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Fairbanks Ice Dogs ready for debut at Red Baron Arena

MARSHALL — After a long delay, the eagerly awaited debut of the North American Hockey League’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs has finally arrived with the club all set to take on the Austin Bruins tonight at 7 p.m. at Red Baron Arena. Tonight’s matchup is the first of three games for the Ice Dogs this week as the team will return to Red Baron Arena on Friday and Saturday to take on the league-leading Aberdeen Wings for a two-game series.

150 fans are permitted to attend each home game and tickets are still available at https://marshall.sportngin.com/register/form/950968836

Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Proffitt is excited for the Marshall community to finally see the team up close.

“We’ve been working on this since August, so for me, yes it’s going to be great for us and the players, but most importantly it’s for the community,” said Proffitt. “They stepped forward when we needed them. Whether it be all the different help and volunteers and billet families, I mean just everybody. So, this is just our initial form of saying thank you and to hopefully put a good product on the ice.”

“Hopefully we can feel a little bit of home swag now in Marshall because it feels like home to all of us the way the community has embraced us,” added Proffitt.

In 11 games played this season, the Ice Dogs have amassed a record of 5-6. Laker Aldridge, a native of Lake Orion, Michigan, is the team’s leading goal-scorer with five goals. Fairbanks native Bret Link leads the team in points with eight (4-4-8). Marshall natives Mason Plante and Kaleb Welvaert have recorded four (1-3-4) and one point (0-1-1) this season, respectively.

In net, the club has split time between Kayden Hargraves and Ryan Keyes. In three games between the pipes, Keyes is 2-1 this season with a 4.32 goals against average and a .885 save percentage. Hargraves is 3-3 with a goals against average of 2.48 and a save percentage of 925.

The Ice Dogs enter tonight’s matchup with the Bruins in a similar position with both teams sitting just below .500 and currently in fourth-place in their respective divisions. The Ice Dogs are coming off of a weekend series-split with the Bismarck Bobcats, while the Bruins are fresh off a shootout loss at the hands of the Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet. In their last seven games, the Bruins are 1-5-1. The Ice Dogs enter the matchup 5-2 in their last seven games.

The Bruins are led in scoring by Stevens Point, Wisconsin native Barrett Brooks, a Western Michigan University commit, who has four goals and eight points overall in 12 games played. Tyler Shea has been the busiest netminder for the Bruins. In nine games played, Shea has compiled a record of 3-3, a goals against average of 3.21 and a save percentage of .911.

Proffit anticipates a tough challenge from the visiting Bruins.

“They’re always at the top of the pack year in and year out. They’re kind of working in the same situation we’ve been in with being on a pause as a Minnesota based team so they’re going to come in hungry,” said Proffitt. “(They’re) well coached and they usually have a bigger club. They’re going to be physical, make some plays. It should make for an exciting night of hockey.”

To close out the weekend’s slate of home games, the Ice Dogs will take on the league’s top team in the Aberdeen Wings, who have lost only one game all-season (19-1). The lone loss for the Wings came at the hands of the St. Cloud Norsemen on Dec. 18. Since the defeat, the Wings have rattled off four-straight wins and outscored their opponents 17-2 in that span.

The Wings have a deeply talented pool of forwards who have put up big numbers this season offensively. Air Force Academy commit Clayton Cosentino leads the team in scoring with 29 points (6-23-29) in 20 games and is third in the league overall in points. Teammate Payton Matsui, an Alaska-Fairbanks commit, is fifth in the league in scoring with 26 points (12-14-26).

Aberdeen is backstopped by Jake Sibell, who has put up eye-popping numbers this season and leads the league in multiple statistical categories. In 17 games played, Sibell is undefeated with a record of 16-0 with six shutouts. Sibell’s goals against mark of 1.13 and save percentage of .956 are the best in the league.

“Austin’s going to be a tough matchup on Thursday then you go right into the Robinson Cup champions from two years ago. They beat us in the championship. They beat us twice in their building in November and (they’re) arguably the best team in the league right now,” said Proffitt. “They’ve played about 20 games, so we have a tough road ahead of us.”

After the three games this weekend, the Ice Dogs will host the Bismarck Bobcats on Jan. 30 and 31 at Red Baron Arena to close out the month’s schedule. The Ice Dogs will play an additional five games at Red Baron Arena over the month of February with tickets available at the end of January.

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