Kindly reader Richard administered a kick to The Blog's butt recently, and he had a point -- there's still junior hockey in Alaska, namely the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League.
So, let's check in how the clubs are doing as they prepare for their final four regular-season games on the 60-game docket -- the teams play Friday and Saturday in Soldotna, then turn around for a regular season-ending, two-game set the following weekend in Fairbanks.
Fairbanks is 7-4-1 in the season series with Kenai River, and nine of those 12 games have been decided by two goals or less.
The Ice Dogs, who won the Robertson Cup as playoff champs in 2011, sit atop the West Division at 38-15-3, for 79 points. They are there at the moment, in part, because third-place Kenai River (26-24-6, 58 points) last week swept a three-game set from visiting Wenatchee (36-14-6, 78 points) while the Ice Dogs were taking two of three from visiting Fresno, which is last in the division (17-33-6, 40 points).
All four teams have already qualified for the postseason because, well, all four teams make the division semifinals.
In any event, Fairbanks has been propelled by some stellar goaltending -- Steve Perry is 20-6-2 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .913 save percentage, and Kevin Aldridge checks in at 18-9-1, 2.34, .914. Lawrence Cornellier owns 26-29--55 totals in 55 games to lead club scorers, Garret Clemment is 25-26--51 in 55, and Devin Loe is 24-22--46 in 55.
Kenai River, meanwhile, has received 20-19--39 totals in 55 games from Alex Jackstadt and 18-18--36 totals from Matt Seidel. Zac Lazzaro has chipped in 15-16--31 totals in 55 games.
Soldotna native Brad Duwe of the Brown Bears was named the West Division star of the week for his 2-4--6 and +3 totals in the sweep of Wenatchee. Duwe owns 7-8--15 totals in 23 games during a season interrupted by injury -- last season, he was a point a game guy with 17-33--50 totals in 50 matches.
Second star went to goaltender Evan McCarthy, who stopped 77 of 79 shots in two wins, including a 36-save bagel in a 3-0 win over Wenatchee. The Brown Bears used 15-year-old Kris Oldham of the Alaska Junior Aces' AAA midget team in net in the middle game of that series, and he stopped 31 shots in a 7-5 win. Pretty impressive for a guy playing against some other dudes who are as old as 20, and one guy on Wenatchee who is 21.