Collins said he was impressed with how the season went. "It was a good season after the program shut down for two years," said Collins. 

"It might not look like it from an outside perspective that we did well, but I think we did a lot of good things. I think the program grew a little bit more and hopefully it keeps growing in the future." 

As of right now, Collins' post-graduation plans include working. He wants the UAA hockey team to know he appreciates them and that it was an honor to play with them. "I'm really happy I came and I'm happy I was a part of the program," said Collins. "I wish my teammates good luck going forward forever." 

Nolan Kent

For Kent, hockey has always been a huge component of his life. "I was a big Calgary Flames fan when I was younger," said Kent. "When I was about four years old they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and that really sparked my interest in the game." 

As Kent began to play more, he realized the best way to advance his game was to play collegiately. He then headed to Northern Michigan University and played four seasons there. 

From there, Kent entered the Alberta Junior Hockey League and played two seasons for the Spruce Grove Saints. In the 2017-18 season, he led the AJHL in save percentage. 

Kent then came up to UAA to use his last year of athletic eligibility. 

"I just wanted an opportunity to play some more," said Kent. "With the program restarting, guys were able to play more so it worked out really well for myself." 

Kent said, while the team's record might not reflect it, the team had an amazing season this year. "I felt like we exceeded the expectations of the people outside of our team," said Kent.

"If you look at other teams that have been reinstated you see that they've won one or two games and we won eight. Near the end of the year we were competitive in every game which was really good to see."

Now that he's graduating, Kent's biggest goal is to leave a legacy at UAA. "I hope I can leave a lasting impact when I leave Anchorage," he told TNL. From there, Kent plans to play professional hockey.

Lastly, he wants to share his gratitude to his team. "I want to say thank you to my team for all their hard work this year and I wish them nothing but the best moving forward," said Kent.

"I hope they appreciate the time they spend at UAA and don't take it for granted."

With only one season under their belt, the Seawolf hockey team has a promising future ahead of them. Check later this year to view the 2023-24 hockey season schedule.