The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are finally coming home this week. Their time in Marshall, Minnesota came to an end Saturday evening and they ended things on a high note on the way out the door.
In a back and forth affair, the Ice Dogs got the last word in as they closed out their stay in the Midwest with a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Magicians to win the weekend series, move into second place in the Midwest Division, and leave a nice parting gift for Marshall.
The win was the 20th on the season for the Dogs as they moved to 20-17-1-1 and now have 42 points on the season to move ahead of Janesville in the division standings. Minnesota is now 21-11-2-0 with 44 points, just two ahead of Fairbanks.
More than the win or the standings, the focus on Saturday night was on Marshall and all that they’ve done in housing the Dogs these past few months.
“Hopefully (the win) displays a sense of gratitude for this community and what they did for us in opening up their homes and town for us to have a season this year,” head coach Trevor Stewart said. “That helped keep Ice Dogs hockey alive. It was a pretty touching moment leaving the rink today with all of the fans and seeing the community support we have. There was definitely some tears. We’re super thankful and grateful to have been here.”
The Ice Dogs showed just how thankful they were with an exciting win. Evan Junker got the action started for the Dogs as he put the first goal on the board nine minutes in on an assist from Nathan Butler to make it 1-0 Fairbanks. Minnesota responded 86 seconds later with a goal from Devlin McCabe to tie things up which is how it would stay the rest of the period.
Fairbanks took back the lead 2:24 into the second period with a power play goal from Mason Plante on an assist from Laker Aldridge and Brendan Murphy. At the 6:03 mark, Austin Becker made it 3-1 Dogs as he scored with an assist from Jasper Lester and Tyler Herzberg. The Magicians managed to get back within one goal at the 8:57 mark with a short-handed goal by Luc Laylin to make it 3-2 in favor of Fairbanks.
Trouble started to brew at the 8:13 mark of the third period when Devlin McCabe scored a goal for the Magicians to tie things up at 3-3. Fairbanks wouldn’t allow Marshall one last victory, however, as Jack Ring scored the go-ahead goal at the 10:44 mark on an assist from Tyler Stewart and Nathan Butler to go up 4-3. The Dogs got one more insurance goal at the 12:57 mark from Bret Link on an assist from Herzberg and Becker to give the game its final score and help seal the win.
The Ice Dogs are off this week. They’ll return to action next week in Kenai River for their first game in Alaska this season. Then, they’ll finally make their Big Dipper debut on April 22, against Janesville. Come Tuesday, however, the Dogs will be back in Fairbanks for the first time in over a year. While there are plenty of emotions going through the team right now, excitement is definitely near the top.
“Nervous and excited for sure,” Stewart said when asked how the team is feeling. “The first couple of days is just going to be getting used to Fairbanks’ community, the weather, the rink. A lot of these guys have never been up there before so it’ll definitely be a change of pace from what we’re used to in Marshall, but it’ll be good.”
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/hpisani91.