The Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are pleased to announce that forward Max Birkinbine has announced his commitment to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Air Force Academy of the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA).
“Going into the visit I didn’t know about the Academy, but it’s a pretty impressive place and Colorado Springs is a beautiful place to live,” Birkinbine told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “There is all the opportunities to get a good education and all the little perks you get for graduating from the Academy,” he said. “Once I realized all the little things you get by going there, it wasn’t hard to make the decision.”
Birkinbine will join an Air Force team that finished second to Niagara in the Atlantic Hockey Association. The Falcons have more NAHL graduates on their roster than any other NCAA Division I team.
“I feel I can fill multiple roles for them,” Birkinbine said. “Whether they need me to kill penalties or play defensively or provide offense, I’m going to go in there and work hard to find my place on the team.”
Birkinbine, 20, is in his third season with the Ice Dogs, but has spent only the better part of one full season with the team. He joined the Ice Dogs back during the last portion of the 2010-11 season after he completed playing high school hockey for his hometown of White Bear Lake, Minnesota. He played in five regular season games with Fairbanks that season and also appeared in six playoff games as the Ice Dogs won the 2011 Robertson Cup National Championship.
The next season in 2011-12 was Birkinbine’s (5’10/175) best statistical season to date. He appeared in all but one game during the regular season as he recorded 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) during the regular season. He also tied for the team lead with five game-winning goals. During the 2012 Robertson Cup Playoffs, Birkinbine recorded seven points in 10 playoff games as the Ice Dogs made it all the way to the Robertson Cup Semi-Finals.
This season, Birkinbine began the year with Des Moines in the USHL, where he recorded 18 points in 39 games played during the regular season. He was traded to Fairbanks at the trading deadline. In his 12 games with the Ice Dogs since the trade back to Fairbanks, he hasn’t missed a beat recording 10 points in 12 games played thus far.
“We were thankful to get Max back in a Fairbanks uniform,” said Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart. “He has taken on a leadership role since he has been back and I think a player of his experience and skill is always good to have, especially come playoff time. He is going to very good institution in Air Force where the hockey and academics have a great reputation and tradition. Max is a good skater, very responsible at both ends of the ice and is strong off the puck.”
Birkinbine is the ninth Ice Dog player to make a college commitment. The others are Garret Clemment (Lake Superior State), Preston Hodge (Nebraska-Omaha), Duggie Lagrone (Colorado College), Devin Loe (Miami (Ohio)), Tayler Munson (Alaska Nanooks), Patrick Newell (St. Cloud State), Steve Perry (Clarkson University) and Doug Rose (Sacred Heart).
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)