The Fairbanks Ice Dogs know that they have to start playing better on Saturdays and competing for the entirety of games. Considering they’re tied for first in the Midwest Division even while needing to improve in those two areas, it’s scary to think about how good they could be once they make those changes.
This weekend will mark another opportunity for the Dogs to get even better. Fairbanks is scheduled to host the team they’re tied with atop the Midwest as the Springfield Jr. Blues are coming to town for a pair of games Friday and Saturday night. The Dogs will need to sweep Springfield for sole possession of first, split to remain tied, or they could move down to second if they’re the ones who get swept.
“I think we need to compete for a full sixty minutes this weekend,” said team captain Jack Ring. “That’s something we haven’t been doing all season long. Our main focus is to come in ready to work as soon as the puck drops.”
The Dogs have been strong this season with a record of 12-6-0-1, but as Ring pointed out, there’ve been some consistency issues. Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Janesville was the third consecutive home series in which the Dogs lost the Saturday night matchup. They also lost to Janesville Friday, but won Thursday. The prior two series’ saw them win the first matchup. For whatever reason, there’s been a disconnect.
Head coach Trevor Stewart is doing his part to try and eliminate that disconnect moving forward.
“We were pretty hard and heavy on the guys early on in practice this week,” said Stewart. “(Wednesday) was a little more structure and getting into what we need to do to be successful against Springfield.”
This will be the second time Fairbanks has faced off against the Jr. Blues this season. As has been customary, the Dogs split the last series as they won Friday night and lost Saturday night.
This week’s matchup, presented by the Alaska Army National Guard, will be key to who remains up top, but there’s no getting past the fact that the next two series’ are the ones that have the fans watering at the mouth.
Next weekend, the Dogs head down to Anchorage for a two game series before returning to the Big Dipper Ice Arena for a two game home series. The Dogs couldn’t help but be excited for that.
“It’s been a little bit of a topic,” said Ring. “They play a very physical, hard game just like us. They’re rolling right now so that’s something we need to have a lot of momentum for going into that one.”
Make no mistake, though, the Dogs know they have a job to take care of this weekend first.
“There is excitement (for Anchorage),” said Stewart. “It’s the first time we’re going to be playing them with the back-to-back home and home series. It’s pretty cool, but right now it’s just about being better at home.”
Friday and Saturday’s matches will both start at 7:30 p.m. at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Contact sports editor Hart Pisani at email@example.com or 459-7530.