August seems to be electric for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The reigning Robertson Cup runners-up in the North American Hockey League open their 23rd season of junior hockey, starting with their annual golf tournament Aug. 24 at the Fairbanks Golf Course and training camp a day later at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“I’m excited about another year. Twenty-third season of Ice Dogs hockey, unbelievable,” Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt said by phone Tuesday night.
Proffitt said the longevity of the Tier II junior A hockey program is a testament to the community in the Fairbanks area.
“It’s a passionate hockey community, it’s a tight-knit community, it’s a blue-collar community and all those attributes fit right into the Big Dipper Ice Arena,” he said.
“It’s a building that holds energy and creates smiles, it creates camaraderie.
“There’s a ton of people that that’s their social interaction during the long, dark winter months of Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s become a hub of it and hockey happens to be the spectacle that pulls everything together. We’re very fortunate for that, and it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and hopefully, there’s 23 more (years) to come.”
Proffitt also is excited about Ice Dogs goaltender Mattias Sholl playing with Team NAHL in the Sirius Junior Club World Cup on Aug. 23-31 at the Shayba Arena in Sochi, Russia.
Sholl and Jack Williams, of the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues, are the netminders for Team NAHL, which is representing the United States in the eight-team tournament.
The NAHL squad includes 14 forwards and eight defensemen. The complete roster is available at www.nahl.com.
Scott Langer, who guided the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings to this year’s Robertson Cup, is Team NAHL’s head coach, and Amarillo (Texas) Bulls head coach Rocky Russo is its assistant coach.
The International Ice Hockey Federation-sanctioned tournament, according to an NAHL news release, brings together world-class junior hockey clubs from various countries.
Team NAHL is in pool B with Finland’s Oulun Karpat, Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg and the Czech Republic’s HC Ocelari Trinec. Pool A comprises Russia’s Lokomotiv, Sweden’s Modo Hockey, Switzerland’s HC Davos and Canada’s Team Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“It’s a hell of an experience for Mattias. We’re excited,” Proffitt said. “Every team in our league had one player nominated, and he was our candidate. He was well-deserving. The second half of the year (2018-19 season), he went on an unbelievable run and it gave us a chance to knock on the (Robertson Cup) championship door the last game of the season.”
“A good personal accomplishment for him,” Proffitt said of the Sirius Junior Club World Cup, “and what an experience not only for hockey but for culture, and seeing the world.”
Sholl is scheduled to rejoin the Ice Dogs during Labor Day weekend.
“I think he’ll be ready to go when he gets back, so we’re just very proud of him and very excited for the opportunity he’s been given,” Proffitt said.
Sholl and the rest of Team NAHL play an exhibition game against Krylya Sovetov in Moscow at 2 a.m. AKDT Monday before heading to Sochi.
The NAHL squad opens the Sirius Junior Club World Cup against Oulun Karpat on Aug. 24. Team NAHL resumes pool play against Red Bull Salzburg on Aug. 26 and closes pool play against HC Ocelari Trinec on Aug. 28. Each game is set for 4 a.m. AKDT.
Fifth- and seventh-place games are scheduled at 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. AKDT on Aug. 29. Semifinals are slated for the same times Aug. 30.
The third-place game is set for 4 a.m. AKDT on Aug. 31, and the championship contest is scheduled for 7 a.m. AKDT.
Sholl, 18, a native of Hermosa Beach, California, led the NAHL in the 2018-19 regular season with a 1.69 goals against average. He compiled a 17-1-3-1 record, .934 saves percentage and six shutouts in 25 games played.
The NAHL All-Rookie Team selection ranked third among league goalies in the playoffs with a 1.93 GAA, 8-2-0-0 record, .922 saves percentage and one shutout in 10 games.
Golf, training camp
The Ice Dogs annual golf tournament, which is sold out, starts at 9 a.m. Aug. 24 at the Fairbanks Golf Course.
“It’s a great event and a great way for our players to meet our great sponsors and season ticket-holders,” Proffitt said.
About 32 players are scheduled to participate in training camp, which has its first session from 9:30-11 a.m. Aug. 25 at the Big Dipper.
Intrasquad scrimmages are slated for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25, 27 and 29. The scrimmages are free and open to the public.
The Ice Dogs and the NAHL’s 23 other teams have to reduce their rosters to 23 players by Oct. 1.
After training camp, the Ice Dogs and the St. Cloud Blizzard will have an exhibition game Sept. 14 and a scrimmage Sept. 15 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The Blizzard recently moved to Minnesota from Brookings, South Dakota.
After competing against the Blizzard, the Ice Dogs head to Blaine, Minnesota, for the regular season-opening NAHL Showcase. Fairbanks faces the New Jersey Titans on Sept. 18; the Maryland Black Bears on Sept. 19; Aberdeen on Sept. 20; and the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats on Sept. 21.
The Ice Dogs have Midwest Division series against the Janesville Jets on Sept. 27-28 in Janesville, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota Magicians on Oct. 4-5 in Richfield, Minnesota.
The two division rivals are also the Ice Dogs’ first home opponents this season.
The Magicians visit the Big Dipper on Oct. 11 and 12, and the Jets land in Fairbanks for a series Oct. 18-19. Each home game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The complete Ice Dogs regular-season schedule is available at www.nahl.com.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.