Connecting You With AK Athletes Outside the 907

The Alaska Sports Blog is sponsored by the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and provides daily updates on local athletes outside the state. The blog was created in 2009 to fill a void of media coverage once Alaskans left the 907 area code. Former Anchorage Daily News sports editor and Alaska Press Club award winner Van Williams has been with the blog since the beginning and written more than 3,500 stories on over 500 Alaska athletes.

Follow us on Twitter: @AKsportshall, Instagram: alaska_sports_hall, and Facebook.

Click here to read more about Van Williams and the Alaska Sports Blog.

February 17, 2018

Cathryn Papasodora Riflery

Cathryn Papasodora

Cat Papasodora of Northway played a part in helping the third-ranked Kentucky rifle team inch closer to reaching the NCAA Championships.

Nothing is official until the NCAA announces the eight-team field next week, but the Wildcats stand in good position after knocking off No. 17 Morehead State in a NCAA qualifying meet in Lexington, Kentucky.

Papasodora, of Eagle River High fame, is one of the top marksman for Kentucky, which hit its highest score in three weeks with a 4,705 to 4,653 win.

She finished fifth out of 24 shooters in air rifle and eighth in smallbore.

The NCAA selections will be announced Wednesday, and Kentucky figures to be in the mix as the Wildcats sit comfortably inside the top eight in the national rankings.

Either way, Papasodora will compete next weekend at the Great American Rifle Conference championships in West Virginia.

February 16, 2018

Emmie Jennings Swimming

Emmie Jennings

Eagle River’s Emmie Jennings has come alive at the Mountain West Championships in San Antonio, Texas.

The Boise State sophomore swimmer has picked up three conference titles in three different relays and turned in a personal record in the individual 100 butterfly.

And she could walk away with another championship as the Broncos hold a comfortable lead going into the final day of the meet Saturday.

Boise State leads the team standings with 817 points, as Nevada, San Diego State and Wyoming remain within striking distance.

Jennings, of Chugiak High fame, was part of a 400-yard medley relay team that posted the sixth-best time in program history and fifth-best in MW history in 3:36.03.

She was also part of winning teams in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle.

In the fly, she placed fourth overall in 53.77 and made the NCAA B cut.

February 15, 2018

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Coming out of high school, Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks basically had her choice of where she wanted to play college basketball.

She picked the Oregon Ducks, a decision that confused some because the Pac-12 program wasn’t a perennial power on the national scale.

By now, though, people have realized Hebard is an original.

The 6-foot-4 forward proved that point with a one-of-a-kind performance on a recent two-game road trip when she led Oregon to a pair of wins, broke a school record, scored a career high, and earned Pac-12 player-of-the-week honors.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, also reached a major milestone, becoming the 21st Alaskan and 10th Alaska woman to score 1,000 career points at the NCAA D1 level.

“I love representing Alaska, Oregon, and most importantly, my family,” she told me. “They believed in me.”

“My dad told me I could do anything and go anywhere I want, when half the people didn’t believe I would be anything.

“Just doing it and making him proud and playing every game for my family is a blessing.”

In typical Hebard fashion, she accomplished the 1,000-point feat faster than any other woman from Alaska. She did it in 63 games to shatter the previous record of 73 games set in 2007 by Chugiak’s Kelsey Griffin at Nebraska.

Griffin – the state’s only member of the 2K club [man or woman] – headlines Alaska’s royal court of female 1,000-point scorers. Others include Jeannie Hebert, Talisa Rhea, Andrea Lloyd Curry, Brit Jacobson, Molly Tuter, Chandice Cronk, Jessica Moore and Natalie Jones.

And now Hebard.

“It feels great to be in the 1,000 club,” she said. “I’m just happy I got it on the same day as one of my best friends.”

Hebard and Oregon teammate Sabrina Ionescu became the second and third sophomores in school history to reach the 1K mark. For them to do it in the same game is storybook.

“I love this place,” Hebard said.

At Oregon, she has blossomed from all-conference as a freshman to All-American caliber as a sophomore. She earned the opportunity to play right away with the Ducks, who gave her the ball and the freedom to develop her game.

