Hockey

Anchorage Wolverines bring back familiar faces, get new head coach in second season

Anchorage Wolverines

Less than four months ago, the Anchorage Wolverines were wrapping up an inaugural season in the North American Hockey League that saw the franchise finish runner-up for the Robertson Cup championship.

And while the team hopes to build on that experience in its second year, the offseason has predictably provided a shake-up.

Goal-scoring dynamo Talon Sigurdson has bumped up to the USHL. Starting goalie Raythan Robbins, defenseman Campbell Cichosz, forward Matt Johnson and even head coach Mike Aikens have moved on to the Division I college level.

But as the team’s second season gets started Wednesday at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, new head coach Evan Trupp expects the Wolverines to be strong contenders in the Midwest Division.

“You’ve got to go in expecting that,” Trupp said of the team’s losses. “We’re focused on ourselves and what we’re ready to bring. It was awesome we were able to make a run. We did lose some key players because of that success. We’re all about moving people on.”

Despite the notable losses, the Wolverines bring back more than a dozen players from last year to their roster.

“Players coming back for their second year can double and sometimes triple their point total,” Trupp said. “We’ve set the bar high for those guys and expect them to lead the way. We have also some new faces we’re happy about.”

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Goalie Shane Soderwall returns to the team and will have the chance to take the bulk of the work after Robbins led the team through the playoffs.

Also returning are forwards Cameron Morris and Aiden Westin, who were the team’s second and third-leading scorers last season. Other key returners include defenseman Cooper Morris and forwards Drake Albers, Jackson Reineke, Jackson Krock and Bohdan Panasenko.

Anchorage Wolverines
Anchorage Wolverines defeat Springfield Jr. Blues

The biggest change will be at the top, where Trupp, a longtime stalwart of the Anchorage hockey scene, takes over after operating as an assistant last year.

Despite being short on head coaching experience, Trupp has an impressive playing resume, both collegiately at the University of North Dakota and as a professional, including a stint with the Alaska Aces.

“I learned a lot from Mike (Aikens) last year and through my pro career and college, I learned what I liked and disliked in a coach,” he said. “I was a sponge last year taking it how it goes and the process of what goes on behind the scenes you might not see as a player. What I lack in coaching experience, I have in playing experience.”

Trupp doesn’t plan on making any major changes to the on-ice systems the coaching staff implemented last year.

“There’s a few minor tweaks I’ll implement but we were pretty good at these systems,” he said.

Trupp said he will also lean on what he’s learned over the decades from his father Rick.

“My dad was my hero growing up as a coach and been a well-respected coach in Anchorage the last 35-40 years,” he said.

The Wolverines open Wednesday against the Amarillo Wranglers in a game set to start at 8:15 a.m. AKDT.

Anchorage will be on the road until early October and then have nearly a two week break until the home opener on Oct. 21.

“It’s good for the team, this forced time together is some team building and bonding,” Trupp said.

After playing in Ben Boeke Arena in their inaugural season, the Wolverines’ schedule on their website has Sullivan Arena as the site of the team’s first home games in late October. The facility had been being used as a mass homeless shelter until June 30, when it was closed by the municipality of Anchorage, which cited a lapsed COVID emergency declaration and a cutoff of federal funding.

But Wolverines Director of Hockey Operations Keith Morris said there is still uncertainty regarding where the team’s home ice will be in the 2022-23 season.

“At this point, it’s up in the air where our team is going to play this coming season,” he said. “We are waiting to see what’s going to happen with the Sullivan Arena with the transition from a homeless shelter to a sports and entertainment facility.”



Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.

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