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NA Now: Anchorage Wolverines

August 9, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

Anchorage Wolverines

Head Coach: Nick Walters (1st season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 28-24-8, 64 pts. (5th in the Midwest Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Jackson Reineke (66 points)

2023 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2023-24 Division: Midwest

First regular season game: Saturday, September 9th vs. Minnesota Wilderness

Home opener: Friday, October 6th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears

The second season for the Wolverines was not nearly as magical as their inaugural season but it was still filled with plenty of drama as Anchorage’s playoff chances were still alive heading into the final weekend of action. Unfortunately, the Wolverines came up just two points short from back-to-back postseason appearances.

Jackson Reineke led the way with 32 goals and 66 points en route to earning a commitment at Robert Morris University. Hometown kid Aiden Westin was right behind Reineke with 27 goals and 64 points of his own. He will be staying home to play his Division I college hockey as he earned a commitment to the University of Alaska-Anchorage. In total, 14 players made NCAA commitments this past season with Wolverines.

In year three, a familiar face will be behind the bench as Nick Walters was promoted to head coach after serving as an assistant last season. The Anchorage native is looking forward to this opportunity. “I’m super excited,” said Walters. “It’s a new challenge, a new role, moving into the head coaching position there’s a lot more that goes into it. It’s been a lot of learning but I was very fortunate to get the gig early on so I’ve had a lot of time to prep and get ready. I’m excited to get rolling here in a few weeks.”

Watch: NA Now video with head coach Nick Walters

Walters looks to bring the Wolverines back to the Robertson Cup playoffs but knows the task will not be easy. “Our division is really competitive. Every night you never know who is going to win. Those points are so valuable. You can call last year a step back but we we’re just in a really competitive division,” Walters explained. “It’s super important to hit the ground running. I’m really excited to see what we got here.”

Nine players will be returning to Anchorage from last year’s squad and they are led by forward Fedya Nikolayenya. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks commit appeared in 47 games a season ago, potting 16 goals and 38 points. Wilson Dahlheimer also returns for his second season. He saw the ice 48 times for Anchorage last season, lighting the lamp nine times and finished the year with 29 points. Danny Reis is the only remaining player from the inaugural season. The 20-year old defenseman has appeared in 105 games for Anchorage, finding the back of the net 10 times and racking up 32 points.

“Fedya is really big playmaker for us, also plays physical. A do-it-all kind of player. Dahlheimer will be a big time player for us down the middle. Another player that played in a lot of situations for us,” Walters explained. “Danny is a left handed defenseman, real steady guy for us on the back end.”

Mason LeBel returns after scoring nine goals and 15 points a season ago. Peyton Van Buskirk and Colten Gerken make up some of the blue line depth for the Wolverines while Ben Dardis returns to defend the crease for Anchorage.

“Mason is a big left handed winger, heck of a shot. We’ve got him for two more years so we’re really expecting a big step out of him,” Walters said of his young forward. “I know he’s a kid that really works at it. First one on the ice, last one off of the ice so we’re expecting big things from him.”

The city of Anchorage has truly embraced the Wolverines, filling the Ben Boeke Ice Arena every weekend to see their team play. Standing room only crowds have created one of the most electric atmospheres in junior hockey. With a good batch of returners and a motivated new coach, the Wolverines are itching to get back on the ice and back into the postseason picture. “Anchorage is a neat little hockey town. Our fans are awesome, we pack them into the rink as much as we can. They’re loud, they have a good time and it’s really created an awesome atmosphere,” said Walters. “Being from here, it’s a privilege and super humbling to be the head coach of this team and help these young men develop and hopefully move them on to bigger and better things.”

Next Up: Austin Bruins

 
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