FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Former North Iowa Bulls goaltender Josh Benson was just named the North American Hockey League’s Bauer Hockey Midwest Division Star of the Week two weeks ago, after tossing his first Tier II shutout and winning three games for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in as many days.
Hockey fans in both Alaska and North Iowa are having that strange feeling of deja vu, as Benson picked up another divisional Star of the Week honor on Monday, his second in a three-week span. This past three-game weekend against the Kenai River Brown Bears was similar to his three-game weekend against the Northeast Generals, if not even better – this time around, Benson went 3-0-0 with 73 saves in 75 Brown Bear chances, anchoring a 1-0 shutout victory on Friday night. He also nailed down a shutout against the Aston Rebels the previous Saturday, bumping his mark to three shutouts in as many weeks.
After going 1-3-0 in his first six appearances with the Ice Dogs, there’s been no looking back for the Stillwater, Minn. native. Since the second week of January, Benson has been 7-0-0 in eight total appearances, helping Trevor Stewart’s team climb into the division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
“Josh was solid all weekend in an important set of games for us against a division rival,” said Stewart. “He kept pucks out and since we didn’t score a lot, that turned out to be very important.”
His numbers have been every bit as good in the NAHL as they were with the Bulls – in seven appearances with North Iowa, Benson won every game, posting a goals-against average of 1.54 and a save percentage of .941. With Fairbanks, his goals-against average is still a paltry 1.56, with a save percentage of “only” .935. This weekend, it’s the Ice Dogs who will play two at home as Kenai River comes in to continue their five-game regular-season series Friday and Saturday.