UAA Athletics

Matt Curley resigns as coach of beleaguered UAA hockey team

The UAA hockey team took another blow Monday when head coach Matt Curley announced his resignation after three turbulent years with the Seawolves.

The school will not begin a search for a new coach unless hockey supporters are able to save the program by raising $3 million by the end of August, athletic director Greg Myford said in a statement released by the school.

The team is fighting for its existence after being eliminated by the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents in September. The regents said they will reinstate the program if two years’ worth of expenses — $3 million — can be raised by the end of August.

So far, nearly $2.3 million has been raised, according to the group called Save Seawolf Hockey.

Among those who have made individual donations to the cause is Curley, who hasn’t coached a game with the Seawolves since March 7, 2020.

He stuck with the team after the regents voted to eliminate it, he stuck with it after the 2020-21 season was canceled because of COVID-19, he stuck with it after every player either transferred or quit college hockey, and he stuck with it after UAA canceled the upcoming 2021-22 season in order to regroup and recruit a roster full of new players.

“His professionalism and effort in support of our students never wavered,” Myford said.

Now, with no guarantee the Seawolves will ever play again, Curley — who has repeatedly professed his affection for Anchorage and Alaska — is leaving.

“This was a very difficult decision for me and my family because we believe in Seawolf hockey’s future,” Curley said in a statement released by the school. “It’s been a privilege to coach such fine young men, as well as live in the Anchorage community.

“The outpouring of recent financial support for the team has been great to see, and I wish the program nothing but the very best.”

It’s not clear what’s next for Curley, who did not immediately respond to a message.

No players remain at the school but assistant coaches Matt Bruneteau and Nick Walters are still on staff, UAA spokesman Ian Marks said.

[As UAA hockey fights for its life, 9 players transfer to other schools, with more expected to follow]

“Normally, we would immediately put full attention into determining our next coach, but these are not normal times,” Myford said. “We first have to save our hockey program by securing the $800,000 we still have to raise before August 30.”

If the Seawolves survive, a new coach will start from scratch. Besides needing to recruit an entirely new team, he or she will have to put together a schedule without the benefit of a conference membership.

A longtime member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, UAA was one of three teams left behind — along with UAF and Alabama-Huntsville — when the league’s other seven teams decided to form a new conference that will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

The Seawolves were 7-53-10 during the two seasons they played under Curley. During Curley’s three years at the school, 33 hockey players earned WCHA Scholar Athlete honors and 45 earned WCHA All-Academic honors.

Curley was UAA’s sixth head coach and the fifth who will leave with a losing record.

He was hired in August 2018 after at least three other candidates reportedly turned down the job at a school that had considered cutting hockey two years earlier.

UAA hasn’t had a winning record since the 2013-14 season, the first year of former coach Matt Thomas’ five-year stint. They’ve gone 55-158-31 since then.

The only coach in team history with a winning record is team founder Brush Christiansen, who led the Seawolves for their first 17 years.

UAA hockey coaches

Brush Christiansen, 1980-96 — 287-229-30 (17 seasons)

Dean Talafous, 1997-2001 — 50-108-22 (5 seasons)

John Hill, 2001-05 — 39-89-15 (4 seasons)

Dave Shyiak, 2005-13 — 80-177-33 (8 seasons)

Matt Thomas, 2013-18 — 48-105-21 (5 seasons)

Matt Curley, 2018-21 — 7-53-10 (2 seasons)

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