While the 2020-2021 season didn’t end the way the Fairbanks Ice Dogs would’ve hoped, they still qualified for the NAHL playoffs due to the strength of this year’s team. This week, they’re getting the recognition they’ve definitely earned.
It’s the NAHL’s annual awards week. The All-Rookie team was announced on Monday while the Divisional Teams and Awards were announced on Tuesday. The Ice Dogs deservedly picked up some hardware on both days and will hopefully pick up some more Wednesday evening when the league announces their league wide awards.
The awards started Monday when defender Brendan Miles was selected to the NAHL All-Rookie second team. Miles was the lone Ice Dog to earn the prestigious honor and was also selected to the Midwest Division All-Rookie team, once again the lone Dog to make the team.
The honor was well deserved. In the regular season, Miles played in 45 games for Fairbanks and was responsible for 20 points, 11th on the team. He scored five goals and chipped in 15 assists in his first season in the NAHL with eight of his points coming on power plays and one game winning goal. Miles showed strong discipline in picking up just six minutes in the penalty box all season.
On Tuesday, the Dogs picked up even more recognition. Fairbanks earned three awards in the Division, two given to individuals, and one to the entire team.
For the players, Jasper Lester was named to the All-Midwest Division team as a defender. Lester was one of the top overall players for the Dogs this season as he finished in a three-way tie for 7th on the team in points with 23. Lester scored seven goals and contributed 16 assists on the year in 48 games with five points on the power play and one short-handed assist. Perhaps most impressive, however, was that he and Bret Link finished the season tied for first on the team in +/- at +14.
It wasn’t just the guys on the ice earning awards. General manager Rob Proffitt was named Midwest Division General Manager of the Year. Proffitt was instrumental in the Ice Dogs’ success this year, first in helping ensure the season could happen in the first place. With Covid-19 restrictions in place, Proffitt helped secure a temporary home for the Dogs in Marshall Minnesota for the bulk of the season. Then, Proffitt worked tirelessly to get the Dogs back home for the final seven games of the regular season with 50% capacity throughout. He also worked with the Borough in making the home game experience as enjoyable for fans as possible as the Dogs also hosted three playoff games.
Finally, the entire Ice Dogs organization was awarded Midwest Division Organization of the year. The Dogs had to overcome hardship after hardship this year, beginning before the season even started when star player Luke Ciolli was diagnosed with brain cancer. After that, the Dogs had to begin the year in Minnesota and had to overcome a slow start to the season. After making it back home and sitting at fourth place in the divisional standings, Fairbanks rallied to finish the year in second place in the division, earn home ice advantage, and did it while overcoming a litany of other injuries. To say they earned the title of Organization of the Year would be an understatement.
The NAHL league wide awards are scheduled to be announced Wednesday at 2 p.m. AKDT. The Ice Dogs finished the season with a playoff appearance for the 24th consecutive season, falling in the opening round in three games to the Minnesota Magicians.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.