The Bismarck Bobcats have announced that forward Matt Gates has committed to University of Alaska-Fairbanks (CCHA) for 2011-12.
The Bobcats’ leading scorer and 2010-11 co-captain, Gates, a native of Palatine, Ill., averaged better than a point-per-game in his only season as a Bobcat, pouring in 27 goals and 31 assists in 56 contests and adding five goals and six assists in 12 playoff games to help the Cats lift their third straight Central Division title.
The playoff run was something that captured the attention of the Nanooks’ coaching staff, along with a common bond UA-Fairbanks has with Bobcat Hockey.
“When (Bobcats assistant) Coach (Adam) Gill played for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, (Nanooks head) Coach (Dallas) Ferguson was his coach there, so Adam made the first connection for us,” noted Gates. “Things started to really pick up when we made our run in the playoffs.”
Gates, who played in the second North American Hockey League (NAHL) Top Prospects Tournament of the season in Ann Arbor, Mich., in February, was a model of durability in 2010-11, bouncing back from a preseason injury that held him out of the Cats’ first two games in September to play in the remaining 56 regular-season and all 12 postseason contests.
Gates was the Cats’ steadiest producer, never going more than three games without a point while racking up 17 multi-point games.
The Nanooks offered a very appealing situation for the Bobcat captain.
“A lot of things went into my decision, but first and foremost is that with Alaska I’ll have a chance to play for solid playing time as a freshman,” said Gates, “but, not only that, you look at the CCHA, the teams and the history of that conference - I’ll be playing against some of the best programs in the country.”
Gates admits the adjustment to a campus over 3,400 miles - roughly the same distance between New York and London - from his Chicagoland home will be difficult, but he’s embracing the looming change.
“I look at it as a challenge, and I’m actually really looking forward to it,” added Gates, who was twice named NAHL Central Division Player of the Week in 2010-11. “To me, it’s the next phase of my life, the next part of my development as a player.”
While his summer plans may have been unclear as recently as a week ago, Gates says his offseason will be focused on preparing to join the Nanooks this fall.
“Coach Ferguson told me he wants me to spend my summer working out and skating as much as possible,” noted Gates. “A lot of the returning players are in Fairbanks skating and working out by July so I need to make sure I’m ready when I get to campus this fall.”