“Cool” was among the words Jonny Sorenson used to describe receiving the North American Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year honor Wednesday.
The 19-year-old Fairbanks Ice Dogs center, who lead the team in scoring in the regular season, was happy about the award but he kept it in perspective.
“It’s pretty cool recognition wise, just to kind of see your hard work standing out,” Sorenson said by phone, “but obviously I’ve got a lot more important things on my mind, especially coming into this weekend for the team. So I didn’t really think too much about it.”
The Ice Dogs are one win away from advancing to the Robertson Cup National Tournament for the second year in a row.
Fairbanks has a 2-0 lead over the Minnesota Magicians in the best-of-five NAHL Midwest Division Championship series. Game 3 starts at 4:15 p.m. AKDT Friday in the Richfield Ice Arena in Richfield, Minnesota.
A win today gives the Ice Dogs a sweep of the championship series, the Midwest Division’s playoff title and a berth in the Robertson Cup tournament on May 10-14 at the Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota.
If the Ice Dogs don’t win Friday, Game 4 of the Midwest championship series takes place at 4:05 p.m. AKDT Saturday at the Magicians’ home arena. Should a fifth and deciding game be needed, it will be played at 3 p.m. AKDT Sunday in Richfield.
The Robertson Cup tournament is comprised of the NAHL’s four division playoff champions — Midwest, South, Central and East. Fairbanks captured the league’s prized trophy in 2011, 2014 and 2016.
Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart — who’s from Elk River, Minnesota — wasn’t surprised that Sorenson didn’t make a big deal about the Rookie of the Year award.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound center was recognized on the day the NAHL announced the remainder of its season awards.
“It’s cool for our organization that someone is recognized like that off of our team. Obviously, it’s cool for Jonny,” Stewart said by phone. “I don’t think he really thinks much of it.
“I think he’s kind of the type of person and player that likes being part of the team and wants to see his team succeed. I think that’s kind of the overall scene of what’s on our hockey club right now.
“This year, you’ve got a bunch of guys like that, and it just so happens that he was recognized.”
The Rookie of the Year also was the fourth NAHL season award Sorenson received this week.
On Monday, Sorenson was voted to the All-NAHL Rookie First Team. He was voted to the All-Midwest Division Team on Tuesday, when he also received the Midwest Division Rookie of the Year award.
The league’s 24 head coaches voted for the NAHL season awards.
The 19-year-old Sorenson had a goal of having good work ethic rather than awards when he came to Fairbanks for his first season of Tier II junior A hockey.
“My goals were to just come to practice every day and work as hard as I can,” Sorenson said. “Try to do the best for the team but like stand out as a top player.
“I wanted to insert myself into a role of being a top guy that the team could look to for not only scoring but whatever they needed.”
Sorenson provided a team-high 56 points from 17 goals and 39 assists while playing all 60 regular-season games for the Ice Dogs.
He was among seven Ice Dogs players who were selected for the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in February. He skated for the NAHL Selects Red Team during the tournament at the New England Sports Village in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
In January, Sorenson verbally committed to the NCAA Division I hockey program at the University of Minnesota. The campus in Minneapolis is about 9 miles from his hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
The National Hockey League’s Central Scouting ranked Sorenson 205th among 217 North American skaters in April in its final rankings for the NHL Draft on June 21-22 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Sorenson is part of the Ice Dogs’ team chemistry, which he described as “super high.”
“Early in the season, we didn’t start out very strong, as strong as we would have liked,” he said, “but I think just knowing that it was a young group you had to have some leaders step up, and they really did.
“We had to get the group together off the ice before we could get strong chemistry on the ice, and that was really important for us.”
• Four other people involved with the Ice Dogs received NAHL season awards.
Goaltender Mattias Sholl was voted to the NAHL All-Rookie Second Team. Defenseman John Stampohar was voted to the All-Midwest Team and as the Midwest Division Defenseman of the Year.
Stewart received the Midwest Division Coach of the Year honor and Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt was voted as the Midwest Division General Manager of the Year.
• Viewing parties for the remainder of the Midwest Division Championship Series will be conducted in the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way. Friday’s viewing party starts at 4:15 p.m.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.