This past week in Alaska sports featured very impressive performances at the prep, collegiate and amateur levels across the Alaska sports landscape. There were also some athletes with Last Frontier roots that shined Outside. On the prep sports scene, the Dimond boys varsity basketball team staked their claim as the top team by winning the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic tournament in Ketchikan. On the college scene, the University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey team swept one of the nation’s best teams and the men’s basketball team is heading into the year on a hot streak.
Headlines and highlights
The Team USA Youth and Junior Biathlon Trials were held in Anchorage for the first time in almost a decade last week and concluded on Saturday with three Alaskans making the team. The trio of representatives from the Last Frontier include Eagle River’s Helen Wilson in the junior women’s division, Anchorage’s Maxim Germain in the junior men’s division, and Anchorage’s Elias Soule in the men’s youth division.
This will mark the first international competition in Soule’s promising young career as the 16-year-old Service High School student gets the opportunity to represent his home state with his fellow Alaskans at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Shchuchinsk, Kazakhstan, from March 4-12.
[Anchorage teen positioned to represent Alaska on the Biathlon Junior Worlds stage]
With so much turnover on the South Anchorage and Bettye Davis East Anchorage boys varsity basketball teams, who finished first and second at last year’s Division I state championship, a new power could be emerging not just in the Cook Inlet Conference but on the prep hoops scene across the state. After dropping their season-opener to an out-of-state opponent, the Dimond boys team rattled off three straight victories at the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic tournament in Ketchikan to close out the calendar year.
The Lynx faced Philomath High School, a top 4A team from Oregon, in the tournament championship game and handed the previously undefeated Warriors their first loss of the season in a 56-52 triumph. Leading the charge in the game was the towering frontcourt of seniors Maguire Hamey and Xzavier Baker. They both recorded double-digits in the title tilt with Hamey finishing as the leading scorer with 20 points, 13 of which came in the second half alone. Baker finished with 16 on his way to being named MVP of the tournament.
After falling to instate rival UAF four straight times in the return of the annual Governor’s Cup ahead of the Christmas break, the UAA men’s hockey team returned to action this past weekend and got back in the win column with two shocking upsets of University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The River Hawks came into the matchup as the No. 13 ranked Division I hockey team in the nation and the Seawolves were able to snap their skid, completing their first road sweep since February 2018.
“Coming out of Christmas break, we kind of got a bit of a fresh start and reflected a little bit on what we learned as group,” UAA Matt Shasby said. “It’s a significant bump to our confidence just in terms of going into every game thinking we have a chance.”
Freshman goalie Jared Whale was under siege for most of night in the first game but was able to make 52 saves in the 4-2 victory Friday. Sophomore forward and Anchorage native Maximilion Helgeson led the scoring efforts by scoring a goal and assisting on two others.
“He was seeing everything, his feet were quick, for it to be his first-ever NCAA win as a freshman is something he’s never going to forget for sure,” Shasby said of Whale. “He was feeling it that night.”
In the second game, it was a pair of graduate students that made the difference. Nolan Kent got the start in goal and produced 26 saves and Caleb Hite scored what would end up being the game-winning goal in the second period to put the team up 3-1 before they went on to ultimately prevail 3-2.
“Those guys’ contributions have been great all year long and I think for us to win hockey games here down the second half, those guys will continue to be our leadership,” Shasby said.
[UAA hockey team stuns nationally-ranked UMass Lowell by sweeping road series]
The UAA men’s basketball team will also be heading into the new year on a hot streak and with plenty of momentum after winning their last three games of the 2022 calendar year. Following a pair of blowout wins in a two-game non-conference series against Portland Bible College last Wednesday and Thursday, the Seawolves hosted the instate rival Nanooks of UAF on New Year’s Eve. UAA claimed its third-straight victory and first against a Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent this season in commanding fashion with an 81-59 win.
Leading the team was a pair of hometown heroes who starred at the prep level in Anchorage — former West High star Da’Zhon Wyche and Bettye Davis East High star Jaron Williams. They finished as the Seawolves leading scorers Saturday night with Wyche recording a game-high 24 points and Williams scoring 16, good for second-most in the game.
