The Fairbanks-Anchorage ice hockey rivalry dates back decades, but a new version of the “War on Ice” will come to town for the first time this weekend.
That’s when the Fairbanks Ice Dogs entertain the Anchorage Wolverines at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“It should be a great weekend of hockey,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said Wednesday afternoon.
The two North American Hockey League Midwest Division teams played last weekend in Anchorage where the Ice Dogs captured a 3-1 win on Friday and the Wolverines skated to a 4-2 triumph on Saturday.
“They were close and competitive hockey games last weekend,” Stewart said. “We’re familiar with each other now, and I think there will be two very hard-fought games this weekend.”
The two-game series also is part of the Alaska Airlines Club 49 Cup which will be awarded to the top Junior A team in the state at the end of the season. So far the Ice Dogs have 10 points, Anchorage has eight and the Kenai River Brown Bears have two points.
After splitting last weekend’s games in Anchorage, the Ice Dogs and Wolverines are in the thick of the battle for the Midwest Division lead.
Fairbanks (14-0-8-1) is in second place with 29 points, while Anchorage (13-6-1-0) is tied for third with the Minnesota Wilderness (13-7-1-0) at 27 points apiece. The Springfield Jr. Blues (15-8-0-1) lead the division.
“We both have very competitive teams and we’re competitive within our division,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a great weekend of holiday hockey no matter how you look at it.”
Anchorage is an expansion team in the NAHL this season and Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Proffitt is more than pleased to see the state’s largest city have a team on the ice.
“It’s taken five years to get this to come to fruition,” Proffitt said. “I’m glad to see the Fairbanks-Anchorage rivalry picking up again.”
One of the players the Ice Dogs are going to have to watch out for this weekend is Anchorage’s Talon Sigurdson, who leads the entire league in goals scored with 18. That’s almost an average of a goal per game. Sigurdson also has seven assists for 25 points.
“He’s strong with the stick, he has a knack for getting to the net and he has a good motor in him,” Stewart said. “He’s somebody you have to pay attention to at all times when he’s on the ice.”
The Ice Dogs are led by Alexander Malinowski with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points. Owen Neuharth has four goals and 17 assists for 21 points and Billy Renfrew has a team-high 12 goals and seven assists for 19 points.
Stewart said the Ice Dogs should be at full strength this weekend.
“We’ll have a couple of guys available this weekend who weren’t able to play in Anchorage,” Stewart said.
In addition to the usual promotions scheduled at each home game this season, the Thanksgiving Weekend series is sponsored by Doyon, Ltd.