Anchorage’s Aiden Westin will be able to live out his childhood dream playing for his hometown college

Anchorage Wolverines

Growing up in Anchorage, Aiden Westin regularly attended University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey games as a youth.

The Seawolves were a lynchpin not only in the hockey community but in the entire community with the history and philanthropy that the program had established for decades.

For the past two years, he has been an integral part of the success of the NAHL’s Anchorage Wolverines youth hockey team and will also continue his career at the collegiate level in his hometown after committing to play for UAA beginning in the fall. of this year.

“I’ve played Alaska most of my life and I’m not really trying to change that,” Westin said. “I love playing in front of my friends and family and all of our fans here at the Wolverines and at AAU next year as well, so I’m excited about that.”

He had originally committed to UAA’s in-state rival school, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, despite the fact that the Seawolves program had just re-established at the time he made his decision. However, after witnessing up close what UAA head coach Matt Shasby and his staff were building, he decided to change his mind.

“When I committed to Fairbanks, UAA had just been revived and I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen with their program,” Westin said. “They were a little late to talk to me, but once I saw the success they were having, I think they’re heading in the right direction, so I made the switch to come home.”

Her relationship with Shasby also played a role in her decision to stay home. He and Shasby’s son Camden train and skate together during the summer.

“He cares a lot about the program and will do everything in his power to make it successful,” Westin said.

Familiarity goes both ways.

“I have watched him grow and work his way up through youth hockey and I watched him very closely last year when he was with the Wolverines and just saw his game continue to progress to become a very good Division I hockey player.” Shasby said.

Shasby and her staff had to quickly build the program and list from scratch and tried to recruit as many local products as they could, including Westin.

“Fairbanks beat us last year and committed to Fairbanks for the second half of last year and a very good majority this year,” Shasby said. “Once he announced he wasn’t going to UAF, we had a conversation with him (to see) if he’d be interested in playing for his hometown and things just came together that way.”

Wolverines head coach Evan Trupp said the North American Hockey League program aims to put as many players as possible into college programs, even better if they’re in-state.

“It’s nice to see that local guys can not only go on to college, but also play in front of their home crowd on another level and continue to climb the ladder,” he said.

He said he will try to catch some of the Seawolves games when he can and support the Westin next fall.

“We love and support UAA,” Trupp said. “It’s good to see kids from Alaska moving both there and to the UAF.”

Westin will join fellow former Wolverine player Matt Johnson, whom he played with last year on the Seawolves.

“It’s nice to have that conduit where they can be seen here on a regular basis,” Trupp said.

One of Westin’s current teammates set to become a rival this fall is forward Fedya Nikolayenya. The Minsk, Belarus native announced his commitment to play for the Nanooks last week and the two are already hoping to meet in a live game and not just practice for once.

“We are definitely going to be rivals,” he said. “We are very good friends off the ice, but I am very happy for him. It’s going to be a great place for him and he really deserves it.”

Because the Wolverines and Seawolves often play not only on the same days but also at the same times, it has been difficult for Westin to get to many of the games on its future schedule.

The one who was able to attend this season made him even more excited for the opportunity to wear the green and gold next year.

“It was a great atmosphere and I had a good time in the game,” Westin said. “It seemed like the fans loved it too.”

Dangerous skills that carry over to the next level

Westin currently leads the Wolverines in goals scored with 19 and points with 42 in 35 games and is an explosive playmaker that his future head coach is eager to have at his disposal.

“In terms of his skills, he’s one of the best skaters to go up and down the ice,” Shasby said. “His biggest weapon of his is his ability to beat people in the race.”

Trupp agreed that his speed is one of the traits that “helps set his game apart from the rest of the pack.”

“Speed ​​kills and I keep telling him that when he’s able to use that to his advantage and slow the game down and then speed it up, it’s extremely effective,” Trupp said.

Shasby also loves the level of intensity and competitive nature Westin plays with that “allows him to be a big impact guy.”

“Those are two intangibles at the Division I level where if you’re highly competitive and you can skate, you’ll be able to impact the game,” Shasby said. “On top of that, he’s really worked on being able to finish around the net and that’s allowed him to rack up the points that he’s racked up.”

Being able to put the puck in the back of the net consistently is the Seawolves’ “biggest Achilles heel right now” according to Shasby and while Westin won’t provide them with immediate reinforcements for this year, the future is bright with such a gifted scorer coming in. in the fold

“Adding someone who can potentially increase our target production is huge for us,” he said.