[Hometown heroes help UAA men’s basketball team head into 2023 on a hot streak]
The UAA women’s basketball team rebounded from getting blown out in a staggering 104-51 defeat to No. 8 ranked in the nation Western Washington on Thursday with a convincing 86-69 victory over Simon Fraser on New Year’s Eve. Senior guard Vishe Rabb scored 13 points in both games and nearly had a double-double in the second with 9 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jazzpher Evans led the Seawolves in scoring in their Saturday win with a season-high 17 points.
Juniors and fellow natives of Norway, Astrid Stav and Tuva Bygrave, led UAA at the U.S. Cross Country Skiing National Championships on Monday with top-10 finishes among RMISA competitors in the 10-kilometer freestyle. Stav finished seventh in a time of 29:53 and Bygrave was right behind her in eighth place with a time of 29:54. UAF had a pair of top 10 RMISA qualifiers on both their men’s and women’s teams with Kendall Kramer and Mariel Pulles taking fifth and sixth for in the women’s 10K freestyle and Mike Ophoff and Joe Davies taking second and third in the men’s.
The Anchorage Wolverines also ended the 2022 portion of their schedule on a positive note by splitting a two-game weekend series with the Janesville Jets. After falling to their hosts 5-3 on Friday, the team bounced back with 3-0 shutout on Saturday. They had five different players record a goal over the weekend with forward Mason LeBel scoring two in their win. Goalie Shane Soderwall made 40 saves in that same game on his way to the shutout.
Alaska stars shining Outside
Alaska Pacific Nordic Ski Center member, Rosie Brennan, moved into 8th place in Tour de Ski overall standings with her 11th-place finish in the 10-kilometer classic on Tuesday in Oberstdorf, Germany. It was the third stage of the tour. She said that the rainy conditions that required salt on the course made for faster skiing. It helped her get out to a good start but she was ultimately disappointed by finishing outside of the top 10 with a time of 25:53.8.
“I started strong and was in the game for the first lap, but really struggled with my skis the second and third lap which led me to fade quite a bit,” Brennan wrote in a statement. “This is never what you want, but is a part of ski racing so hopefully we can all learn and move forward.”
Anchorage’s Hunter Wonders placed a career-best 11th, Anchorage’s Gus Schumacher placed 15th and Anchorage’s Scott Patterson was 29th in the men’s classic race
Brennan’s fellow APU ski team member, Hailey Swirbul, opted not to compete overseas at Tour de Ski in Europe and decided to race at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships instead. She claimed her fourth career national championship by finishing first in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle interval race in 27 minutes, 32 seconds on Monday.
Wasilla native and senior forward for the St. Lawrence University men’s hockey team, Josh Boyer, scored the game-tying goal midway through the third period in a game against the University of Nebraska at Omaha, his former program before transferring, to help the Saints force overtime and eventually come out on top 2-1 on Friday. It marked Boyer’s second straight game scoring a goal and moves him into a tie for the team lead through 18 games with 5 in total.
Last week’s results
West 57, Porterville 39
Dimond 41, Silverado 36
Juneau-Douglas 59, Bettye Davis East 10
Desert Oasis 60, Diamond 36
Corona Del Mar 39, West 32
Dimond 46, Spanish Springs 34
ACS 75, Juneau-Douglas 40
Porterville 46, Dimond 42
Dimond 84, Nome-Beltz 37
Juneau-Douglas 67, South 52
Dimond 82, Lathrop 38
ACS 52, Seward 34
Dimond 56, Philomath 52
Western Washington 104, UAA 51
UAA 86, Simon Fraser 69
UAA 108 Portland Bible 36
UAA 87, Portland Bible 28
UAA 81, UAF 59
UAA 4, Massachusetts Lowell 2
UAA 3, Massachusetts Lowell 2
Janesville Jets 5, Anchorage Wolverines 3
Anchorage Wolverines 3, Janesville Jets 0