Kenai River Brown Bears forward Porter Schachle will be the first to admit he’s not as athletically talented as his brother, Brayden. Porter also will tell you he didn’t play as hard or with as much skill as his brother, Tanner, did early in his junior hockey career.
That didn’t keep Porter from joining Brayden and Tanner as Division I athletes in early September, when Porter, 18, committed to play hockey at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Tanner currently plays as a sophomore on the Seawolves hockey team.
“He played a lot different than me — hard, physical and tried to play as a big skill player,” Porter said. “I would always try and make my game more skilled than I needed. I wasn’t near as hard of a worker as him.”
Brayden, a three-time state diving champ for Wasilla High School, dives for the University of Wisconsin.
“Me and Tanner aren’t near as coordinated as him,” Porter said. “He can do just about all sports.”
Porter’s parents aren’t too shabby, either. Trent Schachle played hockey for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and had 80 career points before carving out a six-year pro career. Trent also coached Wasilla High School hockey for six years before leaving after last season.
Porter’s mother, Holli, played Division II volleyball for the Nanooks.
And in case recruiters are wondering, Porter has two younger siblings — Josi is a junior on the Wasilla volleyball team, while Quin is an eighth-grader who plays basketball at Wasilla Middle School.
Porter’s ascension to Division I status happened quickly. He finished his junior year at Wasilla, then joined the Brown Bears for his senior year last season. But Schachle only got in 23 games (three goals, seven assists) before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Importantly, though, that shoulder injury didn’t keep him from shooting up a few inches to 6-foot-3 in the offseason.
“He’s fortunate to be a good-sized kid,” Kenai River head coach Kevin Murdock said. “That didn’t hurt him when it came to UAA’s interest. He’s a big kid that skates well, and those are the kinds of things schools are looking at.”
As they say in hockey, you can’t teach reach.
“It’s one of the only God-given talents you get in life is your size,” Schachle said. “I’m glad I got my size because it makes the game a lot easier for me.
“It makes it harder for guys to play against me because the puck’s 8 feet out the side of me.”
Porter also gave Tanner a bunch of credit. For the past two summers, Porter has taken part in open skates at the Seawolf Sports Complex with elite talent in the Anchorage area, including Tanner.
“He gave me the opportunity to come out and skate,” Porter said of his brother. “I’m sure he talks to the coaches a lot and helps me out a lot. He does a lot for me and that’s a big reason I want to go there.”
Porter and Tanner are far enough apart in age that they’ve never been on a competitive team together. Porter said he’s always wanted to play with his brother, so Porter is motivated to improve enough this year that UAA decides he doesn’t need his final year of junior eligibility for more grooming.
“To be 100 percent honest, I don’t think I’m quite all the way there,” Schachle said. “I’m still pretty uncoordinated. I’m still growing quite a bit.”
When asked, Schachle has a laundry list of things he needs to improve this year — skating, protecting the puck, shooting the puck quicker and getting his 195-pound frame closer to the 220 pounds that Tanner carries.
“When it comes to college hockey, you have to do a good job managing the puck and eliminating turnovers really every time you step on the ice,” Murdock said. “You aren’t necessarily relied on to create offense every time you are on the ice.”
Murdock also said Schachle must learn to be more consistent. While NAHL teams have 60 games in the regular season, college teams get a little more than half of that.
“Take a few nights off, and next thing you know the season is over,” Murdock said.
Schachle, who has two goals and two assists in 11 games this season, believes he’s in the perfect place to improve rapidly. Brown Bears forward Zach Krajnik, of Eagle River, gives a great example of how to play fast and skilled. Preston Weeks, of Soldotna, does a great job of constantly pushing. And Anchorage’s Ryan Reid is a perfect roommate on the road, giving tips as the two break down games on video.
The Wasilla product also said Murdock and associate head coach Dan Bogdan are constantly pushing him and teaching him.
“It’s pretty nice being down here with the personnel on our team,” Schachle said. “Everyone on our team gets along pretty well so I like it a lot.
“It’s a lot easier to excel as a player and be a better person when you’re having fun.”
Schachle also said being able to play this level of hockey so close to home is a big bonus. His parents can come watch the games, and Porter can talk with Tanner by phone without having to worry about a time difference. He even gets to live with his aunt and uncle, Ryan and Chelsea Hendriks.
“It’s pretty nice having the Brown Bears down in Kenai,” Schachle said. “This place is like a second home, even. I feel pretty fortunate having this here.”