Ice Dogs close out regular season in Alaska

FAIRBANKS, AK- It’s 20 degrees below zero in Interior Alaska. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs forge through the arctic air of the last frontier for the remainder of the North American Hockey League regular season, with a late March road trip to Soldotna, to face the Kenai River Brown Bears for three, as the team’s only road games of the month. That leaves seven home games in March, so the Dip’s going to be rocking.

The Springfield Jr. Blues snapped the Dogs’ 14-game winning streak with a 3-1 win on Feb. 21. The Dogs rebounded to claim wins of 7-0 (Sat), and 4-1 (Sun) to take the series 2-1, extending their point total to 77 on the season. Speaking of 70s, the Dogs produced a league single-game high 76 shots on net in Sunday’s victory. The 14-game win streak ties Lone Star’s 14-gamer for the longest in the league this season. Meanwhile, the Dogs’ 17-game point streak stands as the longest such stretch for an NAHL team this season.

Ice Dog goalie Mattias Sholl stopped 39 of 40 shots in his two starts over the weekend, earning the NAHL Midwest Division Bauer Top Star of the Week honor. Sholl leads the league in both wins (28) and minutes played (2,353) and ranks in the top 10 among league goal tenders in both save percentage and goals against average.

Forwards Matt Koethe and Oliver Kjaer lead the Ice Dogs with 50 points,  each with an equal 20 goals and 30 assists on the season. Kjaer has earned his point total in 10 fewer games, and leads the team, notching 1.25 points per game. Jack Johnston, Luke Ciolli and Tyler Deweese join Koethe in the iron man club, playing in all 50 Ice Dogs games this season.

Koethe leads the NAHL with a +36 rating this season. He’s joined in the top 5 by teammate Tim Erkkila (3) at +32. Erkkila leads all NAHL defensemen, and is joined by teammates Evan Junker and Lucas Erickson in the top 5 in rating among league blue liners.

With a 20-point lead over Chippewa heading into a bye week, the Dogs need to secure 12 points to claim the Midwest Division regular season crown, and home ice advantage throughout the Robertson Cup playoffs. The Steel play the Minnesota Wilderness on the road this weekend, while the Dogs rest up for the home stretch of the season. The Brown Bears are a point back of the Steel with 56, while the Minnesota Magicians and Janesville Jet are battling for the fourth and final playoff spot, each with 43 points on the season. With 34 points, Springfield is still alive for a playoff birth with 10 games remaining on the Jr. Blues’ schedule.

The Dogs return to the Big Dipper Ice Arena to close out Hockey Week in Fairbanks with a 2-game series against the NE Generals March 6-7. The South Division leading Amarillo Bulls visit the Dip the following weekend, in which the Dogs will pay tribute and honor to all service members across the United States of America.