While not yet the most polished post player yet, Hebard is exceptional at moving without the ball and cutting with purpose, setting a screen and rolling hard to the rim. She simply finds a way to get open in the flow of the offense, and those little things add up.

It helps that Hebard found the right system at Oregon, where the coaches are willing to showcase her strengths. That’s a big reason why she ended up a Duck in the first place.

Take last week’s two-game road series when she drained 25-of-27 field goals, including a 12-for-12 effort against Washington State to set a school record for single-game field goal percentage. Two days earlier she scored a career-high 30 points against Washington.

The Pac-12 player-of-the-week award was Hebard’s first.

NCAA D1 1,000-point scorers from Alaska
Women

2,033 Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska/Chugiak High
1,766 Jeannie Hebert, Miami/Monroe Catholic High
1,664 Talisa Rhea, Oregon State/Seattle U/Juneau-Douglas High
1,596 Andrea Lloyd Curry, Texas/Juneau-Douglas High
1,519 Brit Jacobson, Kansas State/Chugiak High
1,374 Molly Tuter, Arizona State/Soldotna High
1,346 Chandice Cronk, Santa Clara/Wasilla High
1,233 Jessica Moore, Connecticut/Colony High
1,149 Natalie Jones, Arizona/East High
*1,013 Ruthy Hebard, Oregon/West Valley High
*-Active player
Men
1,974 Trajan Langdon, Duke/East High
1,607 Chris Devine, Santa Barbara/Chugiak High
1,506 Carlos Boozer, Duke/Juneau-Douglas High
1,389 Damen Bell-Holter, Oral Roberts/Ketchikan High
1,341 Mario Chalmers, Kansas/Bartlett High
1,337 Andre Laws, San Diego/East High
1,279 Kyle Bailey, Santa Clara/Lathrop High
1,250 Colter Lasher, Houston Baptist/Dimond High
1,227 Jason Erickson, Montana State/Chugiak High
1,120 Devon Bookert, Florida State/West High
1,030 Damon Sherman-Newsome, Colgate/Bartlett High

February 13, 2018

Theyoung Puoy basketball

Theyoung Puoy

With her injuries healed, Theyoung Puoy of Anchorage is now putting a hurt on Arizona Western opponents.

The 6-foot sophomore has elevated her game as her team makes a playoff push in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.

“I’m starting to be able to play my game again and my shot is on right now so it just feels good, especially with it nearing the end of the season and playoffs creeping up,” she told me. “It just gives me that much more confidence.”

Gone are the groin and knee injuries that plagued her in the past, although from time to time her knee does give her issues.

“A meniscus tear is a lingering injury,” she said. “My groin injury has gone away as of a week ago. I’ve been rehabbing and getting it wrapped up every practice and game days, so it healed up quickly and is no longer an issue.”

Being pain free has her playing care free, and her stats bear that change.

First 20 games
7.5 points per game
.406 field-goal percentage

Last 4 games
13.8 points per game
.537 field-goal percentage

“My numbers aren’t the best right now, but I still feel like I’m doing things on the court that aren’t found in the stat book,” Puoy said. “I’m super active and taking care of business on the defensive end and I’m my teammates’ biggest cheerleader. It’s important to show your teammates that you believe in them because when it really comes down to it, I want them all to have the confidence to shoot that game-winning shot or lock up on the game-tying play.”

Arizona Western is 12-5 in the ACCAC and sits in fifth place, one game out of fourth and two games out of third, with five games left in the regular season.

“We have a few more big games coming up and I’m more than ready,” Puoy said. “We all want to go to Texas and play in that national tournament, and it’s going to take a lot, but I have faith we will gut it out and have some huge games and surprise the conference this month.”

Devon Bookert basketball

Devon Bookert

After a slow start, Devon Bookert of Anchorage is catching fire.

The former Florida State star has averaged 20.4 points over his last five games for his pro team USK Praha in the Czech Republic.

Compare that to his 8-point scoring average in his first seven games.

Bookert, of West High fame, has reached double figures in six straight games and has posted season highs of 23 points, six rebounds and six assists in the span.

The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 13.7 points on the season.

