The Fairbanks Ice Dogs clinched home ice advantage in the playoffs before they even played Saturday night by virtue of Minnesota’s loss to Janesville. It would’ve been easy for the Dogs to take the night off against Kenai River with nothing to play for.
Fairbanks did their job all the same and looked good doing it.
The Dogs scored four goals in the opening period alone and ultimately cruised to a 7-2 victory over the rival Brown Bears Saturday night in Kenai. Fairbanks ends the regular season with a record of 25-19-2-2, 54 points, second place in the Midwest Division, and at least a pair of home games to start the NAHL playoffs.
While Saturday night’s game had little consequence after the Magicians’ loss, head coach Trevor Stewart said the Dogs needed to get fine-tuned for the postseason.
They sure looked fine and in tune Saturday night.
Tyler Stewart got the scoring started with a goal 1:26 into the game on an assist from Evan Junker and Jasper Lester to make it 1-0 Dogs. Scott McKenzie, who just recently returned from a long injury absence, make it 2-0 just 28 seconds later on an assist from Nick Ostbloom and Jack Ring. At 8:01, Stewart earned his second goal of the evening thanks to an assist from Junker and Jake Hale.
Kenai River answered 30 seconds later on Daymin Dodge’s goal to make it 3-1, but Ty Naaykens scored on an assist from Tyler Herzberg 13:10 into the game to make it 4-1 Dogs.
The scoring slowed down from there, but the Dogs scored again 9:02 into the second period on a power play foal from Billy Renfrew on an assist from Jacob Conrad and Brendan Murphy. With just 1:34 remaining in the second, Lester scored on an assist from Cam Ricotta to make the score 6-1.
Kenai River managed to add another goal at the 9:54 mark of period three thanks to Gramm McCormack, but Herzberg added one last score on an assist from Naaykens at the 15:25 mark to give the game it’s final score.
Now, the postseason begins. The Dogs will host the Magicians for at least the first two games of the best-of-five series. Those games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday with tickets going on sale Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.. Tickets can only be purchased in person at the Ice Dogs office at 139 32nd Ave. behind Enterprise Car Rental. Ticket sales will close Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. and reopen Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. that evening.
If the series is tied 1-1 or the Dogs go down 2-0, there will be a third game in Fairbanks Sunday at 5:30 p.m.. Tickets for that game would go on sale after Saturday nights game. Either way, the series would shift to Minnesota after this weekend with the winner playing the winner of Janesville-Kenai River. The last time the Dogs put tickets on sale for home games just last month, they sold out in one day, so get your tickets quick.
After all, playoff hockey is back in Alaska.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.