The Fairbanks Ice Dogs finished Wednesday morning with 38-28 advantage in shots against the New Jersey Titans, but they didn’t end with a win in their first game in the North American Hockey League Showcase.
The 2-1 loss in Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota, also came in the regular-season opener for the Ice Dogs, who in May in the same city, played in the Robertson Cup national championship game for the Tier II junior A league.
“It was our first (regular-season) game of the year. A lot of teams have played games; so we just want to get better in every game here,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone Wednesday.
“Things at this Showcase happen quickly — four games in four days. We just have to forget about this, recover and be ready to play the team from Maryland (today).”
The Ice Dogs were coming off a 5-1 win over the St. Cloud Blizzard in an exhibition game Saturday in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Veteran forward Parker Brown scored and goaltender Mattias Sholl recorded 26 saves for Fairbanks, which was impressive defensively amid Wednesday’s loss.
Fairbanks limited New Jersey to two goals after the Titans compiled 15 goals with respective 7-5 and 8-5 wins Friday and Saturday over East Division rival — and the Ice Dogs’ next opponent — Maryland Black Bears in Odenton, Maryland.
The Ice Dogs’ defense also denied the Titans on four power plays Wednesday.
“For the most part, other than a couple of breakdowns, we were pretty disciplined defensively. So that was good to see,” said Stewart.
The Ice Dogs, however, didn’t capitalize on six power-play opportunities in the Showcase opener. One reason for Fairbanks’ struggle with the man-advantage was Titans goaltender Arseni Sergeev, who finished the game with 37 saves, and whom Stewart described as “phenomenal.”
“We had some good looks on the power play,” Stewart said.
“I think at the end of the day, we probably started the game a little slower than we would have wanted. We got better as the game went along but, ultimately, it was just not executing enough around the net.”
Brown registered the Ice Dogs’ first goal of the 2019-20 regular season at 8:02 of the third period. The goal, courtesy of assists from newcomer teammates Matteas Derraugh (defenseman) and OIlver Kjaer (forward), also was among only five shots by Fairbanks in the final stanza.
“We were getting a lot of pucks in tight on this goalie but he was taking away everything along the ice,” Stewart said. “So we’d get the puck upstairs (high).
“Oliver Kjaer ended up in a good position with the puck and he found Parker back door, and Parker elevated the puck over the goalie’s pads.”
New Jersey forward Zackery Diamont scored unassisted at 17:18 of the first period. Fellow forward Cam Gendron produced the game-winner at 10:29 of the second with an assist from forward Kyler Head.
The Ice Dogs face Maryland at 11:30 a.m. AKDT today. The Ice Dogs and the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings face off at 11 a.m. Friday in a Showcase game which also is a rematch of last season’s Robertson Cup final.
The game is scheduled to be shown in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way.
The Ice Dogs end the Showcase with a game against the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats at 3:30 p.m. AKDT Saturday.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports