Despite the age difference, Cam, Carter and Cooper Morris chirp each other like reputable hockey players worth their stick tape should.
Being brothers also helps.
Cam and Cooper are the 20-year-old twins and foundational pieces in the Anchorage Wolverines’ two-season North American Hockey League existence. A seventh grader at Goldenview Middle School, Carter is only 13 but has already showcased locally and internationally the kind of envied skill and on-ice magic to warrant ‘generational talent’ talk.
“We’ve seen it from him all the time,” Cam said. “In our garage or when we’d take him out for skates. Carter is always doing something crazy that only (Anaheim Ducks star Trevor) Zegras can do.”
But will the kid go full bore into the corners to dig out a loose puck or maybe stick up for a teammate in trouble? Carter said absolutely. The big brothers weren’t so sure.
“He’s a pretty goal scorer, I will tell you that,” Cam joked.
Obviously, Carter is young and can still adapt as his game grows.
Whether or not they know it, the presence of the Morris brothers are key examples of the health of hockey’s evolving ecosystem in Southcentral and around the state. From learning to skate at the earliest of ages to performing at the either Junior A or NCAA Division I level locally as young adults, players from a myriad of backgrounds come and go knowing home hockey is always an option.
“We cover every step of the ladder,” said Keith Morris, the boys’ father, the Wolverines director of hockey operations, a former UAA standout and coach and all-around hockey aficionado. “Kids in any program in town can grow their passion and build their work ethic.”
A renewed hockey hierarchy has taken noticeable shape.
In its reboot season after extinction and stunning resurrection, UAA has won seven games to surpass all reasonable expectations. The Seawolves welcome Lindenwood to town this weekend for their season finale.
The Wolverines surprised many by finishing second in the NAHL’s Robertson Cup playoffs last season and have 12 games remaining to make a playoff push this season in the muddled Midwest Division. First up, two critical games Friday and Saturday against the Minnesota Wilderness at Ben Boeke Arena.
Last month, Chugiak won the DI First National Cup high school state championship with an unbeaten record. We’re also in the middle of youth teams at comp levels big and small, major and minor, tier this, tier that are competing for USA Hockey state and district titles.
“We’re rare,” Keith Morris said. “We’re in one of the very few places in North America with DI and NAHL to high school and youth programs doing so well. We’re proud to have helped build this current foundation.”
Cooper is a tried-and-true blue liner. His 25 points in 47 games ranks second for Wolverines’ defensemen and speaks to the kind of player he aims to be on the ice.
“I just want to play well,” Cooper said. “We live in a world where everyone wants their D-men to be Cale Makar and get two points a night. I want my coaches to know they can rely on me to get the puck out or make the smart play.
“I don’t need to go coast to coast. Let’s chip out a puck or win a battle every shift.”
Cam’s 11 goals in 46 games matches his goal total from 2021-22 in 14 fewer games. His 44 points ranks third on the team.
“I love scoring the big goal here and there,” Cam said. “But I also love getting that assist, setting up creative plays. I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of goal scorers who’ve helped me along the way.”
The twins are playing their final seasons of juniors. They both are weighing college opportunities at different levels, but no decisions are immediate. Keith played three seasons for UAA in the 90s and later coached the Seawolves. Mom Tracy (Bock) was part of UAA’s volleyball program.
The Morris boys are hopeful to follow in the footsteps of their parents.
“We’re not measuring ourselves against them, we want to make our own path,” Cam said. “As student athletes and great mentors, they’ve been our biggest motivators.”
Carter’s Alaska Oilers’ 12U majors team is one of those youth squads competing for state supremacy this weekend. Former UAA winger and 2006 Kelly Cup Finals MVP Mike Scott is one of the team’s coaches. Last month, Carter joined the AAA Los Angeles Jr. Kings at the prestigious Quebec International Pee-Wee Tournament which started in 1960. Keith played in the tournament in 1982.
In the opener in front of 9,000 Quebec City fans against the Montreal Jr. Canadiens, Carter capped a 2-on-1 rush with a highlight-reel goal. Yes, the game was televised in Canada and video of the goal made the social-media rounds.
.@AKSportsReport Anchorage’s Carter Morris scores a @JrKingsHockey goal in his first game @ @tournoipeewee. @anchoragewolve1 Keith’s 13-yo son and brother of Cam & Cooper also added 2 🍎s in a 5-4 win over Montreal. A future AK ⭐️. pic.twitter.com/B42R0EHJnY
— Matt Nevala (@MNevala9) February 11, 2023
“I started hearing from all my buddies, telling me the goal was sick,” Carter said. “It was amazing to represent Anchorage and Alaska.”
Carter finished the tournament with four goals and six assists in six games with the Kings.
Alaska has for decades watched men and women excel on hockey’s grandest stages around the world. From Stanley Cups to Olympic gold medals and numerous other championships, the list of the state’s hockey supremacy grows seemingly by the day. Where might Carter Morris someday fit? Maybe we should pump the brakes.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say right now,” Cam said in proper Big Brother mode. “Personally, we know (Carter) is good, we’ve seen it. We can see what happens later. He should just have fun being a 13-year-old.”
Keith said a group of Anchorage’s 2010s (birth year) will create a team to compete on the elite AAA level at an Outside tournament later this year. In the meantime, the younger and older players will concentrate on completing their seasons – Cam and Cooper with the Wolverines, Carter with his Oilers buddies.
“We’ll eventually see what’s next in everyone’s hockey career,” Keith said.
- The top four Midwest Division teams qualify for the Robertson Cup playoffs. Heading into Friday’s games, the Wolverines (23-18-7) sit in fifth place with 53 points and 12 games remaining. Second-place Minnesota enjoys a six-point cushion on Anchorage. Fairbanks (26-19-5) has 57 points and Kenai River (25-22-3) owns 53 points. The Ice Dogs host the Brown Bears for a two-game weekend series beginning Friday night.
- Last weekend’s Wolverines’ sweep of Fairbanks included a specialty jersey auction. More than $36,000 was raised for the Aubri Brown Club, which assists families who’ve lost children. The Wolverines will wear military-appreciation jerseys April 7-8 and those will also be auctioned.
- On the college scene, UAA will have completed 28 games when the weekend series concludes against fellow independent Lindenwood of St. Charles, Mo. Coach Matt Shasby did an admirable job of creating the 2022-23 schedule from nothing and has said next year’s slate of opponents and games is even more impressive. The Seawolves played 15 games this season against other DI independents (Arizona State, Lindenwood, Long Island University and UAF). While we’re at it, let’s give a stick salute to the Nanooks, who amassed a 22-10-2 record and could very well earn a NCAA tournament bid. Look for the official announcement on March 19.
- The Wolverines have yet to score a regulation victory against Minnesota (0-2-2).