FAIRBANKS — With seven players from California and one each from Florida, Texas and Arizona, almost half of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs roster is comprised from players from warm-weather states.
So, you can imagine the roller-coaster ride they’ve been on since the team returned to Alaska two weeks ago after playing four games in Texas in a two-week span.
They arrived in the midst of the first cold snap of the season. The past three days they’ve seen a foot or more of snow dump on the Fairbanks area. This weekend, it’s temperatures back to the 30 to 40 below range.
“It’s amazing to have that many kids from warm-weather climates want to come and play here,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said as his team prepares for the final home games of the 2012 portion of the season at 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“I think it’s a testament to the atmosphere at the games and the way the community rallies behind the team,” Stewart added. “They don’t want to be anywhere else but here.”
This weekend’s games mark the fifth and sixth contests in the 16-game ERA Alaska Cup, which will be awarded at the end of the season. The Kenai river Brown Bears have a 3-1 advantage after the first four games, including a sweep of a two-game series in Soldotna two weeks ago.
Stewart said the Ice Dogs had several areas of their game to work on since the last time they were on the ice.
“Practice has led us to believe we’ve made those corrections, but practice and games are two different things,” Stewart said. “We feel like they should carry over to our game Friday night.”
One of the problems the Ice Dogs had in Soldotna was getting the puck past 6-foot-4, 190-pound Swedish goalie Gustaf Johansson.
“He’s a big kid,” Stewart said. “He’s one of those guys who seems to get in the way of pucks and provides challenges for us to get pucks behind him.”
Stewart also noted the Brown Bears have added veteran Brad Dewey to their roster.
“He has been a very successful player and will add some punch to the their lineup,” Stewart said. “He’s a player we’ll have to neutralize throughout the season.”
The Ice Dogs offense is led by Garret Clemment with 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 26 games this season. Two other Ice Dogs have more than 20 points as Kyle Lee has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points and Devin Loe has 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points.
Defenseman Doug Rose is having a breakout season with six goals and 13 assists for 19 points. He only had 10 points all of last season.
Kenai River’s Matt Seidel and Lucas Kohls each have 23 points on the year. Seidel has 10 goals and 14 assists, while Kohls has nine goals and 14 assists.
Ice Dogs Hockey:
• TONIGHT: Kenai River Brown Bears at Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Big Dipper Ice Arena, 7:30 p.m.
• SATURDAY: Kenai River Brown Bears at Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Big Dipper Ice Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.