Anchorage Wolverines fend off Ice Dogs rally to hoist AK Club 49 Cup in victory

Mar. 30—With a decisive 4-3 victory over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday night at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena, the Anchorage Wolverines continued their domination of the Last Frontier franchises this season. During their postgame celebration, they were officially presented with the fruits of their season-long labor in the form of the AK Club 49 Cup.

The trophy presentation ceremony was scheduled so that even though they had the award itself locked up weeks ago, the players were determined to ensure they would be hoisting it after a victory, which gave them extra motivation heading into the first of a two-game series with their in-state rivals.

"It felt good and especially tonight getting a win," forward Tyler Hennen said. "We didn't want to have the ceremony off a loss."

To win and then hoist the trophy afterward "made it a little bit more fun," according to Wolverines head coach Nick Walters.

"Obviously, Fairbanks played us hard, and it was a tough game," he said. "We didn't know which way it was going to go, so getting the win and then being able to hoist the trophy just makes it a little bit sweeter."

Hennen admitted he had been in a bit of a scoring slump prior to Friday night's game but was happy to "finally break through" with the first multi-goal game of his junior hockey career.

"He has been hot the last few weekends," Walters said. "He has been a player where it has taken a little bit for him to find his groove and role on the team, but as of late, he has just been a machine."

Shortly after scoring the first goal of the game at the 8:27 mark in the first period, Hennen was blindsided by one of the Ice Dogs' players, taking him off his feet. His teammate Fyodor Nikolayenya came to his defense but was tossed from the game as a result of being called for cross-checking.

"We kind of got sucked into some of the shenanigans early on in the first period and had to battle through some adversity, we had four penalty kills, so we had to tighten up our discipline," Walters said. "Even when we were down a man up front, we still found a way to win."

With their leading scorer on the season out for the rest of the night, Hennen continued to step up his scoring efforts and scored what proved to be the game-winner at the 15:12 mark in the third period to put his team up 4-2.

"Even when he is not scoring points, he is so fast, he's forechecking the puck hard, he's tracking back to our (defensive) zone hard, he's playing the right way, so it's great to see him get rewarded," Walters said.

Although Fairbanks managed to tack on another goal and pulled its goalie in the final minute and a half to try to increase the chances of forcing overtime, Anchorage held on and emerged victorious in the end.

"We got a little sketchy there towards the back half of the game, but we battled through it and got the job done," Hennen said.

Finding different ways to win is often the truest mark of a legitimate championship contender because it highlights resilience and adaptability — and showcases talent and depth.

"Different guys are scoring goals, both goalies are winning us games, some games are blowouts, some games are one-goal wins, some games are won in overtime, and some games are won in a shootout," Walters said.

[Previously: Peaking at the right time, Anchorage Wolverines are poised to make some noise down the final stretch]

The Wolverines are finding different ways to collect points, and Walters believes when a team can do that consistently, "it's a recipe for something special."

"We want to be going into the playoffs being fairly hot," Hennen said. "We have a couple games left to end the year and try to be the one-seed."

Anchorage (79 points) is currently one point behind the Wisconsin Windigo (80 points) for first place in the North American Hockey League's Midwest Division. The Wolverines host the Ice Dogs again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ben Boeke.