The University of Alaska Anchorage named Matt Shasby as the head coach of the Seawolves hockey team Wednesday.
Shasby, 41, is a longtime figure in Anchorage hockey, playing for Chugiak High School and then UAA for four years.
The new coach will be tasked with building the Division I team from scratch — all players from the 2019-20 season either transferred, graduated or quit. The Seawolves didn’t play last season because of the pandemic and also aren’t playing this season in order to regroup.
The team is also without a conference because the Western Collegiate Hockey Association disbanded after last season.
The team moved out of Sullivan Arena in 2019 and into the much smaller Seawolf Sports Complex, raising questions about its ability to provide an adequate number of seats for fans and meet Division I requirements.
Former coach Matt Curley resigned this year after three seasons with the Seawolves. About 25 people applied to replace him and three finalists were announced in September, including Steve Murphy and Chris Cosentino. Shasby was the only finalist who had not coached collegiate hockey.
Shasby played six years of pro hockey, including for the Alaska Aces. He was a member of the 2006 Kelly Cup team and retired in 2009.
Shasby worked as a middle school teacher and has coached high school and Anchorage Hockey Association youth teams for years. He’s the vice president of player development for the Alaska State Hockey Association, and he was active in fundraising efforts to save the program.
Shasby said he is passionate about Alaska hockey and looks forward to ushering in a new era of Seawolf hockey.
“There’s no other job on the planet that I’ve wanted more than this position. ... I grew up my entire life wanting to be a Seawolf hockey player and I accomplished that goal,” he said after he was named coach. “There’s not a day that’s gone by that I haven’t wanted to give back to the program continually.”
Shasby said his immediate goal is to recruit players and develop a strong team that also prioritizes academics and community involvement.
“We’re going to obviously focus on players that are either going to be in the transfer portal first and players that are potentially going to be displaced because of the backlog of players in college hockey currently, with players getting the fifth year of eligibility,” he said. “We’re going to be focusing on trying to build, I think, an older team that’s going to be able to come in and play right away.”
Shasby said he also plans to start creating a schedule for the 2022-23 season soon.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said. “A lot of teams currently probably have full schedules, but just by being named in this process, I’ve heard from potential universities that aren’t going to hesitate to sign up to play the Seawolves for the 22-23 season.”
UAA Athletic Director Greg Myford acknowledged that the program faces many challenges and some skepticism that it can once again become successful. The team has not had a winning season since 2013-14.
“There may not be a more significant potential underdog story in college hockey — that’s who we are,” Myford said. “Let’s not be ashamed of that, let’s look at the opportunity that that presents.”