Last month, Anchorage's Scott Warner was wrapping up his college hockey career at UAA.
Friday night, the defenseman made an unexpected professional debut for the Stockton Thunder, who fell 5-2 to the Alaska Aces in Game 1 of an ECHL Western Conference semifinal series.
Warner's opportunity arose due to an injury suffered by Stockton's Ryan Constant during a Thursday afternoon practice. Stockton was left shorthanded and needed a defenseman to play this weekend at Sullivan Arena.
"I just got outta class and got a phone call," said Warner, a civil engineering major who is scheduled to start work with BP in June. "They said they needed a guy for Friday-Saturday, so I ran back to UAA and tried to get on the ice."
Warner, 24, hadn't played a game since UAA's season ended about a month ago and had only skated a couple times since then. He signed a tryout contract and said he felt good during a Friday morning skate with the Stockton.
"It comes back pretty quick," he said.
He didn't have to wait long to see action Friday night, getting his stick on a puck before two minutes had expired. He saw plenty of action and was on the ice for five of the game's seven goals.
"You gotta throw him into the fire and let him get adjusted," Stockton coach Matt Thomas said.
Thomas once coached with UAA associate head coach Campbell Blair at the University of Maine, and it was Blair who suggested Warner as a possible solution to Stockton's problem.
"We were kinda scrambling," Thomas said. "I was grateful that (Warner) was able to do it, for him to get an opportunity to come and play, I think is a great thing. We needed a guy who knows how to play the position."
Warner, who notched three goals and three assists with the Seawolves this season, had some good and bad moments. One of his best came when he successfully defended a breakaway by Alaska's Chris Clackson near the end of the first period. One of his worst was getting beat badly by Alaska's Alex Hudson late in the second period. Hudson scored to give the Aces a 3-1 lead after making a slick fake that left Warner hanging out to dry and Stockton goalie Olivier Roy to fend for himself.
"He got beat on the one goal there, but we've all been there," Thomas said. "I like the way he competed. I didn't expect him to be a savior, I just wanted him to come and give us some quality minutes."
Playoff hockey is elevated to an intense level, Thomas said, and he expects Warner to improve with experience.
"It's a lot different than college hockey," Warner said. "It's tough coming onto a team not knowing anyone, but that's the way it goes and that's pro hockey, I guess."
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.