During a jam-packed hockey weekend in Anchorage, the town’s junior squad created a little cushion of sorts with a resounding victory Saturday night.
As long as it can continue to post wins.
Alaskan Cam Morris opened the evening’s scoring while local products Aiden Westin and Trent Powell picked up single assists. The Anchorage Wolverines’ scored a 6-3 North American Hockey League home win over the rival Fairbanks Ice Dogs, splitting the weekend series at Ben Boeke Arena.
“It always feels good getting the first one and knowing you don’t have to fight from behind,” said Morris, who bagged his ninth goal of the season at 14 minutes, 57 seconds of the first period off an assist from Westin. “We get a little momentum; our crowd gets into it and they are always loud.”
Anchortown’s fans of the sport were definitely kept occupied these last few days.
Exactly 2.6 miles separate Boeke from the Seawolf Sports Complex on the UAA campus. In the span of about 48 hours, the two venues combined to feature the two NAHL matchups Anchorage and Fairbanks, one NCAA Division I throwdown between UAA and UAF and three high school varsity games capping the legendary Cook Inlet Conference’s 62nd regular season.
That’s plenty of pucks, eh? How much did you see in person?
“We’re happy we have such passionate fans in the building (with us),” Morris said.
The two points earned by Anchorage on Saturday set it up for a pivotal five-game road trip that begins Thursday in Springfield, Ill. At 17-14-6 through 37 games, the Wolverines sit sixth in the NAHL’s Midwest Division with 40 standings points.
Fairbanks holds a 23-15-3 and its 49 points match that of the Minnesota Wilderness atop the division. As we learned last season when Anchorage made a magical run through the Tier II junior league’s Robertson Cup playoffs and finished second, the division’s top four finishers claim postseason berths.
Anchorage will make up at least one and as many three games in hand on the opponents in front of them before returning to Alaska for a Feb. 17 home game.
“We not even looking at any of that at all,” said Wolverines defenseman Clay Allen, one of nine combined Alaskans in action between the teams. “Honestly, we’re going out each day and just doing what we do whether it’s practice or a game.
“We just have to keep getting points. These standings are so tight.”
NAHL teams play a 60-game regular season. That’s a bit of an ask for kids of high school and college age. Getting through the season’s wear and tear can’t be easy.
“It’s all about staying healthy, you know the season is a long grind,” Morris said. “This all started in the summer for us and goes through April.
“You always have to keep in mind there’s another weekend ahead of you.”
Speaking of age, Allen turned 21 a week ago. Only a few hours after Saturday’s win he boarded a plane to visit a few East Coast college programs before rejoining the Wolverines for the roadie.
- The first legit taste of a Wolverines-Seawolves connection transpired in the UAA’s 4-3 overtime loss to UAF on Friday in the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup series at the Seawolf Sports Complex. UAA freshman forward Matt Johnson registered his first collegiate point at 8:39 of the first period with an assist on Alex Gomez’s goal that gave the Seawolves a 1-0 lead. Johnson played for the Wolverines last season and totaled five points (two goals, three assists) in the Robertson Cup Playoffs. UAF scored another 4-3 OT win over UAA on Saturday in the Golden Heart City. Last week, Westin announced his commitment to attend UAA next season.
- Jackson Reineke totaled four points (two goals, two assists) in the victory. UAF commit Fedya Nikolayenya added two goals and an assist. Reineke leads the Wolverines with 21 goals.
- Swiss goaltender Eino Rissanen made 31 saves for Anchorage and evened his record to 3-3-2. Fairbanks’ Kayden Hargraves stopped 28 shots.
- Fairbanks’ lineup featured Jack Dolan (Anchorage), Colin Goff (Wasilla) and Billy Renfrew (Fairbanks). Goff assisted on the Ice Dogs’ second goal. Renfrew furnished two goals and an assist in Fairbanks’ 5-2 win on Friday.
- Anchorage improved to 5-2-1 versus Fairbanks this season while the Ice Dogs dropped to 3-4-1. The Wolverines also improved on their Alaska Airlines Club 49 status for state supremacy between themselves, Fairbanks and the Kenai River Brown Bears.
- The Ice Dogs next play Thursday in Cloquet, Minn. Kenai River plays Friday in Chippewa Falls, Wisc.