Midwest Division leaders skate to series split

FAIRBANKS, ALASKA- The Springfield Jr. Blues and Fairbanks Ice Dogs came into their weekend series with identical point totals and win/loss records. They left it the same way, as the two division leaders split a 2-game series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Springfield snagged a 4-2 win on Friday, while the Dogs put up a 6-3 win on Saturday. The two teams remain tied atop the NAHL Midwest Division, each with 27 points off 13-7-0-1 records.

The Jr. Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period of the opener. Ice Dogs captain Jack Ring struck at 19:11 of the second to cut the lead in half, igniting the capacity crowd that had sat on its hands for most of the game. Springfield extended to a 3-1 lead off a Leo Bacallao goal at 8:37 of the third. However, Ice Dog forward Nick Ostbloom answered 34 seconds later to cut the lead to 3-2.  Bacallao’s second of the period, an empty netter with under 2 minutes to play, sealed the 4-2 win for the visitors.

Ice Dogs forward Jake Hale got the Dip rocking early on Saturday night, scoring a goal just a minute and 18 seconds into the tilt. Tyler Stewart added a first period marker, as the Dogs took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Hayden Riva tied the game at 2 early in the second, but Ring tallied his second goal of the series, giving the Dogs a 3-2 lead. Tyler Stewart added his second goal of the game, just over 2 minutes later, which proved to be the eventual game winner in the 6-3 win. Alexander Malinowski and Billy Renfrew tabbed third period insurance goals, while Tyler Krivtsov made 18 saves to secure the win in net. As for Stewart, his pair of markers snapped a 9-game goal scoring drought.

“I’m just out here to do whatever I can to help this team win,” Stewart said. “If that means scoring goals, then I’m happy to produce, but it’s really about the team for me.”

Malinowski continues to lead the Dogs in scoring, producing 25 points off 10 goals and 15 assists this season, good enough to rank fourth on the NAHL’s scoring list. Renfew’s 12 goals are tied for sixth most in the league. Owen Neuharth and Malinowski share the Ice Dogs lead in assists, each with 15 on the season. Kayden Hargraves ranks eighth in the NAHL with a 2.32 goals against average, and 10th with a .919 save percentage.

The Ice Dogs continue Club 49 Cup play this weekend, traveling to Alaska’s largest city to face the Anchorage Wolverines. It’s the first clash between the Dogs and the first year franchise from Anchorage. The Wolverines swept the Kenai River Brown Bears over the weekend, and are now just 2 points back of the Dogs in the Club 49 Cup standings. The upstart Wolverines are also just 2 points back of the Dogs and Jr. Blues in the NAHL Midwest Division standings, and hold the highest winning percentage (.694) in the division.

Fans looking to head south for this weekend’s series can purchase tickets here, and should do so in advance as the Wolverines play in the Ben Boeke Ice Arena, which has a capacity of less than 1,000 and is sure to sellout.