Trevor Stewart earned his 400th win as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs head coach when his team beat the Minnesota Magicians 3-1 on Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“The same as I did after last night’s win,” Stewart said, explaining what it felt like to reach the milestone.
In addition to 400 wins, Stewart, who is in his ninth season as head coach, has led the Ice Dogs to five North American Hockey League final fours and two national championship wins.
“It’s good to know, I guess I’ve been here this long and surrounded myself with a good support staff and more importantly players,” Stewart said.
The Ice Dogs controlled the puck for the majority of the first period, making 13 shots compared to the Magicians' three. But they seemed to be missing some puck luck and the game was scoreless after 20 minutes.
“We weren’t really too worried about the score or anything,” Ice Dog forward Luke Ciolli said about the opening period, which looked very different from Friday’s game where Fairbanks led 4-0 after the first period.
“Just keep putting pucks on net and we knew we were going to pop a couple here and there.”
The Magicians took a 1-0 lead when Robert Christy converted on a three way passing play with Marko Reifenberger and Jake Hale. The forward fired a wrist shot from the left circle past Fairbanks goaltender Mattias Scholl 6:37 into the period.
Less than two minutes later the Ice Dogs evened the score on the power play.
Brendan Murphy’s shot from the deep slot ricocheted off Magician goaltender Samuel Vyletelka’s chest, and Ciolli found the puck on the rebound and tapped it in.
“I guess I was just crashing the net hard and got some good puck luck,” Coilli said.
Mason Plante got the go-ahead goal with Fairbanks on a 4-on-3 power play. The forward fired a shot from the deep slot on a one timer from Jack Johnston, with 2:25 remaining in the second period
The third period was scoreless until Johnston made an empty net shot from the blue line with 12 seconds left in the game to finish to seal the win.
Fairbanks outshot Minnesota 35-22. Sholl finished the night with 20 saves.
The win also extended the Ice Dogs winning streak to five games.
The Ice Dogs (12-9-0-2) sit at second place in the Midwest Division with 40 points behind the Kenai River Brown Bears who have 41.
Oliver Kjaer, who is leading Fairbanks with 1.08 points per game, was out for the series with the Magicians. The rookie forward is skating for Denmark in the World Junior Championships.
“He’s a really dynamic player for us, obviously, but we knew that this was coming,” Stewart said.
“He’s representing his country so anytime that we’re able to have a player on the roster that can be part of something that’s pretty special.”
World Juniors runs from December 26 to January 5 in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.
The Ice Dogs begin a nine-game road trip with a three-game series against the Janesville Jets from Dec. 12-14 in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The team returns to the Big Dipper for a two-game series against the New Mexico Ice Wolves on Jan. 17 and 18.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.