Anchorage’s Evan Butcher took his time and came to the same conclusion as three of his teammates with the Kenai River Brown Bears.
He was going to Division III University of Wisconsin-Stout, announcing his decision this week.
“It’s been a long process,” Butcher said. “I’ve had schools calling me honestly since the (North American Hockey League) Showcase way back in September asking me to commit to their school.
“I wanted to take my time, make the right choice and get my family involved.”
Butcher played all three of his seasons in the NAHL for the Brown Bears. This past season, he had 13 goals and 16 assists in 59 games. He had 69 points during his 156-game NAHL career.
He will join 2016-17 Brown Bears teammates Lucas Carroll, Jonathan Marzec and Ryan Mezera with the Blue Devils. Former Brown Bears player Adam Kresl also will be a sophomore on the team.
Kenai River toured Stout this season in mid-February, and it must have made quite an impression.
“I drove Mezera to the rink every day, so we’re close buddies,” Butcher said. “We both liked the school and we both liked the coach. We practiced in the rink and loved the place.
“It’s a good place to be for hockey and school.”
UW-Stout is led by Terry Watkins, in his 21st year as the men’s varsity coach. In 2009, Watkins led the Blue Devils to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four, falling in overtime in the semifinals.
Butcher, son of Laurie and Allen Butcher, said he is still undecided about which major he will pursue.
The Brown Bears did not sniff any 20-win seasons in the last three seasons.
“It was a lot of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade a single moment,” Butcher said. “Yea, I might have had some tough seasons, but I also have so many lifelong buddies from my time there.”
Butcher’s main billet family was Lisa and Dan Zulkanycz of Kenai, and Butcher said they have become like a second family.
Butcher also said it was great getting to play junior hockey on the Kenai Peninsula, where his family has a cabin.
“I’ve been down there the past few weekends, and I plan to be down there again this weekend,” he said.
He’s also glad other Anchorage players will have the same opportunity he did, now that the team has survived after nearly folding after last season.
“I’m hoping future Alaska hockey players will be able to play there,” he said. “If you’re in the NAHL, it’s a great place to be.”