FAIRBANKS, ALASKA- The Ice Dogs enjoyed an off week as the rest of the playoff contenders in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division duked it on the final weekend of the regular season. The Dogs clinched the top seed in the midwest when the Janesville Jets buried an overtime goal to beat the Springfield Jr. Blues 5-4 on Friday. Springfield locked up second place with 9-4 pummeling of the Jets on Saturday, which also eliminated the Jets from playoff contention. The Anchorage Wolverines swept a 3-game series against the Minnesota Magicians to finish third, while the Minnesota Wilderness split a home and home with Chippewa to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the midwest.
The Dogs will have home ice against the Wilderness in a best of five first round playoff series. The first two games are set for April 22 & 23 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Should the Ice Dogs lead 2-0 after Saturday, games three, and if needed four and five will be played in Minnesota. Should the series be tied 1-1 or the Wilderness lead 2-0 after Saturday, game three will be played at the Big Dipper on April 24. The Jr. Blues and Wolverines will play a best of five series in the other first round Midwest Divisional playoff.
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With a mere five regular season points separating the top four teams, the Midwest Division proved by a long shot to be the most competitive division in the NAHL this season. The Ice Dogs won three of five games against the Wilderness this season. The Dogs swept the Wilderness in a 2-game “home” series played in Marshall, Minn. in early December. The teams split a series over New Year’s weekend, while the Wilderness won 7-5 in the two teams final regular season matchup on Feb. 12.
“We are expecting and preparing for an extremely competitive series,” said Ice Dogs Head Coach Dave Allison. “Minnesota is that lunchbox team who works hard in all aspects of the game, and they can bury the puck with the best of them.”
The Wilderness finished 7th in the league in scoring with 3.6 goals per game, while the Dogs led the NAHL in scoring with just under four goals per game. Defensively, the Dogs finished 11th overall with a 2.98 goals against average, while the Wilderness finished 19th overall, giving up an average of 3.38 goals per game.
DOG BITES (REGULAR SEASON)
ALEXANDER MALINOWSKI FINISHED 4TH (T) IN THE NAHL WITH A 33-42-75 SCORING LINE
MALINOWSKI RANKED 4TH IN NAHL IN GOALS
KEVIN MARX NOREN CO-LED THE NAHL WITH 28 POWER PLAY POINTS
ICE DOGS LED NAHL WITH 238 GOALS (3.97 PER GAME)
ICE DOGS POWER PLAY RANKED 4TH (25.3%) IN NAHL
ICE DOGS PENALTY KILL (85.6%) LED THE NAHL