Great West Hockey Conference
The Nanooks re-joined NCAA Division I in 1985 and with in-state rival Alaska-Anchorage as well as U.S. International University (San Diego) and Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Arizona) formed the Great West Hockey Conference.
The 1985–86 season marked the return of the Nanooks to NCAA Division I as well as the first season in the history of the program as a member of a conference. Shafer guided the Nanooks to a 17–7–1 overall record and finished the season second in the Great West to U.S. International with a GWHC record of 6–5–1.
Following the 1985–86 season, Northern Arizona dropped their varsity hockey program leaving the Great West with three teams. UAF finished the season with an identical record of the previous season 17–7–1 and finished third in the conference with a GWHC record of 7–9–0.
Don Lucia took over as head coach of the program for the 1987–88 season and under Lucia the Nanooks finished first in the Great West with a conference record of 5–3–0 and won the 1988 Great West Hockey Conference Championship. The team also finished the season with an overall record of 21–10–2, just the third 20+ win season in program history.
U.S. International ended their hockey program in 1988 for similar reasons as Northern Arizona. Historically UAF and in-state rival Alaska-Anchorage have had difficulty scheduling opponents due to the large distances between schools and increased travel expenses. All four GWHC schools required opponents to fly in and fly out. To combat scheduling difficulties, especially with out of conference scheduling, NCAA gives the Alaska schools scheduling advantage, games in Alaska don't count against teams' NCAA game limit. This advantage was not given to NAU or USIU, both schools in the Lower 48.
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