FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are always looking to pack the Big Dipper Ice Arena and win some North American Hockey League games, both tasks they have done very well. As a Junior Hockey program, one of their main goals that holds just as high of a priority, is guiding and assisting players to continue their hockey careers and get an education at the collegiate level.
"The moniker of our organization is pretty simple; finding a way for these kids to get an education playing the game they love, bottom line," Ice Dogs' General Manager Rob Proffitt said, who has been at the helm since the team's inception in 1997. "That is what drives the train, that is why I wake up every morning. When you get those announcements, it still, after 23 years, makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck."
The most recent Ice Dogs to make their collegiate decisions are forwards Matt Koethe and Jack Johnston.
Koethe will be staying in Fairbanks to play for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who just had their best season in five years under second year head coach Erik Largen. Koethe, born in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is the third Ice Dog on the current roster to commit to UAF. Fairbanks-native Trenton Woods committed in November, while Mason Plante made his decision to become a Nanook in early March. Caleb Hite, who was an Ice Dog during the 2017-18 season, just completed his sophomore season at UAF.
Koethe was the team's points leader in his second and final year with the team, generating 51 points on 21 goals and 30 assists, good enough to be tabbed to the All-Midwest Division Team at forward.
Captain and three-year veteran Jack Johnston will be returning to his home-state to play for St. Cloud State University's Division I program in Minnesota, his dream school according to Proffitt. No Ice Dog on the current roster has suited up for more games for Fairbanks than Johnston, skating in 155 regular season games and 19 playoff games in an Ice Dogs uniform. He leaves the organization with career numbers of 49 goals, 66 assists for 115 points.
"He is a heart and soul guy," Proffitt said of Johnston. "He plays hard every night, battling through injuries the year before during the [Robertson] Cup. He is just an unbelievable human being before he is even a great hockey player and then you add that to it. It will be tough footsteps, but with the leadership of Coach [Trevor] Stewart and Coach [Scott] Deur, the guys know what Jack did and somebody else has to step in those boots, and that has been happening for a long time now."
Complete list of Ice Dog Commits according to their website:
Dylan Abbott - University of Minnesota State at Mankato (WCHA, DI)
Parker Brown - Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey, DI)
Luke Ciolli - Army (Atlantic Hockey, DI)
Adam Eisele - University of Minnesota State at Mankato (WCHA, DI)
Lucas Erickson - St. Lawrence University (ECAC, DI)
Tim Erkkila - Northern Michigan University (WCHA, DI)
Jack Johnston - St. Cloud State University (NCHC, DI)
Matt Koethe - University of Alaska Fairbanks (WCHA, DI)
Jasper Lester - Air Force Academy (Atlantic Hockey, DI)
Mason Plante - University of Alaska Fairbanks (WCHA, DI)
Trenton Woods - University of Alaska Fairbanks (WCHA, DI)