Largen has been an assistant with the Nanooks for the past two seasons. He played for two years at the school as a backup goaltender from 2006-08.
The 31-year old becomes the youngest head coach in Division I, four years younger than Matt Curley, who was just named head coach at Alaska-Anchorage last week.
The Fairbanks native was the third known choice for the position. Alaska previously announced that both interim head coach Lance West and former Miami assistant Brent Brekke were named finalists, with Brekke receiving an offer first, and eventually withdrawing his name from consideration. West, likewise, withdrew from consideration after the offer to Brekke was made. The school held a public forum for Brekke on April 10, and West on April 11.
Largen will be the school’s full-time coach, not interim, thus avoiding having to go through the same process next year.
West was named the team’s coach last summer, when Dallas Ferguson resigned to become coach of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. It was not disclosed at the time, but West was technically an interim coach because the school didn’t go through all of the necessary formal processes. That required the position to be re-opened this spring.
“Coach Erik Largen is the future of intercollegiate hockey at UAF,” Alaska Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Keith Champagne said. “He can bring the UAF and Fairbanks communities together, be honest about the challenges we face, and move our program forward in a positive and successful manner. Erik is a coach we can all believe in — he is a winner.”
West was 11-22-3 (9-17-2 WCHA) for the Nanooks this season, providing an 8th-place finish in the conference. UAF lost to regular-season champion Minnesota State in the first round of the WCHA tournament.
Sister school Alaska-Anchorage also experienced hiring difficulties this offseason — Denver assistant David Carle, Massachusetts-Lowell assistant Cam Ellsworth and Providence assistant Kris Mayotte all turned down the school’s offers. Eventually, UAA hired former Clarkson defenseman and Bentley assistant Matt Curley.
There have been a number of issues plaguing the two Alaska programs, mainly due to financial issues. The schools have experienced recruiting struggles despite the results from the Strategic Pathways report eventually not producing a recommendation that both programs be cut. Additionally, there are questions about both resources and salary, with a rumor that the coach will receive less than $200,000, significantly lower than most other Division I jobs around the country.
Also, both athletic directors are currently interim, UAA’s Tim McDiffett and UAF’s Kayne Guttierez.
“The university system as a whole has been through some ups and downs but there is a long-term commitment by the new administration to lead our program to new heights,” Largen said. “It is a great honor to have been chosen to be the new head coach and our staff will work tirelessly every day with an immense passion for the program to live up to the high standards that have been set before us.”
Previous to working at Alaska, Largen was the head coach of Division III Marian during the 2015-16 season. He also spent time as an assistant with the NAHL’s Janesville Jets, USHL’s Tri City Storm, the MNJHL’s Twin Cities Northern Lights. From 2009-11, he was the goaltending coach of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Chris Boulay contributed to this report.