February 12, 2018

Jordan Smelker hockey

Jordan Smelker

One of Alaska’s greatest hockey players took center stage at the National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Anchorage’s Jordan Smelker of the Boston Pride collected a goal and two assists to help Team Ott beat Team Leveille 8-6.

The 25-year-old all-star earned the primary assist on the goal that gave her team a 3-2 lead late in the first period.

Smelker, of Service High fame, scored to make it 6-2 in the second period and then collected another primary assist on the game’s final goal.

She attempted a game-high seven shots on goal.

Last month, Smelker was part of a NWHL all-star team that faced off against Team USA in Florida as a tune up before the Olympic Games.

The former RPI star is in her third season with the Boston Pride and helped the team win the league’s inaugural Isobel Cup finals in 2016 and get back to the finals last season.

Smelker also won a Clarkson Cup title with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2015.

February 11, 2018

Da’Zhon Wyche basketball

Da’Zhon Wyche

Da’Zhon Wyche of Anchorage drilled six 3-pointers as Laramie County outscored Western Nebraska by 18 points from deep en route to a 98-80 victory during JC play in Laramie, Wyoming.

Wyche finished with a season-high 32 points on 13-of-20 field goals, including 6-of-11 from downtown.

The 5-foot-8 guard added seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in a complete effort.

This performance was a microcosm of his season as more than half of his points have come on 3-pointers. In this game it was 18 of 32 [56%]. On the year it’s 144 of 250 [58%].

Wyche, of West High fame, is shooting .505 percent from deep to buoy a career-best 22.7-point scoring average in 11 games. He did not play the first half of the season.

Since his return the former Alaska player of the year has had big scoring games of 29, 30 and 32 points and made four or more 3s eight times.

Kwintin Williams basketball

Kwintin Williams

Connecticut Huskies transfer Kwintin Williams of Anchorage barely plays for his new team, and when he does, it’s for only few minutes at the end of a game.

Once in a while, though, he will be asked to step in and replace a teammate in foul trouble. It’s happened twice and both times the 6-foot-7 forward delivered hustle and muscle that should earn him more minutes down the road.

Williams played a season-high 24 minutes, attempted his first 3-pointer and grabbed a season-best eight rebounds in a 95-74 loss to No. 22 Wichita State in Wichita, Kansas.

It was UConn’s fifth game against a nationally ranked team.

Williams made 2-of-3 field goals and finished with four points. He led the Huskies in rebounding for the first time.

He has played in only 13 of the team’s 25 games and logged double-figure minutes just twice, but both times – first against Auburn, then against Wichita State – the sophomore played with passion on both ends of the floor.

It shows the winning character of Williams, who hadn’t gotten off the bench in the previous three games. He’s a gamer, always ready to roll when his number is called.

Williams came to UConn with a reputation for being a dunk machine, but he’s more than just flash.

He’s rough and tough and willing to do all the little things that add up to more playing time.

February 10, 2018

Tristen Tolan hockey

Tristen Tolan

Tristen Tolan of Anchorage broke a long scoreless streak while helping the Elmira Soaring Eagles extend the hockey team’s unbeaten streak.

The freshman forward buried a goal in the second period as the nation’s third-ranked team earned a 6-0 win over Manhattanville during NCAA D3 action in Pine Valley, New York.

Elmira is 8-0-2 over its last 10 games.

Tolan, of South High fame, has compiled 4-6—10 totals in 20 games.

This was her first goal since Dec. 1 2017.

Elmira is 19-2-2 on the season and has outscored the competition 109-22.

February 9, 2018

Andy Liebner (Photo by MQT Photo)

When Andy Liebner claimed the Noquemanon Ski Marathon on January 27, he immediately raised his arms in celebration.

Clearly visible in his bare hands were the United States Ski Pole Company poles that helped propel Liebner to a six-second victory in the 50-kilometer Nordic freestyle event in Marquette, Mich.

Liebner, a Soldotna native, remarkably took the win in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 42 seconds despite a long absence from ski marathons — this was his first since 2010, when he raced seven 50Ks in seven consecutive weekends to win the American Ski Marathon Series.

