Parker native, Colorado youth hockey grad Gomez excited with commitment to NCAA D-I Alaska Anchorage
Currently in his third and final season playing junior hockey for the NAHL’s New Mexico Ice Wolves, Alex Gomez recently secured his plans for the next four years by committing to NCAA Division I Alaska Anchorage.
Last season and this season, UAA didn’t play due to various reasons, but the Seawolves are gearing up to get back on the ice in 2022-23, and the new crop of players starts with Gomez.
“We are incredibly excited to be welcoming our first student-athlete Alex Gomez into the Seawolf hockey family,” said UAA head coach Matt Shasby. “He portrays all the qualities we are looking to build our team around. He has excellent size (6-foot-4, 185 pounds), high hockey IQ, and relentless work ethic. He also has high leadership qualities proven as he is currently serving as an assistant captain for his New Mexico NAHL team.”
Gomez admitted that when he found out the Seawolves were interested, he was initially apprehensive.
“When (Ice Wolves coach-GM) Phil Fox told me that Coach Shasby had reached out to him regarding me, I was really excited to hear what he had to say,” said Gomez, a Parker native. “Over the next couple weeks Coach Shasby and I spoke. He explained all about the program, the folding of the WCHA league, the dropping of the hockey program there at UAA and the fan support to bring it back again, what my role would be on the team, academics, etcetera. I have to admit I was a little leery at first, but having had the opportunity to visit Alaska in 2020 with the Ice Wolves when we played in Fairbanks and Kenai, I had a pretty good understanding of the short daylight and cold winters.
“Then understanding how many people were involved with bringing the hockey program back to Anchorage and secure a hockey future for the school, how could I not be excited to be a part of it going forward? Playing D-I has always been the goal, the dream, and now I get to play D-I in one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world. As I understand it, UAA hockey will basically be a new program starting with the 2022-23 year as an independent team. We will play teams from all the D-I divisions and different teams each year. I really feel Coach Shasby’s enthusiasm for the team, and for me as a player, will be an environment where I can continue to learn and grow.”
In the classroom, Gomez will be going into Math and Science, “a pretty standard field across most colleges,” and majoring in Mechanical Engineering he said, adding that, “I like that UAA class sizes are small with a great professor-to-student ratio.”
Gomez has scored 18 goals and 32 assists for 50 points in 121 career games for New Mexico. He joined the Ice Wolves in 2019 and finished the season with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 37 games. The following season, he increased his scoring production to 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 55 games, and has already equaled his scoring production from last season with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists). His 15 assists are tied for tops on the team, and he ranks second on the team in points.
“I’m extremely excited for Alex,” said Fox. “He’s a third-year guy who’s put in the work. He’s taken a step every season with us in his development as player. It is great to see your guys go through this process, stick with it, and reach their goals of NCAA Division I hockey.”
Prior to playing in the NAHL, Gomez played youth hockey for the Colorado Thunderbirds, Colorado Rampage, Arvada Hockey Association, Hyland Hills Jaguars, Denver Jr. Pioneers, and Colorado Evolution. He played in the 2019 NAHL 18U Top Prospects Tournament for the Tier I Elite League West Team, where he had three points in four games played during the event.
“Being able to play in the toughest division in the NAHL, the South Division, ‘the Dirty South,’ as referred to by most, has been an amazing opportunity to gain experience and grow,” Gomez said. “The speed, the grit, and the puck battles have helped me so much to be able to develop my game. It’s hard, knowing every kid out there is looking for a NCAA commitment, but knowing that the NAHL is heavily looked at for commits to play D-I is why I chose to play there. The annual NAHL showcase is crazy with hundreds of scouts from all levels and is really the springboard to get noticed. There are scouts at most of the regular-season games, you never know who is watching, or what they are looking for, so you just always try to play your game the best you can.
“The Ice Wolves, who were new to the NAHL in the 2019-20 season, have really made a place for themselves. We are currently battling to keep the first-place spot in our division. With our new gym and workout facilities, we can work out off the ice just as hard as we do on. One other thing the Ice Wolves has that truly shows in our on-ice play is team building. Whether it is running down Sandia Peak, scrimmaging at an outdoor rink, playing the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team, or just doing a team dinner, we have really bonded as a team this year.”
Adding to the allure of playing in New Mexico, Gomez said that “when you think of New Mexico, you probably don’t think hockey, but from the moment I got there, the crowds were phenomenal.”
“You play in front a of sold-out stadium every home game,” said Gomez. “The chanting and camaraderie of the fans is electric. I have found that fans truly can change the course of the game. Hats off to (Ice Wolves owner) Stan Hubbard for running a top-notch program. Every aspect of the Ice Wolves program is what you hope your junior hockey experience will be like. The Ice Wolves have truly created a family environment for players and fans alike. Coach Fox is a great guy to have on your bench and truly an inspiration, someone you want to get the win for.”
Living away from home has also been a positive experience for Gomez.
“I have had the best billet families one could ever hope for,” said Gomez. “Billeting is scary, and we have all heard the horror stories, but I have to say I have had the best billets. I am still in contact with my billet family from my short time in Shreveport and we find the time to grab lunch whenever we are playing them. My current billet family is amazing and have welcomed me into their home as just another one of their own. It says a lot when you feel that much at home, when you are living with another family. I can’t thank them enough. These are bonds I will have forever.”
Gomez is also planning to create more memories, on and off the ice, at Alaska Anchorage.
“I am not worried about the future of UAA hockey,” Gomez said. “This is something I went over at length with my parents and coaches. I think with the energy Coach Shasby brings to the team, we will make our mark once again on hockey in Alaska. I’m looking at it as an opportunity. Being able to play as a freshman was one of the deciding factors that helped me to choose UAA.”
In making his commitment to the Seawolves, Gomez called the feeling “indescribable.”
“It’s definitely a weight off your shoulders,” said Gomez. “You hear that this school is watching you, or that school is showing interest, but to get the actual offer and know that you have secured one of the select few spots in D-I hockey, the feeling is just crazy. Now, after committing, I can focus on improving my game, getting stronger, faster and becoming an all-around better player. I can’t wait to see what our Ice Wolves team can accomplish this year, and I look forward to the next chapter at UAA next season.”
Photo/Zach Price Sports
— Matt Mackinder
(December 22, 2021)