If you have kids, the odds are you’ve seen the movie Frozen more times than you can remember. Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart had two young daughters in attendance for practice on Thursday, so you know he’s seen it. One of the many hit songs from the film entitled “The First Time in Forever” is appropriate for the Dogs this weekend, however.
After all, it feels like forever since we’ve had playoff hockey in Fairbanks.
The Ice Dogs are back in the postseason for the 24th consecutive year, but with last year’s postseason being canceled due to a global pandemic, we haven’t had playoff hockey in the interior or anywhere else in two seasons. Now, though, the new season emerges as the Dogs host the Minnesota Magicians on Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. each evening.
Don’t expect Fairbanks to deviate too much from what got them to this point of the season, however.
“Nothing’s really going to change hopefully,” said Stewart. “Hopefully the guys understand that it’s a different level of hockey and things are going to be happening really quickly. Mistakes are going to be magnified, but we can’t focus on not having mistakes. Our focus right now is on, ‘hey, we’ve come a long way. Let’s have some fun with this other opportunity that we get at the end of the season here.”
If Fairbanks plays anything like they did their last game of the regular season, they should end up having a lot of fun.
After securing home ice advantage by way of the Magicians loss earlier Saturday, the Dogs opted to rest several starters. They could’ve just sat back and phoned it in with nothing to play for. Instead, many players who hadn’t seen as many minutes as some of the other guys gave their best efforts of the season and it lead to a 7-2 win over Kenai River.
“I think that helped some guys that were maybe looking for some confidence,” said defender Brendan Murphy. “I think as a team there’s no better way to go into the playoffs than getting a big win. We were looking at our phones and saw we already got the two seed, but Stew(art) came in and said we still have to finish up this game and that’s the best way to propel ourselves in the playoffs. It was a good way to finish the season and now we’re ready to go.”
Anything can happen in the playoffs. If the Dogs go up 2-0, the series will shift to Minnesota no matter how many more games there are. If they go down 0-2 or tie 1-1, game three will be in Fairbanks on Sunday at 5 p.m. Considering the two squads faced off ten times in the regular season with each team winning five games, anything can happen has never been more true.
Murphy, Stewart, and the whole team are aware that anything can happen, but they’re heading forward with a championship mindset.
“Our biggest thing is that (Minnesota) hasn’t been up here (this season),” said Murphy. “We’re going to use home ice to our advantage. We know our rink and we know our fans so we’re going to come out and hope they get loud. We’ll use that to rattle (Minnesota) up and hopefully we can get a win.”
Anyone interested in helping rattle the Magicians up still has a chance to do so. Ticket sales for this weekend’s series have been extended as some still remain. The Ice Dogs office at 139 32nd Ave. will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Should game three be played in Fairbanks, tickets for that game will go on sale after Saturday night’s game.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.