Forgive the 34-year-old for the racing hiatus — he’s been a bit busy.

In 2014, he helped Peruvian Roberto Carcelen qualify for the Sochi Winter Olympics, and joined him by walking in the Opening Ceremonies as his coach. Liebner is also currently at the Olympics in South Korea coaching Mexican skier German Madrazo.

In 2011, he published the book “Wild Shot,” which chronicles his struggles and successes in biathlon and Nordic skiing.

He earned a degree from Northern Michigan University in physical education/coaching and nutrition.

In 2008, Liebner, who has a “folder full of inventions I’d like to make some day,” built the world’s largest human hamster wheel (at the time) with Natalie Semmens. Footage of the 15.5-foot tall structure in action even landed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

But Liebner’s most ambitious project was acquiring a former golf club factory in Cheboygan, Mich., and re-engineering it into the U.S. Ski Pole Co.

“It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on,” Liebner said. “It’s rewarding in some ends, overwhelming in some other ends.”

Liebner’s comments came earlier this winter while he drove through South Dakota en route to ski races at West Yellowstone, Mont. Along the way, he stopped to conduct ski clinics and work on building his business.

“A three-day drive turns into a three-week event,” he said.

Liebner says his carbon poles are as good, if not better, than any name brand. And they are built entirely in the U.S., unlike most of his competitors who manufacture in China to save costs.

“Just because you’ve used a name brand for 20 years doesn’t mean it’s the best,” Liebner said.

But trying to compete with mega companies like Swix and Salomon has proven challenging.

His biggest business challenge?

“(It’s) education of the solutions that we’ve incorporated in our product that cover the failures of other companies’ products,” the outspoken 2001 Soldotna High School graduate and 2000 Alaska prep cross country running champion said.

For example, Liebner said his grip and strap system is the only one on the market that doesn’t chafe a skier’s hands and gloves. It’s also more comfortable, warmer, and more powerful — and costs less than the big-name brands.

“The challenge is to get people to understand that,” Liebner said.

Liebner is no longer actively marketing and selling his products in Alaska, opting to focus on the larger Lower 48 market instead. In Alaska, his gear is only available at Beemuns Variety shop in Soldotna.

Liebner is targeting recreational skiers instead of elite racers because he lacks the capital to sponsor professionals (though the national team of Iceland has used his poles for the past three years).

Despite the challenges, Liebner is proud to have created a company from scratch that now employs five people and uses raw materials from 30 companies throughout the U.S.

Anchorage’s Rob Whitney, a former elite skier who remains active in the sport, was impressed after trying out a pair of USSPC poles.

“They are solid poles. I like his interchangeable pieces: grips, straps, baskets. He’s a creative guy,” Whitney said. “He’s fighting an uphill battle competing with the Chinese factories. … I gotta give Andy credit. He’s all-in and going for it.”

– By Matias Saari, Alaska Sports Blog Contributor

 

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks pumped in a career-high 30 points for the Oregon Ducks on just 15 shots.

She didn’t make them all, but it was close.

The 6-foot-4 forward sank 13-of-15 field goals and 4-of-6 free throws on her way to bettering her previous career high of 29 points in a 76-63 win over Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, did her damage in the paint, where she used her size, positioning and skills to make good on nearly every shot attempt.

The Alaskan has a staggering shooting percentage of .641, which ranks No. 4 nationally among NCAA D1 women.

Hebard leads Oregon with 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game and is second with 17.3 points and 1.4 steals.

February 8, 2018

Colin King baseball

Colin King

Colin King of Fairbanks banged out his first base hit in style.

The Northeast Community College freshman first baseman broke up a no-hitter with a two-out double in the fourth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against Hesston College in Kansas.

King, of Lathrop High fame, is playing for a Northeast team if Nebraska that is playing its inaugural season of JC baseball.

He laced a full-count fastball over the head of the right fielder to drive in his first college RBI.

His extra-base hit provided Northeast a 2-1 lead in a game they lost 9-8 in walkoff fashion.

King finished 1-for-2 with a walk in the seven-inning game.

Travis Thompson basketball

Travis Thompson

Anchorage’s Travis Thompson is making it rain in Thailand.

