The Fairbanks Ice Dogs know they have clinched a berth in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division playoffs.
They also know there’s 15 games left in the regular season of the Tier II junior A league, including divisional visits today to the Chippewa Steel in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and Saturday to the Minnesota Magicians in Richfield, Minnesota.
The Ice Dogs know, too, that they want to be ready when the playoffs arrive in April.
“It’s always to know that you’re going to be able to play in the second season (playoffs),” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone Thursday.
“I don’t think the guys are anywhere near satisfied. They want to give ourselves the best possible chance to get back to the Robertson Cup (National Tournament), and so to do so, try to get home ice (advantage in the division semifinal and championship rounds of the playoffs), and that’s what the focus is right now.”
The Ice Dogs lost to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings in last year’s Robertson Cup final in Blaine, Minnesota. Fairbanks captured Robertson Cups in 2011, 2014 and 2016.
The Ice Dogs had an extra week to prepare for today’s game against the Steel at the Chippewa Ice Arena at 4:10 p.m. AKST today and for Saturday’s contest against the Magicians at 4:05 p.m. AKST at the Richfield Ice Arena.
The Ice Dogs last played Jan. 30-Feb. 1, sweeping the visiting Kenai River Brown Bears in a Midwest series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Fairbanks, respectively, won 7-2, 5-4 in overtime, and 6-3.
This weekend’s games against the Steel and Magicians can be seen in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant at LaQuinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.