Lance West

Former UAF assistant coach Lance West reacts to a play during a game against Northern Michigan University on Nov. 29, 2014, at the Carlson Center. West, who served as interim head coach last season, joins Brent Brekke as a finalist to become the next Nanooks coach. 

 

FAIRBANKS—Lance West spent 14 seasons either playing or coaching at the University of Alabama Huntsville.

On Friday and Saturday, the Alaska Nanooks assistant coach will enter the Von Braun Center in Huntsville as a visitor for the first time.

“I’ve never been there as a visitor,” West said following practice on Monday at the Patty Center. “I’m sure it will bring back some nostalgia when I see some my ex-teammates who are in the building.”

The Nanooks take on the Chargers in a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association games at 4:07 p.m. AST on Friday and Saturday.

West was a  center from 1991-95 for the Chargers, who then competed at the NCAA Division II level. He became a volunteer assistant coach from 1995-98 and served as an assistant coach from 2000-07 before joining the Nanooks staff.

The NCAA stopped playing Division II hockey in 1999.

“You try and not to make that too big of a deal because in college hockey, and different places, it’s not uncommon for guys to coach somewhere they didn’t play,” West said. “It will be nice to go back.”

In his four seasons as a Chargers center, West scored 45 goals with 68 assists for 113 points in 108 career games. His 113 points are tied for 15th on the Chargers all-time scoring list.

“To me, it’s just a normal game. I’ve been gone long enough now,” West said of going back to Huntsville. “It’s the first time I’ve been back there to play against them. So I’m sure when I get there, I’ll get a little bit more excited.”

During his time skating for Huntsville, West helped the Chargers reach the NCAA Division II national title series in 1994. The Chargers lost in three games to current WCHA rival Bemidji State, of Minnesota, in that series.

The Penticton, British Columbia, native also helped the Chargers win two Division II national titles as a volunteer assistant coach. The Chargers captured the title in 1996 and in 1998, beating Bemidji State both times.

Before joining the Nanooks as a volunteer assistant coach for the 2007-08 season, West was a finalist for the Chargers head coaching job when longtime head coach Doug Ross retired at the end of the 2006-07 season.

The job went to Danton Cole, who lasted three seasons. The job became available a couple times after that, including after the 2012-13 season.

“I looked at it. I wasn’t in the mix,” West said. “They had the guys they wanted. That’s the way the business goes.”

West is expecting family and friends to be in the arena for the games, but he’s trying not to let that be a distraction in the Nanooks’ first visit to Huntsville since 1992.

“Just like the players, you always want to do well in front of everybody that you know,” West said. “It will be exciting but I have to approach it as it’s not about me going back there. It’s about going down there and doing the job for the weekend.”

 

Final Five

tickets on sale

Single-session tickets for the WCHA Final Five are on sale. Tickets cost $35 for either both semifinal games on March 20 or the championship game on March 21 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, at ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

Ticket packages for all three games are also available for $69.

The semifinal games are scheduled to being at 1 p.m. AST and 3:30 p.m. AST on March 20 while the championship game is set to begin at 3 p.m. AST on March 21.

The winner of the Final Five earns a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

Contact sports reporter Tim O’Donnell at 459-7583. Follow him on Twitter: 

@FDNMSportsGuy.