After racking 21 regular-season goals for the ECHL’s Reading Royals to mark back-to-back seasons of 20-plus goals, Anchorage’s Alec Butcher endured a nine-game goal drought to start the Kelly Cup playoffs.
He slaked his thirst Thursday.
The 29-year-old former UAA forward scored just 69 seconds into Reading’s 6-3 win at Newfoundland, which kept the Royals’ postseason alive – granted, on life support, trailing the Growlers 3-1 in the best-of-7 North Division Finals. Butcher’s four shots and plus-2 rating also were his best marks of the playoffs.
On the other side of the ice, rookie forward Nolan Walker of Anchorage has elevated his game for Newfoundland in the most important stretch of the season. After earning 15-26—41 totals in 68 regular-season games for .60 points per game, Walker has gone 4-3—7 in nine playoff games for .78 points per game.
Interesting thing about the series – the road team has won all four games. Game 5 – a chance for Newfoundland to advance and Reading to remain alive – is Saturday in Newfoundland.
In the U.S. Hockey League playoffs, the Alaskan-laden Fargo Force cruised into the Clark Cup Finals with Monday’s 8-4 win at Lincoln. Rookie forward Mac Swanson of Anchorage delivered one goal, four assists and a plus-3 rating in the Western Conference clincher. His linemate, Bret Link of Anchorage chipped in two assists and a plus-3 rating.
The Force dropped Game 1 of the Cup Finals on Friday, when visiting Youngstown beat them 4-1 in a game that was scoreless through two periods. Game 2 in the best-of-5 series is Saturday in Fargo.
Swanson has racked 3-7—10 and plus-2 totals in seven games. Link is 0-4—4 and even in six games. Fargo also includes rookie defenseman Camden Shasby of Anchorage.
Alaska’s two players in the NHL – Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman of Anchorage and Los Angeles Kings goalie Pheonix Copley of North Pole – are done for the season. But Swayman is due a new contract this offseason. Meanwhile, Copley, already signed by the Kings for $1.5 million next season, shot off a rare Tweet this week.
Thank you L.A. pic.twitter.com/FoPykkXnlI
— Pheonix (@PheonixCopley) May 11, 2023
Back at the junior level, Chugiak High grad Nick Walters was promoted to head coach of the North American Hockey League’s Anchorage Wolverines. He moved up from his assistant coaching post after previous bench boss Evan Trupp of Anchorage accepted a gig as associate head coach of the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Walters, 35, is a former UAA assistant coach and director of hockey operations. He’s also been the video coach for USA Hockey’s women’s national team at the World Championships and the Olympics.
One of Walters’ players, defenseman Trent Powell of Soldotna, was named to the NAHL’s All-Midwest Division Team. The Long Island University commit posted 14-25—39 totals in 58 games this season.
Lastly, some Alaska prospects were selected in the USHL and Western Hockey League drafts recently.
“I’m humbled that Keith and the rest of management have put their trust in me to take over as head coach of the Anchorage Wolverines. I’m excited for the opportunity to not only be a head coach, but be the head coach of the team that represents my hometown community" Read -… pic.twitter.com/W3wzJNS5Zu
— Anchorage Wolverines (@anchoragewolve1) May 12, 2023
In Phase I of the USHL draft, for players born in 2007, the Sioux Falls Stampede made goalie Charlie Menard of Fairbanks their seventh-round pick, 93rd overall. Menard last season went 12-9-0, with a 2.13 goals-against average and .921 save percentage for the Culver Academy Eagles 16U team.
Youngstown in the same round picked defenseman Aiden Lawson of Eagle River with the 102nd pick. He went 10-44—54 in 76 combined games this season for the Fox Motors HC 15’s.
In Phase II of the USHL draft, for all players unprotected, Sioux Falls took Powell in the 17th round, 246th overall. And Chicago in the 18th round, 272nd overall, drafted defenseman Hunter Heisten of Anchorage. Heisten went 8-18—26 in 56 combined games with the Sioux Falls Power 16U club.
And in the WHL’s two-round U.S. Priority Draft, the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round made Alaska goalie Drake Owens the 21st pick. Owens this past season in 35 games for the Rocky Mountain Roughriders 14U AAA team generated a 2.09 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.