FAIRBANKS — There will be more than North American Hockey League points on the line when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears lock horns this season.
The two Alaska junior hockey rivals will be playing for the ERA Alaska Cup with all 16 games being used to determine the winner.
“Once the Alaska Avalanche moved to Johnstown (Pa.) after last season, Kenai general manager Nate Kiel and I came up with the idea to fuel the rivalry,” Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt said Wednesday afternoon. “To have a tradition, you have to start somewhere and the ERA administration was all about it.”
Proffitt said ERA Alaska has been a supporter of both teams in helping with transportation between Kenai and Fairbanks as well for teams visiting Alaska.
The Cup will be introduced to the Fairbanks fans this weekend when the Ice Dogs entertain the Brown Bears in 7:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“There’s always something special about a rivalry when there’s a cup, or some kind of trophy involved,” Proffitt said. “We wanted to create our own and start something special. We’re excited to partner with ERA Alaska and do this.”
The Ice Dogs come into this weekend’s series with a 13-5-0 record. Fairbanks is in second place in the NAHL West Division, three points behind the league-leading Wenatchee Wild, 14-3-1.
The Brown Bears are in third place with an 8-7-3 record, seven points behind the Ice Dogs and four points ahead of the Fresno Monsters.
The Ice Dogs have scored 62 goals and given up 47, while the Brown Bears have scored 64 goals and allowed 55.
This weekend’s series wraps up a 12-game home stand for the Ice Dogs.
Fairbanks will play at Corpus Christi and Wichita Falls in Texas and then at Kenai River, before returning home to host Kenai River Dec. 14 and 15 in its only home games in December.
The Ice Dogs and Kenai River get together six more times in February and early March and wrap up the ERA Alaska Cup with four more games at the end of March.
The ERA Cup will be awarded after the final home game of the series on March 30 in Fairbanks.
Friday night’s game is sponsored by Boston’s Pizza and Saturday’s contest is sponsored by Alaska USA Federal Credit Union.
A postgame social is planned for Saturday night at Boston’s Pizza.
Ice Dogs tickets can be purchased in advance at Sport King, Play It Again Sports, Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base and the Fairbanks Community Museum.