FAIRBANKS, AK – Take a picture, it’ll last longer.
Gawkers at the NAHL’s Midwest Division standings should get their peeps in while they can. Early season growing pains in both Janesville and Fairbanks have seen the division’s two top dogs underachieve, but the world of junior hockey knows it’s only a matter of time before things seem a bit more normal.
The Jets and the Ice Dogs began sharing a division in 2015-16, and between them boast six division banners since (four for Fairbanks, two for Janesville), combining both regular season and playoff titles. In those three regular seasons, the teams have a combined 242-84-19-15 record. That’s a .672 win percentage and a .719 points percentage — both ridiculous numbers, even before you factor in that 18 of those 118 losses had to happen because they were games between the two teams.
It’s too easy to get caught up geeking out over the successes between Janesville and Fairbanks (let’s not forget the individuals — four NHL Draft picks and more than five dozen NCAA commitments since joining the same division), but getting their team back on track is not automatic for Gary Shuchuk nor Trevor Stewart. Rebounding seems likely for each, but of course requires extra work, extra time, and extra effort on the ice, in the video room, and in the gym.
Making things more challenging, of course, is the difficult fact that one team will lose at least one game this weekend.
The Ice Dogs’ redemption narrative is pretty simple: we stumbled in Chippewa and at the Showcase, but we split the Magicians last weekend and finally we get our home ice advantage.
For Janesville, a three- or four-point weekend at the Big Dipper will be a huge sign of a strengthening group. The team departed Wednesday (bus to Chicago, fly Chicago to Seattle, fly Seattle up to Alaska) and will play its first true road series against one of the toughest home teams in the NAHL, historically speaking.
Put on the coffee after you get home from work, because tonight’s game is HockeyTV’s free NAHL game of the week.
Puck drops at 10:30pm CDT both nights from the Big Dipper as the Jets and Ice Dogs, both as hungry as ever, open a 10-game regular season series.
Record: 4-4-0-0 (3rd, Midwest)
Road Record: 0-1-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 18GF/24GA
Power Play: 21.2% (10th in the NAHL)
Penalty Kill: 75.0% (16th in the NAHL)
Top Scorers: D Andrew Hicks (4GP—3G-2A—5PTS); F Erik Bargholtz (6GP—3G-2A—5PTS); D John Pesek (5GP—0G-5A—5PTS)
Goaltenders: Garrett Nieto (2-3-0-0; 3.60 GAA; .898 SV%); Cole Brady (2-1-0-0; 1.67 GAA; .935 SV%)
Commitments: F Justin Engelkes (Miami); F Erik Bargholtz (Michigan State); G Cole Brady (Arizona State); F Brenden MacLaren (Ferris State); G Garrett Nieto (Union)
FAIRBANKS ICE DOGS
Record: 2-5-0-1 (6th, Midwest)
Home Record: 0-0-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 17GF/26GA
Power Play: 13.3% (19th in the NAHL)
Penalty Kill: 70.8% (24th in the NAHL)
Top Scorers: F Jax Murray (8GP—2G-4A—6PTS); Multiple Players (4PTS)
Goaltenders: Nate Reid (1-3-0-1; 2.76 GAA; .905 SV%); Mattias Sholl (0-1-0-0; 3.00 GAA; .906 SV%); George McBey (0-1-0-0; 3.03 GAA; .917 SV%)
Commitments: D Dylan Abbott (Minnesota State Mankato); F Jax Murray (Arizona State); D John Stampohar (Canisius); D Noah Wilson (Army)