The Minnesota Magicians are the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ opponent this year in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division Championship Series.
For the Ice Dogs, however, it’s easy to collectively remember last year’s division final series against the Janesville Jets.
The memory arises, too, because Fairbanks has a 2-0 series lead the Magicians and the Ice Dogs can sweep this year’s championship series with a win in Game 3, which starts at 4:15 p.m. AKDT today in the Richfield Ice Arena in Richfield, Minnesota.
The Ice Dogs needed all five games of last year’s Midwest championship series to defeat the Jets, of Janesville, Wisconsin, and advance to the Robertson Cup National Tournament in Blaine, Minnesota.
Ten players on this season’s team were part of the 2017-18 division championship series.
Remembering last year’s Midwest title series has helped the Ice Dogs in this year’s matchup with the Magicians.
“Just facing adversity and dealing with a number of obstacles, and obviously having to go down to another team’s building when we’re down a game,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart, by phone Thursday, recalled of last year’s Midwest championship round.
“There was a lot adversity that we faced and were able to fend off,” Stewart said. “Hopefully, our returners kind of learned from that experience and want to do whatever is in their power to try to close out the series (against the Magicians).”
A berth in this year’s version of the NAHL’s final postseason competition awaits the Ice Dogs if they defeat the Magicians.
If Minnesota wins today, the fourth game of the series will be played at 4:05 p.m. AKDT Saturday. If the fifth and deciding game is required, it will be played at 3 p.m. AKDT Sunday in the Richfield Ice Arena.
The four winners — Midwest, South, East and Central — from the NAHL’s division championship series move on to the Robertson Cup tournament on May 10-14 in the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine.
Stewart and associate coach Scott Deur have helped keep the Ice Dogs grounded after their series-opening success against the Magicians at home in the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Fairbanks won 5-1 in Game 1 on April 26 and gained a 6-2 victory the next night in Game 2.
“It’s their (players) team now and they understand the task at hand,” Stewart said. “It’s (today) the elimination game and it’s going to be the toughest one to try to win.
“But they’re pretty loose in practice this week, and they’re all obviously excited to go out and compete (tonight).”
• Stewart said Ice Dogs forwards Jax Murray and Jack Johnston are expected to play today after being injured during a physical Game 2 at the Big Dipper.
“They should be ready to go,” he said.
• The Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way, is hosting a watch party for any games this weekend in Richfield. Today’s watch party begins at 4:15 p.m.
• Fairbanks won the Robertson Cup in 2011, 2014 and 2016. The Ice Dogs were defeated by the eventual runners-up Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros in three games of a best-of-three semifinal series in last year’s Robertson Cup tournament.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.