After dropping last week’s series against the Janesville Jets, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs were hoping to send a message this week that they’re a playoff team for a reason.
Jasper Lester had three points, goalie Kayden Hargraves went 17-for-17 on save opportunities, and the Ice Dogs manhandled the opposing Chippewa Steel 6-0 on Friday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. The Dogs are now 22-18-2-2 with 47 points on the season and remain in third place in the Midwest Division, just two points behind second place Minnesota.
“(It was) very important (to bounce back from last week),” said Hargraves. “We’re just excited to see how the end of the season goes and to get started with the playoffs.”
The Ice Dogs officially qualified for the playoffs earlier this week for the 24th consecutive season. Considering the way last week’s series went and that Chippewa currently sits at the bottom of the division, it would’ve been easy for the Dogs to take it easy Friday night.
Fairbanks had no interest in taking anything easy.
“Every point matters,” said Laker Aldridge, who had two goals on the evening. “We’re trying to get home ice advantage. Every game matters. We can’t take nights off. We have to go out and battle to win every game.”
The Dogs certainly didn’t take the night off Friday, though it was never much of a battle.
Things got started for Fairbanks 7:30 into the game when Zachary Murray scored on an assist from Jack Ring and Jasper Lester to put the Dogs up 1-0. Fairbanks ended the first period with a 2-0 advantage thanks to Austin Becker’s goal at the 13:18 mark. Becker was assisted by Lester and Bret Link on the goal.
In the second period, Lester was tired of dishing out goals and decided to score one himself at the 5:42 mark. Jake Hale and Tyler Stewart were there to set him up.
Fairbanks saw two leads disappear in the third period last week against Janesville and weren’t interested in dealing with that again. No worries as Evan Junker put the Dogs up 4-0 1:05 into the third on an assist from Owen Neuharth and Ty Naaykens. Aldridge added two insurance goals after that, the first at the 5:54 mark on an assist from Mason Plante and Brendan Murphy, and the second at the 14:35 mark on a power play assisted by Tristan Sarsland and Brendan Murphy.
The Dogs played the Steel again Saturday night in a game that ended after press time. Their final home series of the regular season begins this week with games Friday and Saturday evening against Kenai River.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/Hpisani91.