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UAA hockey brings in two forward recruits a season earlier than initially planned

Doyle Woody

Matt Thomas’ original plan to bring in center Matt Anholt and winger Anthony Conti in 2015 has been fast-tracked by one season and both have joined the UAA hockey team.

Thomas, the Seawolves’ second-year coach, figured his club was thin at center, particularly with the graduation of leading scorer and two-way force Matt Bailey, and could also use another big body on the wing. Enter Anholt, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound pivot, and Conti, a 6-3, 207-pound winger. Both spent last season in the British Columbia Hockey League.

Adding two additional forwards in the 2014 recruiting class -- the class consists of four forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders -- also made sense because forwards Andrew Pettitt and Bobby Murphy are not back.

Thomas said he decided to bring in Conti, 18, one season earlier than planned after Conti’s production rose last season following a trade to Surrey from Penticton. Conti racked 7-10—17 totals in 18 regular-season games with Surrey and 2-5—7 totals in six playoff games.

“We felt he was ready,’’ Thomas said. “And he’s a 6-3 guy who can learn under (returning big wingers) Brett Cameron and Scott Allen.’’

Junior Blake Tatchell, the team’s leading returning scorer, is the lone UAA center who has consistently delivered points. Bringing in Anholt, 20, a season early should aid UAA’s depth in the middle.

Anholt last season for West Kelowna generated 17-31—48 totals in 57 regular-season games. Thomas also likes that Anholt is the son of a coach -- Peter Anholt is a longtime head coach in the major-junior Western Hockey League who currently is assistant general manager of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes -- and plays like it.

“He’s got a good skill level,’’ Thomas said. “He can make plays offensively, but he’s also smart and really responsible defensively.’’

UAA has also made additions on its staff.

Jonathan Gant is the team’s new equipment manager after spending the past two seasons helping Alaska Aces equipment manager Mike Burkhead. Also, Michael Butler joined the Seawolves as an intern.

UAA’s annual Green & Gold scrimmage is Sept. 26 and it plays its annual exhibition game against Western Ontario on Oct. 4 -- both games are at the school’s Wells Fargo Sports Complex.

The Seawolves open the season in earnest Oct. 10, when they entertain Maine in the Kendall Hockey Classic. The field also includes UAF and Wisconsin.

Reach Doyle Woody at dwoody@adn.com and check out his blog at adn.com/hockey-blog