Fairbanks, Alaska – The Springfield Jr. Blues and Fairbanks Ice Dogs proved this weekend why they are two of the top teams in the North America Hockey League (NAHL). After 120 minutes of hard hitting, intense hockey, the top two teams in the Midwest Division came away in the same fashion they arrived on Friday – in a tie for 1st place. The Jr. Blues record now sits at 13-7-0-1 for 27 points, T-1st in the Midwest Division and T-3rd in the league overall.
Friday – November 12th: SPR 4 – 2 FAI
Friday night was the tightly contested matchup that we all expected to see between Coach Rennette’s and Coach Stewart’s respective squads. A scoreless 1st period saw both teams trade chances, but it was a tip-in by Carson Jones early in the 2nd period that got the scoring underway. Connor Smith, who recently committed to Union College, picked up a power play tally halfway through the period to give the Jr. Blues a 2-0 lead. Just before the end of the period Fairbanks would finally get one past Ethan Roberts to make it 2-1 after 40 minutes of action.
The 3rd and final period was a battle between two teams who realize that every point is crucial at this stage of the season. Leo Bacallao picked up a goal just before the halfway mark of the period, but Fairbanks answered back quickly as the game’s score held at 3-2 down the stretch. Bacallao would find the back of the net again with the empty net to seal a 4-2 victory for the Jr. Blues.
Roberts picked up his 9th win of the season by stopping 23 of 25 shots, while James Callahan, Hagen Moe, and Cole Schneider recorded helpers in the contest.
Saturday – November 13th: SPR 3 – 6 FAI
After picking up two points on Friday and moving into sole possession of 1st place, the Jr. Blues were looking to pick up at least one point on Saturday at the very least. Things did not go as planned. Ethan Robertson got the start in net – just his second start since being injured in early October. Fairbanks scored first – early in the 1st period – and never trailed the rest of the game.
Despite bounce-back goals from Jonathan Panisa and Hayden Riva – both tying the game momentarily – the Ice Dogs never took their foot off the gas pedal as they scored three times in four minutes in the 2nd period to take control of the game. Zach Bade would draw the Jr. Blues within two with a goal early in the 3rd period, but the Ice Dogs would squash any hopes of a comeback with a goal of their own and came away with a 6-3 victory.
Robertson would pick up the loss in net after stopping 14 of 19, Ethan Roberts wound up stopping 11 of 12 in relief as they combined for 25 saves on the evening. Bacallao would add two assists while Michael Valdez, Panisa, and Fisher Scott each had one assist as well.
By the Numbers:
- Leo Bacallao picked up four points on the weekend in Fairbanks and he now has 10 goals and 9 assists for 19 points and leads the Jr. Blues in scoring. He has been on fire as of late, scoring 11 points in his last 7 games.
- Ethan Roberts has continued to provide timely saves in net for Springfield. His record currently sits at 9-4-0-1 with a 2.28 GAA, .923 SV%, and 1 SO. Roberts is 4-0-0-1 in his last 5 starts and has surrendered no more than three goals in each of those appearances. He is T-4th in the league in wins, has faced the 3rd most shots against, and has the most minutes played in the league (922) – 63 more than the next closest goaltender.
- Special teams once again proved to be an important factor as each team scored a power play goal in their respective wins. The Jr. Blues went 1-5 on the man advantage Friday while the Ice Dogs went 1-2 on Saturday. Springfield’s PP now sits at 24% with our PK at 85.3%.
- The Midwest Division is tightening and there are currently six teams within six points of the top spot. Springfield and Fairbanks are tied at the top with 27 points, while Anchorage is in 3rd with 25, Chippewa is in 4th with 24, MN Wilderness are in 5th with 23, and the MN Magicians are in 6th with 21. And don’t forget about the Janesville Jets who, despite being in 7th place, have now won four straight games.
A quick turn around for the boys this week as they travel from Fairbanks down to Kenai River as they will face the Brown Bears for a three game series starting Thursday night. On Thursday the game begins at 10 pm CST, while Friday & Saturday’s games begin at 10:30 pm CST. All three games can be watched on HockeyTV and make sure you follow our social media pages for live in-game updates and players news throughout the week!