It’s feeling a bit more like the hockey season for the Seawolves, who can finally turn their attention to the immediate future — the prospect of playing games — rather than dwelling on the long term — saving their program from extinction.
UAA on Wednesday announced a 22-game season schedule delayed until December by COVID-19 and highlighted by six meetings with the rival Nanooks of UAF.
“Whether we get to play remains to be seen,” UAA coach Matt Curley said, an acknowledgement of the unpredictability a pandemic brings.
“It doesn’t guarantee anything by any stretch of the imagination, but it provides a framework to work with and work toward.”
UAA is scheduled to begin the season Dec. 4 — two months later than usual — with the first of four straight nonconference games against the Nanooks. The Seawolves will play two games in Fairbanks Dec. 4-5 and two more in Anchorage Dec. 11-12.
After that comes 18 Western Collegiate Hockey Association games — two apiece against every WCHA team, including a Feb. 27-28 regular-season finale series with UAF in Anchorage. Those are the final games of the regular season for both Alaska schools, although the WCHA is preserving the weekend of March 5-6 for makeup games in case any are canceled by COVID-19.
The 22 games is about 10 short of a typical regular season for the Seawolves, who are playing 10 fewer WCHA games than usual — 18 instead of 28.
Once they begin WCHA play, the Seawolves will travel back and forth from Alaska to the Lower 48 every week. They get a 12-day holiday break from Dec. 19-Jan. 1 and a bye weekend on Jan. 28-29.
Coming out of that bye week, the Seawolves should know if their team will exist beyond this season.
The University of Alaska’s Board of Regents plans to cut hockey, gymnastics and alpine skiing at UAA unless each program can raise enough money by February to cover two seasons of operating expenses. For the hockey team, that means $3 million.
Last week Curley and several players gathered to help announce the kickoff of a fundraising campaign, but Wednesday’s release of a schedule returned the focus to playing games.
“Obviously we’ve had a lot of external noise surround us and that’s hard to ignore,” Curley said. “Now there’s something a little more concrete we can talk about.”