FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs lost in their first competition of the 2012-13 North American Hockey League season, but head coach Trevor Stewart treated Friday’s exhibition against the Soo Eagles like an extension of training camp.
Fairbanks was defeated 5-1 by the NAHL newcomers in the first of two exhibition games in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the hometown of Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt. The Eagles formerly played in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Colton Wolter, a veteran Ice Dogs center and right wing and former Lathrop High School standout, provided Fairbanks’ goal at 12 minutes into the third period. He was assisted by two teammates from Wausau, Wis. — newcomer and center Kyle Lee and veteran left wing Garret Clemment.
Veteran Steve Perry and first-year Ice Dog Kevin Aldridge from Beverly Hills, Mich., shared the goaltending duties for Fairbanks, last season’s West Division regular-season and playoff titlists.
This weekend’s contests in Pullar Stadium allows Stewart and assistant coach Geoff Beauparlant to observe the team’s 25 players in their first action of a 27-day trip. The Ice Dogs have to trim their roster to 23 players by Oct. 1.
“We had 14 players suit up tonight for their first junior hockey game,” Stewart said from Sault Ste. Marie. “We knew they were going to be making mistakes, but we wanted to see what they could bring to our team this year.
“I’m sure a lot of them will do much better tomorrow,” Stewart added. “Though the game was a 5-1 loss, a lot of the guys adjusted nicely. The Soo Eagles are a good team, and I think they’re going to be a good team in the league this season. They have a lot of veteran experience.”
Stewart commended the play of Lee and a pair of new Ice Dogs defensemen from California — Curran Klein from Santa Ana and Lonnie Clary from Riverside.
“They had pretty good games for their first junior hockey games,” Stewart said.
“They all want to work hard and some of them were just figuring out how to work hard on a consistent level. It will come,” Stewart said about all of the Ice Dogs newcomers. “It was just good to see them come off the bench and see how they play.”
The Ice Dogs and Eagles meet again at 3:30 p.m. ADT today, and Fairbanks will travel from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Blaine, Minn., for the NAHL Showcase on Wednesday through Saturday.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.