Chugiak hockey completes undefeated regular season with their eye on the top prize
The 2012–13 South Wolverines were the last Division I ice hockey team to finish the regular season with an unblemished record.
It’s a feat equaled by the 2022-23 Chugiak Mustangs, who ended an undefeated regular season with an 11-0 shutout win over rival Eagle River Wolves on Saturday night.
The 2013 southern squad would be close to a perfect season if they failed in the title game at Dimond. That’s something the Mustangs, now with an 18-0-1 record, are trying to avoid.
“We want to win that (state) championship at the end of the year,” said senior forward Shayden Davis. “It’s something that we’ve been aiming for for four years and we just really want to do it.”
Chugiak begins his journey through the postseason on Thursday in the opening round of the regional CIC tournament.
Davis is one of several players in the Mustangs’ incredibly extensive and talented roster to have scored multiple goals in multiple games. He scored twice in the team’s 5-2 win against South last Tuesday and had a hat-trick against Service earlier in the month.
“We’re like family,” Davis said. “We’ve known each other since we were 6 years old and we all play together on the same teams in the same community. We all fight for each other.”
In his 24 years at the helm of the program, Chugiak head coach Rodney Wild cannot recall ever having a season in which his team never lost a game. And while the Mustangs have been impressive so far, Wild said there’s only one win the team is focused on.
“At the end of the day, we care less about your bottom line,” Wild said. “Did you win the last game of the year at the state tournament? That’s what counts.”
He led the program to a state championship in his first year at the helm in 2000, ending a five-year title drought. It would be another 16 years before he would win his second, and both times his teams were nowhere near undefeated.
“We came out fourth out of CIC my freshman year, we were probably 12-8, barely .500, but you don’t remember that,” Wild said. “You remember the last game of the tournament. So if we went undefeated and didn’t win the state tournament, we would remember that.”
The team enters as favorites and takes on the winner of the first round match between Dimond and Service.
“We expect to play well and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t expect to win,” said Wild.
Davis said the team’s mindset going into the playoffs is “win and keep winning.”
“Our confidence just went through the roof,” he said. “We’re all feeling pretty good and we’re not going to stop.”
He anticipates the Mustangs’ competition in the West, South and regions will be reigning Division I champion Dimond, who was the only team they were linked with in the regular season.
Wild is pleased with the way his team played in his own conference, but doesn’t know how well the Mustangs compare to some other top programs across the state — like Wasilla and Colony — that they still play must.
“We played West Valley a few weeks ago and they played a great game,” he said.
Although Chugiak secured the conference regular-season title with a full week of games remaining, it didn’t change the intensity with which they played into the postseason, still beating their last five opponents by one for a combined score of 38-2 with four wins by shutout.
“I think it’s a sense of accomplishment when they’re able to end the season without losing a game,” Wild said.
While most teams would be lucky enough to have a high-profile line to rotate over the course of a given game, the Mustangs are fortunate to run deeper than most teams, which has been a key part of their dominance this year.
“Our second line makes a big contribution for us,” said Wild. “Our third line does a fantastic job and plays with a lot of energy, very rarely giving up a goal and even scoring a few of them.”
Chugiak uses his vast wealth of high-quality talent to wear down his opponents throughout the game.
“We have a depth that other teams don’t have,” Wild said. “It’s about being able to play the (lines) 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 and other teams are being forced to short their bench,” Wild said. “That depth is so important to us, and sometimes I think it gets overlooked.”