Thursday, April 18, 2013

UAA Names Four Finalists for Head Coach

According to the Anchorage Daily News and other media outlets, the University of Alaska Anchorage has announced the four finalists for the Seawolves’ vacant head men’s hockey coaching position. They include Augsburg (Minn.) head coach Chris Brown, Air Force assistant coach Mike Corbett, Utica College head coach Gary Heenan, and Michigan Tech assistant coach Damon Whitten.

Brown, who was an assistant coach at UAA from 1997 to 2000, has been head coach at Augsburg since 2005. Prior to that he was the head coach at both Hamline (Minn.) and Marian, and was originally an assistant coach with Augsburg before going to Anchorage. In 12 seasons at the helm of the Auggies, he has gone 144-146-23 overall, and won an NCAA Division III national championship as a player with Wisconsin-River Falls in 1994.

Corbett has been on the Air Force staff as an assistant coach since 2003, and served as associate head coach this past season. He has helped the Falcons to five NCAA Tournament berths, including to within an overtime goal of the NCAA Division I Frozen Four in 2009. Prior to joining Air Force, he was the associate head coach with Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League, after head coaching stints with both Butte (Mont.) and Billings in the former America West Hockey League. He played collegiately as a defenseman at Denver.

Heenan has been the only coach Utica has known since it began play in 2001. This past season, he led the Pioneers to 21 wins, a share of their first ECAC West regular-season conference title, and their first-ever berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Pioneers defeated Bowdoin in the quarterfinal round before falling to eventual national champion Wisconsin Eau Claire in the Division III Frozen Four. Heenan, who also had a brief flirtation with an assistant coaching position at Union in 2005 before ultimately returning to Utica, played at Hamilton College, and is 165-119-29 in 12 seasons with the Pioneers.

Whitten, who served as an assistant coach at UAA from 2006 to 2008, has been at Michigan Tech the past two seasons. Prior to his tenure in Anchorage, he also served as assistant with both Michigan State and Wayne State.  A high school goaltender, Whitten later shifted to forward and skated four years at that position at Michigan State, ultimately going to two Frozen Fours with the Spartans.

The Seawolves have been to the NCAA Division I tournament three times in their history, but have not had a winning season since 1992-93, their last as an independent before joining the WCHA. They are seeking a successor to Dave Shyiak, a former Northern Michigan player and assistant coach who was let go by UAA last month after posting an 80-177-33 record over eight seasons in Anchorage.

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