FAIRBANKS — Ty Proffitt grew up around the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. His father, Rob, is the general manager, founder and former head coach of the program in the Tier II junior A-level North American Hockey League.
The younger Proffitt also saw many Ice Dogs players commit to college hockey programs.
On Wednesday, he became the latest Ice Dog to take that step. The 20-year-old left wing committed to the NCAA Division III program at the University of Wisconsin Superior.
“Coach McKenna was super involved in communicating with me over the first half of the year,” Ty Proffitt said by phone Wednesday of Yellowjackets head coach Rich McKenna.
“I visited over the summer and it reminds me of home — small-town feel and good quality people that live in the area there.”
Proffitt is the seventh Ice Dogs player from this season’s roster to make a college-hockey commitment. Four others committed to Division I programs — Jonny Sorenson (Minnesota), Dylan Abbott (Minnesota State), Jax Murray (Arizona State) and John Stampohar (Canisius). Luke Ciolli and Noah Wilson committed to Army.
Proffitt’s commitment also occurred five days after Patrick Newell made history as the first former Ice Dogs player to sign a National Hockey League contract.
Newell, a forward for the Ice Dogs in 2012-13, signed with the New York Rangers on Saturday. The signing came after his college team, St. Cloud State, of Minnesota, was eliminated Friday in the NCAA Division I Tournament.
The Ice Dogs next play in a best-of-three NAHL Midwest Division semifinal series against the fourth-place Janesville Jets on April 12 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The first-place Ice Dogs also host games 2 and 3 on April 13 and 14, respectively. If needed, games 4 and 5 will be played at the Janesville Ice Arena in Janesville, Wisconsin, on dates to be announced.
The 6-foot, 190-pound wing is scheduled to experience more of a connection to Fairbanks than just the small-town atmosphere of Superior, Wisconsin.
Yellowjackets assistant coach Rodney Graham grew up in Fairbanks and Logan Parsley, a sophomore defenseman this past season for the team, graduated from Lathrop High School.
Proffitt described the connection to Graham and Parsley as “pretty cool.”
“Parsley, especially,” Proffitt said. “I’ve grown up playing against him and with him since I was young kid, and communicating with him about what it’s like to go to school and live in the area, and what the coach is like and what to expect coming in for next year.”
Playing with the Ice Dogs helped prepare Proffitt for playing with the Yellowjackets, of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“The mindset coming into the locker room each and every day is to get better, and to never get worse,” he said.
“That mindset, just bringing it into everyday life, whether it’s going to the rink or doing community service,” Proffitt added, “they just breed excellence here.”
Proffitt divided the 2017-18 season between the Ice Dogs and the Yellowstone Quakes, of Cody, Wyoming, and the NA3HL, a development league of the NAHL.
He had a goal in 14 games for the Ice Dogs. He contributed a goal and seven assists for eight points in 11 games for the Quakes, last season’s NA3HL Fraser Cup champions.
Proffitt has 16 points from eight goals and eight assists in 53 games this season for the Ice Dogs, who captured the Midwest Division regular-season title at 37-16-3-4 for 81 points in the standings.
“He’s a smart player. That’s what they (Wisconsin Superior coaches) like most about him,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone Wednesday. “He’s got good hands. He’s a guy who knows what should be done and he’s going to do whatever they ask for him to carry out.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound right wing agreed to a two-year deal with the Rangers, which begins in the 2019-20 season.
“It’s pretty neat,” Rob Proffitt said Wednesday. “Patrick played with us as a 16-year-old. He was very dynamic for us as a young kid and we knew right then that he had a very bright future.
“Kudos to him for the career he had in college hockey. He’s a Hobey Baker finalist and he’s going to play in the National Hockey League if all things work out well for him. I’ve very excited for him and the career he has yet to come and the career he’s had at this point.”
The 23-year-old from Thousands Oaks, California, compiled 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points in 42 games in his only season with the Ice Dogs.
Newell continued his junior hockey career with the United States Hockey League’s Indiana Ice in 2012-13 and 2013-4, and with the Penticton Vees, of the British Columbia Hockey League, in 2014-15 before heading to St. Cloud State.
The top-10 finalist for this season’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award, the highest individual honor in college hockey, registered 120 career points (38 goals and 82 assists) in 145 games for St. Cloud State, of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The 23-year-old contributed 21-26-47 totals this season for St. Cloud State, helping the team win the NCHC’s Penrose Cup as the conference’s regular-season champion.
On Friday, he tied for the game high with seven shots in a 2-1 loss to American International College, of Springfield, Massachusetts, in a NCAA West Region semifinal in Fargo, North Dakota.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.