The 6-foot-1 guard has averaged six 3-pointers and shooting .521 percent from downtown in the first four games with his new pro team PEA in the Thailand Super League.

He is averaging 31.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists.

He is 25-of-48 from deep.

Thompson, of Dimond High fame, has season highs of 36 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists.

The former UAA star has helped PEA soar to second place in the league at 3-1.

February 7, 2018

DaJonee Hale basketball

DaJonee Hale

Nene Hale of Anchorage has been named an NAIA All-American before, but now she’s playing like the player of the year.

The Central Methodist senior guard was named NAIA National Player of the Week for the first time in her career after another two more prolific performances that inched her closer to the school’s all-time scoring record.

The 5-foot-8 all-star also earned player-of-the-week honors for the fourth time this season in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

Hale, of Houston High fame, compiled 58 points and 12 rebounds in a pair of wins that pushed Central Methodist’s winning streak to five games and elevated the Eagles into a first-place tie atop the conference at 11-2.

“Great honor for Nene and well deserved,” her coach Mike Davis told the school’s website. “She has played at an extremely high level and our team is following suit. These honors come when you are winning. We have a number of big games ahead of us, so our entire team will need to stay hungry and focused.”

Hale keyed an 80-79 upset win over No. 12 Baker after scoring the final six points for her team. Then she collected 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in an 82-74 win over Missouri Valley.

She leads the conference in scoring average [27.7] and ranks seventh nationally in points [443] and 33rd with 47 3-pointers.

Hale is now just 116 points from matching April Smith’s school record of 1,862 career points.

February 6, 2018

Education is everything.  Learn to make a difference!

PLAAY (Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth)  is an initiative of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.  In partnership with numerous community partnership, the A the 2nd annual PLAAY Day will take place on Feb 22nd and the third annual PLAAY Summit is scheduled for Feb 23rd and 24th.

The goal of PLAAY Day is to get thousands of Alaska children jumping, running, and dancing — all at once.  PLAAY Day will kick off with Alaska’s only simultaneous student physical activity event. Schools and other organizations from across the state will engage elementary students in a half hour of organized — and synchronized — physical activity.   For registration and more information visit http://plaay.org/plaay-day/

The PLAAY Summit provides teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders of youth with a conference to address the many areas of adolescent health.  The PLAAY Summit will emphasize the importance of physical activity as a means to improving teenage health.  The conference is highlighted by an All-Star cast of presenters. See the full schedule of presenters and bios here.  For registration and more information visit plaay.org/plaay-summit/

Email PLAAY Director Wally Wilson  with questions.

February 5, 2018

Tanner Sorenson hockey

Tanner Sorenson

Anchorage’s Tanner Sorenson surpassed a major milestone recently when the third-year pro pucks player registered his 100th career point.

The 24-year-old center with Kazakhstan power Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk leads his team is goals and is the only player to rank in the top three in points [30], penalties [74] and plus/minus [+11].

Sorenson is the top American scorer in the Supreme Hockey League.

He has compiled 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points in 42 games.

The former Michigan State star has amassed 102 points in 173 career games in the VHL and ECHL.

February 4, 2018

Nino Delgado boxing

Nino Delgado

Anchorage boxer Nino Delgado won his second career senior Golden Gloves title in Tacoma, Washington.

The 23-year-old beat previously undefeated fighter Austin Mariscal of Washington in the men’s 141-point division.

“Mariscal was 16-0, so the crowd was anticipating a good fight,” Delgado told me. “I took both the first and third round with a close second round that could’ve went either way.”

Deldago, of East High fame, also won his weight class at the Tacoma Golden Gloves last year.

He also won a junior Golden Gloves title in 2010.

“I’ve been fighting for a long time now,” he said.

Delgado trains with the Alaska Boxing Academy and was joined at the Tacoma Golden Gloves with teammate Renzehl Velasco, who won the 108-pound championship.

February 3, 2018

Bentiu Panoam basketball

Bentiu Panoam

Anchorage’s Bentiu Panoam maintained his steady 3-point shooting and scoring for Northwest Kansas Tech.

