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HOCKEY

Friday Flashback: Alaskans have savored glory days in U.S. Hockey League for 40 years

by | May 5, 2023 | Cover Story, Friday Flashback, Hockey

Steve MacSwain

Man, the 1982-83 edition of the United States Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, who seized the Clark Cup, was loaded with Alaska firepower.

Anchorage’s Steve MacSwain led the league in scoring with 60-62—122 totals in just 48 games. Yeah, the early 80s were high-octane hockey – MacSwain’s goal total that season still sits third in league history and his point total sits fourth all-time – but consider: Dude averaged 2.54 points per game.

Anchorage’s Kory Wright finished second in league scoring with 45-57—102 totals. And Anchorage’s Joey Hayse finished fourth on the circuit with 30-54—84 totals in 47 games.

Throw in Anchorage’s Rob Larkey (24-40—64 in 44 games), Anchorage’s Harry Armstrong on defense (11-36—47 in 47 games) and Eagle River’s Kirby Holtman (9-9—18 in 27 games) and Dubuque’s six-man Alaska crew put up 179-256—435 totals that season.

Little wonder the Fighting Saints averaged 7.29 goals per game and went 39-8-1 in the regular season.

More than two decades later, the Omaha Lancers captured the Clark Cup with an even larger collection of Alaskans – eight of them. The crew: Eagle River’s Brian Swanson, Anchorage defenseman Tom Kowal, Anchorage’s Nathan Rocheleau, Anchorage’s Justin Lyle, Anchorage defenseman Sean Bowman, Eagle River goalie Chris Marvel, Anchorage defenseman Ken Hemenway and Eagle River defenseman Eric Runyan. All eight went on to play NCAA Division I hockey and Swanson went on to be an All-American center at Colorado College and an NHLer.

Anchorage’s Connor Canterbury paying tribute to Brian Swanson in 2016. Photo by Chris Canterbury

The history of the USHL includes a ton of Alaska connections that continue to this day. Anchorage’s Mac Swanson, Bret Link and Camden Shasby are on the current Fargo Force team that won the Anderson Cup as regular-season champs and own a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 Western Conference Finals.

In 2001, Anchorage center Chris Fournier, who went on to play for North Dakota and UAA, was voted the USHL Player of the Year and Forward of the Year after leading the league in scoring for the Lincoln Stars with 26-57—83 totals in 55 games. Fournier played four seasons in the league, debuting when he was just 15. His 238 career points rank second all-time.

And get a load of this: Anchorage’s Jeff Carlson ranks second all-time in league history in short-handed goals in a single season with eight in 55 games for the Sioux City Musketeers in 1997-98. Basically, one-third of his 23 goals that season were shorties. His 11 career shorties are tied for first in league history.

Scores of Alaskans have played in the USHL over the decades. Here are some of the notable achievements by Alaskans, highlighted by MacSwain, who was the league’s Player of the Year, Forward of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 1983.

USHL Player of the Year
2001 – Chris Fournier, Anchorage, C, Lincoln Stars
1983 – Steve MacSwain, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints

USHL Forward of the Year
2001 – Chris Fournier, Anchorage, C, Lincoln Stars
1983 – Steve MacSwain, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints

USHL Defenseman of the Year
2003 – Matt Carle, Anchorage, River City Lancers
1986 – Kord Cernich, Anchorage, Dubuque Fighting Saints

USHL Goaltender of the Year
2019 – Isaiah Saville, Anchorage, Tri-City Storm
2015 – Eric Schierhorn, Anchorage, Muskegon Lumberjacks
2010 – Steve Summerhays, Anchorage, Green Bay Gamblers

USHL Rookie of the Year
1983 – Steve MacSwain, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints

USHL Scholar Athlete of Year
2012 – Brian Cooper, Anchorage, D, Fargo Force

All-USHL First Team
2019 – Isaiah Saville, Anchorage, G, Tri-City Storm
2015 – Eric Schierhorn, Anchorage, G, Muskegon Lumberjacks
2010 – Steve Summerhays, Anchorage, G, Green Bay Gamblers
2003 – Matt Carle, Anchorage, D, River City Lancers
2001 – Chris Fournier, Anchorage, C, Lincoln Stars
1996 – Ty Conklin, Anchorage, G, Green Bay Gamblers
1994 – Brian Swanson, Eagle River, C, Omaha Lancers
1986 – Kord Cernich, Anchorage, D, Dubuque Fighting Saints
1983 – Steve MacSwain, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints
1983 – Kory Wright, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints

All-USHL Second Team
2012 – Brian Cooper, Anchorage, D, Fargo Force
2011 – Brian Cooper, Anchorage, D, Fargo Force
2005 – Shane Lovdahl, Anchorage, D, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
2001 – Mike Doyle, Anchorage, F, Sioux Falls Stampede
1990 – Todd Skoglund, Anchorage, F, Madison Capitols
1998 – Josh Kern, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints
1995 – Tom Kowal, Anchorage, D, Omaha Lancers
1993 – David Vallieres, Eagle River, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints
1993 – Todd Bethard, Anchorage, D, Omaha Lancers
1986 – Georg Thiele, Anchorage, F, Dubuque Fighting Saints
1983 – Harry Armstrong, Anchorage, D, Dubuque Fighting Saints

USHL All-Rookie Team
2023 – Mac Swanson, Anchorage, F, Fargo Force
2019 – Isaiah Saville, Anchorage, G, Tri-City Storm
2005 – Drew O’Connell, Anchorage, G, Waterloo Black Hawks

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