NA Now: Anchorage Wolverines
The NA Now series features a look at all 29 teams in the NAHL for the 2022-23 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: TBD
2021-22 record: 60 GP, 33-19-8, 74 pts. (3rd in the Midwest Division)
2021-22 leading scorer: Talon Sigurdson (59 points)
2022 Playoffs: Won the Midwest. Lost to New Jersey in Robertson Cup Championship Game
2022-23 Division: Midwest
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 14th vs. Amarillo Wranglers
Home opener: Friday, October 21st vs. Janesville Jets
The inaugural season for the Anchorage Wolverines was something out of a dream. After a inconsistent start through the first month of the season, the Wolverines found their footing as they played through their first home stand of the season winning seven of nine contests at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena. The team flirted with first place in the Midwest Division around the holiday season but a tough stretch coming out of the break put them behind the pace. The Wolverines clinched a postseason berth in their first season by winning seven of their final 10 games which including getting points in nine of those games.
Then came the Robertson Cup playoffs where the third seeded Wolverines went to Springfield and swept the Jr. Blues in three games, all on the road. They returned home where they continued their strong play on home ice, taking two of three from the Wilderness before eliminating Minnesota on the road to win the Midwest Division playoff title. At the Robertson Cup, the Wolverines swept the top seeded St. Cloud Norsemen before seeing their cinderella season strike midnight, falling to the New Jersey Titans in the championship game.
“It was a magical run for us, we felt that we had a great group of guys in the locker room, our team was built on high character. We we’re playing playoff hockey from March on. Our division was so tough we had to fight until the second to last day to make the playoffs,” said Director of Hockey Operations Keith Morris. “For a first year team, we’re very proud of the guys that competed for us last year and we’re very excited that 15 of those players are going to be back in our lineup this year moving forward.”
Watch: Interview with Keith Morris of Anchorage
In addition to the on-ice success, nine players earned NCAA commitments, which includes six players earning Division I commitments. Now the team will reload and try to get back to the top of the mountain. Like Morris mentioned, 15 players from last year’s squad will start the year in Anchorage. A unit that was a top 10 scoring threat in the NAHL, averaging 3.46 goals per game while allowing 2.76 goals per contest, eighth best in the league. Both the power play and penalty kill units ranked 12th in the league at 21.9% and 82.2% respectively.
Up front Cameron Morris and Aiden Westin lead the returning group. Morris led the team with 44 assists a season ago and was second on the team in points with 55. The hometown product enters his final year of junior hockey eligibility. Westin, another native of Anchorage was second on the team in goals with 21 tallies, he finished with 51 points. Jackson Reineke, Drake Albers and Bohdan Panasenko all return for the Wolverines as well. They will all be looking for top line minutes for Anchorage and look to improve their outputs this coming season after posting 33, 23 and 18 points respectively.
The blue line will also be stacked with several returners and will be led by Cooper Morris and Clay Allen. Despite scoring just one goal in 60 games, Morris was a key distributor of the puck, picking up 36 helpers on the year. He had 37 points, the most among defenseman for Anchorage. Clay Allen led all Wolverine d-men in goals with 13 tallies to go with is 21 assists. Following a similar theme, Morris and Allen are also both home grown products from Anchorage. Danny Reis, Hayden Hennen, Andy Ramsey and Ben Edwards all return for their second season as Wolverines. The back end will have plenty of experience for Anchorage.
In between the pipes, the lone returner is Shane Soderwall after Raythan Robbins committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The veteran goaltender spent two years with the Rochester Grizzlies before joining the Wolverines a season ago. The Algonquin, Illinois native went 12-13-1 in his first NAHL season sporting a goals against average of 3.04 and a save percentage of .891 to go with three shutouts.
After an amazing first season in the North American Hockey League, the expectations are now very high for year two. With a large amount of returners set to come back for the Wolverines, they are confident that a return to the Robertson Cup is in reach. And this time, they’ll be hoping to be on the other side after the final buzzer.
Next Up: Amarillo Wranglers