The freshman guard went 3-for-7 from downtown and finished with 16 points in a 93-88 win over Air Force Prep in Goodland, Kansas.

Panoam, of Bartlett High fame, has made a three in nine straight games and reached double figures in the last six games and eight of nine.

He is averaging 9.7 points and shooting .449 from deep in 22 games with the junior college.

The Alaskan has 12 games with double figures with a season high of 20 points.

February 2, 2018

Alex Carle hockey

Alex Carle

Merrimack defenseman Alex Carle of Anchorage set up a goal in regulation, but Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman of Anchorage picked up the winning decision in a 4-3 OT victory in Orono, Maine.

It was the latest NCAA D1 hockey game that featured a couple Alaskans facing off on the same ice.

Carle set up the tying goal early in the second period when he earned the primary assist. It was the third time Carle fed fellow defenseman Marc Biega for a score this season.

The assist was No. 20 of Carle’s career and the third of the season.

His offensive numbers are down compared to his previous two seasons but Merrimack is 2-1-1 when the junior registers a point compared to 5-15-3 when he doesn’t.

Jeremy Swayman hockey

Jeremy Swayman

Meanwhile, Swayman continues to slay the competition as he ran his unbeaten streak to five games dating back to Jan. 16.

The freshman turned aside 36 shots to run his season record to 12-5-3.

Swayman carries a 2.50 goals against average and a .927 save percentage into the series finale.

February 1, 2018

Marquis White basketball

Marquis White

There was a junior college basketball game in Wyoming and a couple Alaskans took center stage.

Central Wyoming’s Marquis White of Anchorage drained a baseline jumper with 5 seconds left to deliver a 79-78 victory over Western Wyoming and Anchorage’s Nathan Fromm, who pumped in a game-high 20 points.

White, of East High fame, came off the bench to play 28 minutes and finish with nine points, none more important than at the end of the game when coach Jack Nelson put the ball in hands with the game on the line.

The 6-foot-3 freshman guard took the inbounds pass at the top of the key, used a pick to get a step on the defender and dribbled to the baseline and pulling up for an tough, off-balance floater in traffic. Nothing but net.

“Marquis made a great play,” Nelson told the school’s website.

White is averaging 12.7 points in 22 games with a season high of 28.

Nathan Fromm basketball

Nathan Fromm

The loss overshadowed another great game from Fromm.

The 6-foot-4 starting forward sank 7-of-14 field goals to go along with four rebounds, three 3-pointers, two assists and two steals.

Fromm, of Service High fame, is averaging 18.1 points in 21 games with a season high of 38.

The freshman has scored 20 or more points nine times and is shooting .447 from downtown.

January 31, 2018

Iziah Sherman-Newsome baketball

Iziah Sherman-Newsome

A nightmare injury just ended a dream season by Anchorage’s Iziah Sherman-Newsome.

The Simon Fraser senior suffered a broken hand in a recent practice and is expected to miss the rest of the basketball season and end his college career.

“I was trying to go for a steal on the defensive end of the floor,” he told me. “My hand got caught up with one of my teammates who was driving to the hoop and that was that.”

It’s a bad way to end a good season for the 6-foot-4 small forward, who ranks third in scoring and second in rebounding for the NCAA D2 Clan of Canada.

Simon Fraser is having a historic hoops season with nine wins – matching the team’s total from the previous three seasons combined.

“As a team I feel like this season has been a huge step in the right direction, we’ve proven that we cannot only play with anyone but we can beat anyone,” Sherman-Newsome said.

“However, with that being said, we feel like there is still a lot of work to do. We’ve faced a lot of adversity this season with injuries especially, but regardless of who’s suiting up I’m betting on my guys over the rest of the field every time.”

Sherman-Newsome, of Bartlett High fame, was in the middle of a career season and arguably Simon Fraser’s most improved player from last season to this season.

Field Goal Percentage
.421/.451
Points Per Game
8.6/10.3
Rebounds Per Game
4.9/5.5
Three-Point Percentage
.385/.390
Blocked Shots
3/20

“Individually this season has been big in just proving myself right,” he said. “I’ve always had a strong belief in me and the work I’ve put in so it’s been a great reaffirmation.”

