Monday, April 30, 2018

Alaska teams finally have coaches

It took some time — and some rejection — but Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks have hired their new head hockey coaches.

Anchorage on April 21 named Matt Curley as coach. The 35-year-old was the head coach of the EC Red Bulls Juniors team based out of Salzburg, Austria, for the past three seasons. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant coach for two seasons at Bentley University and was an assistant with the U.S. National Team Development Program as well as with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League.

A native of Madrid, New York, Curley played college hockey at Clarkson from 2003 to 2007. He replaced Matt Thomas, whose contract was not renewed after five seasons with the Seawolves.

On Monday, Alaska announced the hiring of the youngest head coach in Division I, 31-year-old Erik Largen.

Largen, a Fairbanks native and former Nanooks goaltender, becomes the 10th coach in program history. He was an assistant coach for Alaska the last two seasons and replaces Lance West, who was the WCHA team's interim coach last season.

Prior to joining his alma mater, Largen was the head coach at Division III Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for one season and had a record of 18-7-3 there. He also has six years of assistant coaching experience in the junior ranks. He played at Alaska from 2006 to 2008, appearing in four games.

It seemed like it was going to take forever for the Seawolves and Nanooks to find coaches. Anchorage reportedly offered the job to three finalists only to have them all turn down the job. Fairbanks announced two finalists, including West, but couldn't reach an agreement with either.

As I wrote about in my column last week, the Alaska schools are tough sells and in tough spots — geographically, financially and competitively. But there are only 60 D1 hockey jobs in the country. It's a pretty exclusive club.

And you never know what a job like that could turn into. Don Lucia got his first chance at Alaska Fairbanks, when he was just 29 years old.

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