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 advanced to a 4-3 record after defeating the Minnesota Magicians 4-2 on Friday at the Richfield Ice Arena in Richfield, Minnesota, in the first of a four-game series between the two teams.

The series is a rematch of last year’s Midwest Division championship, in which the Ice Dogs swept the Magicians in the best-of-five series to advance to the Robertson Cup tournament.

“The guys that were there last year, those were probably some of our best players tonight — the guys that understood what it took to play in that game last year and ultimately go to the national championship,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said over the phone after Friday’s win.

One of those veteran players who contributed in a big way was third-year Ice Dog Jack Johnston. The 20-year-old forward contributed two goals, one in the first period and one in the second, both unassisted.

Despite contributing no points in the first four games of the season, Johnston has made up for it as of late and leads the team offensively with eight points and 1.14 points per game.

“Jack works so hard and there is no difference from game one to game seven in his work ethic,” Stewart said. “He is being rewarded for his efforts and we need more guys to look at him as a leader.”

Second-year Ice Dog Laker Aldridge contributed two points in Friday’s game. The veteran made an assist to third-year Tyler Deweese just under two minutes into the game. Aldridge also scored a goal almost 18 minutes into the first period with an assist from second-year Adam Eiesele.

Despite holding a 4-1 lead less than one minute into the second period, Stewart was frustrated with how the team played early in the game, something the Ice Dogs have struggled with this season.

“The first period was actually the period where we were the least sharp and it just so happened that we found a way to score three goals. So it was a weird situation where we were up after the first period, but as a coaching staff we were upset with us not coming out and executing the way that we wanted.”

The Ice Dogs play the Magicians again at 4:05 p.m. AKDT today at the Richfield Ice Arena. The game can be seen in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way.

The Ice Dogs play the second half of the four game series against the Magicians in their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Big Dipper Ice Arena. The last game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct 12.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.