January 30, 2018

Cheyenne Matson hockey

Cheyenne Matson

Wasilla’s Cheyenne Matson has full-time responsibilities on defense for Buffalo State, but her recent side job on offense has paid huge dividends.

The 5-foot-5 sophomore earned her fourth assist of the season over the weekend in the first game of a two-game sweep of Oswego State in Buffalo, New York.

Matson has been especially effective on the offensive end over the last eight games with a goal and four helpers.

She ranks second among defensemen on Buffalo State in six points on two goals and four assists in 20 games.

Matson, of Mat-Su Tech High fame, also anchors a defensive squad that’s allowed fewer goals than its scored on the way to an 11-8-1 record.

The Alaskan ranks third on the team with 13 blocked shots and carries a +3 rating for the season.

For her career, she has compiled 2-9-11 totals in 43 games.

January 29, 2018

Jeremy Swayman hockey

Jeremy Swayman

For 15 weeks, the Hockey East Conference has awarded three players with individual honors to reward prolific play.

Five times Anchorage’s Jeremy Swayman has been named one of the three stars; that’s more than any other player in the league.

The Maine freshman goaltender pushed his unbeaten streak to five games after backstopping the Black Bears to a weekend sweep of Massachusetts in which he posted back-to-back 28-save performances in consecutive 3-2 wins.

In the first game of the road series he was huge over the final two periods, including 13 saves in the third.

In the rematch he turned aside 10-of-11 in the first and third periods.

This was the second straight Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week honor for Swayman after earning co-player honors last week.

Last week he shared the defensive award with goaltender Danny Tirone of New Hampshire. Previously Swayman has been named Rookie of the Reek twice and player of the week once.

In November, he was the Rookie of the Month runner-up and was the Goaltender of the Month runner-up in December.

Swayman’s 11 wins on the season ties him for first in the league and second in the nation among freshmen goalies. His .927 save percentage is fifth overall in the nation and first in Hockey East.

January 28, 2018

Savannah Nichols soccer

Savannah Nichols

Most high school athletes when they get to college struggled to cope with the speed, power and pace of the game at the next level.

Anchorage’s Savannah Nichols doesn’t think that’ll be a problem.

“I think one thing that’ll really help me excel in college is how physical I am. College soccer gets very aggressive and I think I’ll be prepared for it,” she told me.

Highline College thought the same thing and that’s why the NWAC school in Des Moines, Washington, offered the all-conference senior a scholarship that she accepted.

“Highline is close to home and also right outside of Seattle, my favorite city,” she said. “The soccer program is amazing and I think I can really excel and prepare to transfer to a four-year school after my two years.”

Nichols, of Service High fame, is a three-year varsity player and two-time all-league pick in the Cook Inlet Conference.

The forward has amassed 35 goals and 26 assists in three years with the Cougars.

She hopes to expand her game in her final year as a prep player by taking more chances to develop even more confidence.

“A lot of the time I pass the ball off instead of taking a chance myself,”

With her college plans set, Nichols is happy to just focus on the field.

“I think the months leading up to leaving for college will be somewhat stress-free. The stress of recruiting and applications will be gone but with that comes new stress,” she said. “Now I have to make sure I’m training even harder, just so I can come into practices ready.”

January 27, 2018

Tommy Hobbs basketball

Jack Hobbs

With his career winding down, Anchorage’s Jack Hobbs has ramped it up.

The Hartford senior continued his strong play of late, this time scoring 18 points to help the Hawks beat UMass Lowell 77-70 in Massachusetts.

Hobbs made a career-best seven field goals and matched his career-high point total. He made four 3-pointers for the second time in three games.

This was the most points he’s scored since the 18 he pumped in against Sacred Heart in December 2016. That night he went 6-of-9 from downtown.

Hobbs, of South High fame, was coming off a 14-point performance in an 86-68 win at Maine.

Hartford has been especially tough on the road this year, which includes a victory at Rutgers.

Hobbs is averaging 12.3 points over his last three games and 4.7 in 22 games.

Hartford is 12-10 on the season – 3-1 when Hobbs reaches double figures.