University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) hockey goalie Olivier Mantha could not wait for training camp. He took to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex ice for voluntarily workouts.

 

“It’s really one of the best times of the year — being back, no school, so we can just practice, get better, work out,” said the junior goalie, who started his UAA career at the age of 21. Mantha played junior hockey before that.

 

“Those junior years are pretty important to develop as a player, so you get more mature, so when you get up here, you’re more ready, so I think it’s a good thing,” said Mantha.

 

Nearly half of the Seawolves who will step on the ice began with UAA at 21 years old. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) nearly penalized them for that.

 

The Big 10 Conference led the effort to lower the maximum age limit for freshman to 20. Seawolves head coach Matt Thomas opposed the plan.

 

“It’s really a select group that’s getting those types of prospects and players consistently. It only benefits the top level of college hockey, maybe 15 to 20 percent,” Thomas explained.

 

Players would have also lost a year of eligibility under the proposal for every year over 20 when they entered college. The NCAA has now rejected the idea, which is good news for UAA and other smaller division one hockey programs.

 

Blue chip prospects usually sign with more established schools in the Lower 48, which is why UAA and comparable schools look to the junior hockey leagues.

 

“Sometimes there’s a player, at 18 was a good player, at 20 becomes a great player,” said Thomas.

 

Thomas and other opponents of the pointed out another benefit to having older, non-traditional students on his team.

 

“By the time they are a junior or senior, they’re very matur. They’re young men who understand what it takes to be successful, and those are good role models to have around, especially around your younger players when they do come around,” said Thomas.

 

Thomas added that he believes it helps level the playing ice with major division one programs.

 

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