They may call themselves the Ice Dogs, but Fairbanks was hot, hot, hot on Thursday evening in Marshall, Minnesota.
Fairbanks scored three goals in the opening period and added another two in the first two minutes of the second. That strong start helped set the pace for the rest of the game as the Ice Dogs cruised to an easy 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Magicians. Fairbanks is now 19-16-1-1 with 40 points on the season.
That last part is critical. With 40 points, Fairbanks now matches the point total for the Janesville Jets on the year. The Ice Dogs remain in third place in the Midwest Division as Janesville has eight fewer losses (the Jets are 19-9-2-0), but the point total is still key as Fairbanks attempts to move up the division standings.
What may be even more important is that the Magicians are currently in first place in the division with 42 points and a record of 20-10-2-0. If Fairbanks can win the second game of the three game series, they’ll pass Janesville for second and tie the point total for Minnesota. If the Ice Dogs can pull off the sweep, they’ll take over first place in the division. That may sound like a tall order, but Fairbanks is in the middle of a six game winning streak and have taken eight of their past nine.
“(The players) felt pretty good after last night,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said. “It didn’t go without some struggles and some injuries, but we started off the game really well with three goals in the first period and two in the first two minutes of the second. After that we were on their heels quite a bit, actually, and I’d say the Magicians had the majority of the grade A scoring chances. We know we’re going to be faced with some adversity tonight and get some pushback from them. We’ll have some players coming into the lineup that weren’t in last night and we expect energy and big things from them.”
It didn’t take long for Fairbanks to get on the board as Bret Link scored a goal 1:12 into the game on an assist from Austin Becker and recent Army-commitment Andrew Garby to put Fairbanks up 1-0. At the 14:07 mark, Becker picked up another point, this time with a goal and Link coming in with the pass along with Tyler Herzberg to make it 2-0 Ice Dogs. When you’re hot, you’re hot they say as Fairbanks scored again just 24 seconds later on a goal from Jake Hale. Mason Plante and Billy Renfrew shared the assist credit on the goal that put the Ice Dogs up 3-0 in the opening period.
It only took Fairbanks 35 seconds of the second period to score their fourth goal with Laker Aldridge taking the assist from Jasper Lester and making it 4-0 Ice Dogs. 19 seconds later, Herzberg added another point to his stat sheet as he scored on an assist from Link, giving Link three points for the game up to that point. More importantly, it advanced the Fairbanks lead to 5-0.
Minnesota wouldn’t go quietly as Brett Oberle scored a solo goal at the 2:44 mark of the second to put the Magicians on the board. Simon Falk added another goal for the Magicians at the 7:12 mark of the third period on an assist from Oberle and Devlin McCabe to make it 5-2. Minnesota couldn’t get the puck in the net the rest of the way, however, and Hale scored a goal thanks to an assist from Jacob Conrad with 25 seconds left as insurance to give Fairbanks the win. Kayden Hargraves collected the win in the net with 30 saves in 32 chances.
Now, Minnesota will be playing Fairbanks angry on Friday and Saturday. The next two games are the Ice Dogs’ last two in Marshall before returning to Alaska, so they’ll be looking to close out their time there with a bang. Friday’s game is set for 4:30 p.m. ADT as is Saturday’s game
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him on Twitter.com/Hpisani91.