Seawolves, Nanooks will play hockey in 2019-20

By Austin Monteith

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks men’s hockey teams will take to the ice this fall amid sizable state budget cuts, Western Collegiate Hockey Association President and Men’s League Commissioner Bill Robertson confirmed Saturday.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said Friday the schools’ athletic programs “will proceed as planned in 2019-20,” according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Seven WCHA schools announced in June that they’d begun the process of withdrawing from the league with the intention of starting a new men’s hockey conference that would begin play in the 2021-22 season. Bemidji State was one of those seven schools, along with Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State Mankato and Northern Michigan. The three WCHA programs left on the outside looking in were Alabama Huntsville and the Alaska schools.

Robertson confirmed in a statement released Saturday afternoon that the UAA and UAF men’s hockey programs will compete as planned this upcoming season.

“We have received confirmation from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Anchorage that there will be no change in the status of their hockey programs for the 2019-20 season,” Robertson said in the release. “Both teams will compete in the WCHA this season.

“We are pleased with this decision and look forward to another exciting season from our 10 member institutions in the Men’s League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.”

The Alaska Legislature passed a bill this week that lowered a $135 million cut to university funding to $25 million this year. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who vetoed $130 million from the university budget in June, will decide whether to approve or again veto that funding.

The UA system is pursuing a single accreditation for its three universities, which could result in UAA and UAF merging into a single athletic program, Johnsen said. The cost-saving plan would create a single accredited university with multiple campuses.

Johnsen will work with athletic directors at the two schools to produce a long-term plan in the weeks ahead, a university spokesperson told the Anchorage Daily News.

Austin Monteith (@amonteith92) can be reached at amonteith@bemidjipioneer.com or (218) 333-9787.  
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