The Fairbanks Ice Dogs put their sweep of a two-week North American Hockey League road trip quickly behind them.
It was for a good reason: They had to quickly prepare for a three-game series against the Springfield Jr. Blues today through Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Midwest Division-leading Ice Dogs and the visitors from Springfield, Illinois, who are in fourth place in the division, face off at 7 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“There’s still some work ahead of us in preparation,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone Tuesday night.
“They’re a good team and they’re going to be ready.”
The Ice Dogs returned to the Big Dipper on Wednesday morning to shore up their preparation for their first games of the season against the Jr. Blues, who are 6-7-2-1 for 15 points in the Midwest standings. The Ice Dogs lead the seven-team division with a 11-4-0-1 record for 23 points.
“We’ve got to go out there and we’ve got to work hard and know that we’re on home ice, and protect that and make than advantage for us,” Stewart said about the series with Springfield.
The Ice Dogs went 4-0 against a pair of South Division opponents, the Amarillo Bulls and New Mexico Ice Wolves, on the road during the last two weekends.
Fairbanks won 4-2 Oct. 25 and 4-3 in overtime the next night against the Bulls in the Budweiser Bull Pen in Amarillo, Texas.
The Ice Dogs prevailed 2-1 against the expansion Ice Wolves on Nov. 1 at the Outpost Ice Arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fairbanks ended the series and the road trip with Saturday’s 8-3 win, which featured a natural hat trick by veteran right wing Parker Brown in the first period and five points — a goal and four assists — from linemate and rookie left wing Oliver Kjaer.
Ice Dogs goaltender Matias Sholl, during an interview Tuesday at the Dipper, described the road trip as character building.
“Yes, it’s that,” Stewart said.
It’s also related to the Ice Dogs’ schedule.
“I think it’s every single year that our schedule’s the same, where we’re not a home lot,” Stewart said. “We got two big road trips early on in the season.
“Now that we’re done with that juncture of the season, we’ve got to really focus in on who we are as a hockey club. We’re at home in Alaska for the next five weeks before we get on the road again.”
They’re all division opponents for the Ice Dogs during that span.
The Chippewa Steel, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, visits the Big Dipper on Nov. 15 and 16.
The Ice Dogs and the Kenai River Brown Bears start this season’s edition Ravn Alaska Cup Series with a three-game set Nov. 21-23 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets also are at the Dipper for three games, Nov. 28-30, and the Minnesota Magicians end the Alaska stand for the Ice Dogs with a visit on Dec. 6 and 7.
“This is a big point of the season for us and we need to make sure that we’re making positive steps,” Stewart said.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.