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NA Now: Fairbanks Ice Dogs

August 17, 2023

The NA Now series features a look at all 32 teams in the NAHL for the 2023-24 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. NA Now looks into each NAHL team including interviews with all the head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.

Fairbanks Ice Dogs

Head Coach: Ryan Theros (1st season)

2022-23 record: 60 GP, 28-25-7, 63 pts. (6th in the Midwest Division)

2022-23 leading scorer: Billy Renfrew (55 points)

2023 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2023-24 Division: Midwest

First regular season game: Friday, September 8th @ Janesville Jets

Home opener: Friday, October 6th vs. Minnesota Wilderness

Perhaps a testament to how good the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have been since coming into the NAHL back in 2003, was the fact that for the first time in team history, they missed out on the playoffs in 2022-23. This came on the heels of a season that saw the Ice Dogs finish the regular season with a 28-25-7 record, which was only good for 6th place in the Midwest Division. As a result, a change in direction behind the bench occurred as Head Coach Dave Allison and the Ice Dogs parted ways. Allison compiled a 41-33-9 record in 83 regular season games, and 2-3 mark in 5 playoff appearances as the head coach of the Ice Dogs. Just three weeks later, the Ice Dogs found their new head coach in former scout and NA3HL head coach Ryan Theros.

Theros comes to the Dogs from the Yellowstone Quake of the NA3HL, where he was named interim head coach and general manager in November of 2022. Theros served as head coach and GM for the Quake from 2015-2018, guiding the team to a 129-23-5 record in three seasons. Theros also served as an assistant coach for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL from 2018-19, and as an associate head coach of the Lone Star Brahmas of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) from 2019-20.

“We are very excited to welcome Ryan to the Ice Dog family,” General Manager Rob Proffitt said. “I have known him on a personal and professional level for several years and have the utmost confidence in him leading our club. Ryan’s experience, success and connectivity in the game will prove fruitful as we take the next step toward the future of the organization.”

“I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while. Fairbanks has been an organization that I have always wanted to be a part of and felt it would be a great fit for me. I’m excited to be a part of a great organization that does a lot of the right things for the players, fans, staff, scouts, and everyone involved,” said Theros. “All the experiences along the way help you with how you develop as a coach. Coaching in the NA3HL really helped me understand the nuances of operating a team on a daily basis, and obviously the experience in the NA3HL was something that I really valued.”

Watch: NA Now interview with Ryan Theros

“I think that's a goal on everybody's list at the beginning of the year is to have a good regular season and make sure we have players committing to play NCAA hockey. The Ice Dogs have always taken pride in the players who advance to the NCAA, so I look forward to continuing that and then ultimately at the end of the season you want to make the playoffs, which is not only important for our organization, but our fan base as well. We look forward to getting the organization back to the point where that’s happening again and carrying on the tradition that so many other Ice Dogs teams have set in the past,” said Theros.

As for the 2023-24 season, Theros said he was encouraged by what he saw at main camp, which included a few familiar faces coming back to the line-up. “I thought it was a pretty good main camp. I've been helping out the Ice Dogs at camp for a long time and I thought it was one of the better all-around camps. The talent level and aggressiveness were good. To be honest, our group has already been really buying into the team-first aspect. You can tell they have put in the work this summer to be successful.”

Two key returners at forward include Kole Altergott (21 points) and Cole Burke (18 points). Goaltender Tyler Krivtsov, who played in 24 games during the 2021-22 regular season for Fairbanks, is back in 2023-24 after sitting out last season with an injury. Theros and the Ice Dogs will be put to the test early as they open up with a series in Janesville, followed by four challenging games at the NAHL Showcase. “The Showcase is a business trip. I love going back to my home state of Minnesota and seeing everyone, but it is all business for us. It allows us to make the final evaluation of our team for the remainder of the season, but we also know it’s all about players getting noticed. That’s what they are there for and it’s a huge steppingstone for our players to try and get a scholarship.

Next Up: Janesville Jets

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