Ice Dogs Hockey

Ice Dogs forward Jack Johnston looks to pass the puck against the Kenai River Brown Bears on March 29, 2018, at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, nearly two months after playing for the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup championship trophy, open their main offseason camp today in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

Head coach Trevor Stewart, during a phone interview Thursday, said 110 players are scheduled to participate in the four-day camp at the Dakotah! Sports Center at Mystic Lake Resort.

“Our organization did a tremendous job last season, from scouts to management to the equipment department,” Stewart said. “Finding those players that are hungry and want to get better.

“We want to continue along those lines. There’s probably going to be 20 players that are competing in this camp that are worthy of bringing up to training camp.”

The Ice Dogs’ training camp begins in August at the team’s home rink, the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The players range from 16 to 20 years old and the states they come from include Alaska, Minnesota, Michigan, California and Florida. There’s also about 10 participants from Europe.

“There’s just players from all over the world that want an opportunity to be able to wear our jersey and get an opportunity to play at the next level, which is (NCAA) Division I college (hockey),” Stewart said.

The camp turnout includes several players from the 2018-19 squad which captured the Midwest Division regular-season and postseason titles and advanced to the Robertson Cup National Tournament.

Among the Ice Dogs’ returning players in the camp in Prior Lake are goaltender Mattias Sholl; forwards Luke Ciolli, Ethan Benz, Matt Koethe, Parker Brown, Adam Eisele, Jack Johnston and Tyler Deweese; and defensemen Dylan Abbott, Trenton Woods, Andrew Garby and Lucas Erickson.

“We have a healthy dose of veterans that will be returning,” said Stewart, who’s entering his ninth season as head coach.

The Ice Dogs lost 2-1 to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings in the Robertson Cup final May 15 at the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, Minnesota. 

The championship-game experience is somewhat of a template for the types of players the Ice Dogs are looking for in this weekend’s camp.

“We want guys that value the puck, they want it on their stick,” Stewart said. “They want the next person to touch (pass) the puck to a teammate. 

“When our team doesn’t have it, we want to get it back as quick as possible.”

This weekend’s camp’s participants include four of the seven players selected by the Ice Dogs  on June 4 in the NAHL Draft.

Defenseman Matteas Derraugh and forwards Valera Rykov, Nathan Butler and Austin Becker are the Ice Dogs’ draft picks in the camp at the Dakotah! Sports Center.

Fairbanks chose the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Butler in the fifth round and 107th overall. The 17-year-old skated last season for his hometown’s Dallas Stars Elite 16U squad.

Derraugh, an 18-year-old from Ithaca, New York, was the first defenseman taken by the Ice Dogs in this year’s draft. The 6-foot, 205-pounder, who was selected in the sixth round and 153rd overall,  played last season with the Pembroke (Ontario) Lumber Kings of Central Canada Hockey League.

Becker, also 18, was picked by Fairbanks in the seventh round and 179th overall. The 5-7, 155-pound native of Amery, Wisconsin skated last season with the Battlefords North Stars, of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Rykova was chosen by the Ice Dogs in the eighth round and 206th overall. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound forward played last season with the Lewiston/Auburn Nordiques, of Maine and the NA3HL, a development league of the North American Hockey League.

Ben Helgeson, a 6-foot, 190-pound center from Roseau, Minnesota, was Fairbanks’ first pick in the first round and the 23rd overall player to be drafted. The 18-year-old center skated last season with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League.

Reilly Funk, an 18-year-old center from the Portgage Terriers of Manitoba Junior Hockey League, went to the Ice Dogs in the second round and 49th overall. The 6-foot-2 3/4, 188-pounder also hails from Portage La Prairie.

Fairbanks didn’t have a third-round pick. 

Domenic Garozzo, an 18-year-old forward from Sewell, New Jersey, was selected  by the Ice Dogs in the fourth round and 90th overall. The 5-foot-9, 150-pounder played last season with the Virtua Hockey 18U  team.

The Ice Dogs passed on picks in the last eight rounds of the 16-round draft.

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.