2020-21 may be the final installment of the historic Governor’s Cup Series

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:38 PM AKDT
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On Wednesday, the University of Alaska Anchorage announced the proposed plan to eliminate four sports after the upcoming academic year, including hockey, due to budget cuts.

If the University of Alaska Board of Regents approve the proposal in meetings scheduled for September 10 and 11, this year could be the final Governor’s Cup Series between the in-state rivals UAA and UAF.

“I would argue that it was the biggest rivalry in the state,” said Nanooks head coach Erik Largen. “It was a lot of pride for the communities, a lot of pride for the universities. This year being the last year, it is sad to see that potentially go away. We are obviously hoping for a last second rally before the Board of Regents’ meeting.”

On the same day UAA announced the discontinuation of hockey, men’s and women’s skiing and gymnastics, UAF Chancellor Dan White reassured Nanook Nation that they do not plan to cut any of their sports.

The city of Anchorage lost the ECHL’s Alaska Aces in 2017 and now, their Division I collegiate hockey program.

“I especially grieve for the Anchorage community right now,” said Largen. “I mean, you have the Aces that just got out of the state and now UAA. As a kid growing up, you need to have those heroes, those people that you’re trying to strive toward, that place you’re trying to strive toward and Anchorage doesn’t necessarily have that right now.”

“Now, potentially being the only hockey program in the state, it is something that we have to make sure we’re strong in our program. I think that has got to be the focus right now. There needs to be a place where kids can come into the state of Alaska and play Division I hockey and have that spot to be able to go. Rob [Proffitt] has done a great job with the Ice Dogs and you have the Kenai River Brown Bears down there, so two Junior programs, but we need to make sure that as a flagship university and now, the only college hockey program in the state, that we do everything to protect it, because it is an asset. It’s an asset for the community and it’s an asset for the state and for all the local hockey players that are in town.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, UAF Vice Chancellor says the university is exploring ways to replace the excitement that surrounds the annual Governor’s Cup Series.

“Currently, if the decision stands that UAA will not have hockey going forward, then it is the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Arizona State Sun Devils as the only programs on the West Coast,” said Champagne. “We are hoping maybe we can come up with some type of West Coast rivalry with the Sun Devils. Maybe it can be the Nanooks and the Sun Devils battling it out for some Cup or something we can come up with.”

“With the hockey brand looking to be expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest with the NHL Seattle Kraken team in place, I just think it is a good time for us to continue to promote this iconic brand. If we have to market an event with the Arizona State Sun Devils, then we are open to that.”

As of publishing, there have been no adjustments or changes made to UAF’s current hockey schedule. The first weekend series of the Governor’s Cup is scheduled to be played December 4 and 5 in Fairbanks at the Carlson Center. The final installment of the series is scheduled to take place February 26 and 27 of 2021 in Anchorage at the Seawolf Sports Complex. The NCAA nor the Western Collegiate Hockey Association have yet to make any announcements regarding the upcoming season.

The Governor’s Cup was first awarded in 1994 to UAF, while Anchorage has won the series eight times throughout its 26-year history. The Nanooks have claimed the coveted Cup each of the last 11 years. Last year, UAF won the series 3-1, hoisting the trophy on February 29.

Next Level Nanooks

Over the past week, two 2020 UAF graduates have signed professional hockey contracts. Forward Kyle Marino signed to the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads after a 99-game career with the Nanooks. Marino was slated to make his debut with the Steelheads prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will now join the team heading into the 2020-21 season.

Captain Kylar Hope joins Marino in the ECHL, signing with the Orlando Solar Bears. Hope registered 18 points for the Nanooks last season, suiting up in 127 games throughout his four-year career.

Colton Leiter joined the Indy Fuel in March, also a part of the ECHL, while Logan Coomes signed with the Marseille Spartans in France.

“It is always a two-fold thing for us, we want to develop our guys on the ice and off the ice,” said Largen of setting up his players for life after collegiate hockey. “They have that degree in their back pocket and now they have an opportunity to play pro hockey and whenever that time is done, whether that is after a year or 15 years, they have a thing that they are able to do professionally in that next phase of their life.”

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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