FAIRBANKS—The Fairbanks Ice Dogs may be in second place in the North American Hockey League West Division standings, but the Kenai River Brown Bears have the upper hand when the battle for ERA Alaska Cup resumes this weekend in Fairbanks.
The Ice Dogs are 18-8-0 this season and have a comfortable eight-point bulge over the Brown Bears in the standings, but Kenai River brings a 3-1 series lead heading into this weekend.
After the two teams split their season-opening series in Fairbanks, the Brown Bears swept the Ice Dogs two weeks ago in Soldotna to gain the advantage in the 16-game season-long battle for the ERA Alaska Cup.
“It’s a long season, so we’re not pushing the panic button yet, but the sense of urgency has been heightened,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said Wednesday evening. “The guys are excited go be back home and compete in front of their home fans and that is what we need to get better at — competing.”
The Ice Dogs and Brown Bears will lock horns at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Friday night’s game is sponsored by Boston’s Pizza and will feature Ice Puppies games between periods.
Saturday’s contest is sponsored by Surgery Center of Alaska and will feature qualifying for the Coors Light four-wheeler being given away at the end of the season.
Following Saturday’s game, the Ice Dogs will host a meet and greet for players and fans at Boston’s Pizza.
This weekend’s series is the only home games the Ice Dogs play in December.
The Ice Dogs’ first home series of 2013 is Jan. 11-12 against the Janesville (Wis.) Jets.
Even though it’s early in the season, the Ice Dogs can’t afford to let the Brown Bears get too far ahead in the ERA Alaska Cup standings.
Stewart said the Ice Dogs need to make of couple of changes in order to turn the tables on the Brown Bears.
“We weren’t good at getting traffic in front of the net and we didn’t play 60 minutes of hockey,” he said. “We have to come out and play 60 minutes of hockey on Friday night and 120 minutes of hockey for the weekend and we’ll be OK.”
Tickets for all Ice Dogs home games are available at Sport King, Play It Again Sports, Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base and the Fairbanks Community Museum.
At the Dipper this weekend, the Ice Dogs will be selling packs of 10 tickets for any home games in the second half of the regular season for $85.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.