There was a ton on the line for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Saturday night.
It was the last home game of the regular season and if Fairbanks can’t clinch home ice advantage, it could’ve been the last home game of the year period. It was a chance for revenge against Kenai River after the Dogs lost to them in shootouts the night before. It was a chance to even the split in the Alaska Cup before heading to Kenai this week. All that’s to say, the Ice Dogs could’ve used a big game.
Man, oh man, did they ever get it.
Fairbanks opened things up with four unanswered goals and were absolutely dominant all night as they closed out seven straight games in Fairbanks with a 7-2 victory over the Brown Bears Saturday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. The Dogs are now 23-19-2-2 on the season with 50 points, and more critically moved ahead of the Minnesota Magicians for second place in the Midwest Division. The Magicians currently have 49 points while the Brown Bears stayed at 46 and remain in fourth place.
The game was a complete 180 from the way things started Friday night. The first game of the series saw Kenai jump out to a quick 4-0 lead before the Dogs came back to force overtime only to lose in shootouts. The game never got close to overtime Saturday as Fairbanks scored the first four goals and scored two more after the Brown Bears finally got on the board.
“We had a much better start than last night,” said head coach Trevor Stewart. “That was the difference. I’m just happy to get back in the win column and end the regular season at the Big Dipper the right way.”
The Dogs were hot from the start as Laker Aldridge scored on an assist from Ty Naaykens and Billy Renfrew at the 9:21 mark to get things started. Bret Link followed that up with a goal of his own three minutes later on an assist from Tyler Stewart and Mason Plante to make it 2-0 Dogs. With less than two minutes remaining in the opening period, Jasper Lester made it 3-0 with his goal on an assist from Evan Junker and Jack Ring.
6:41 into the second period, it was 4-0 after Cam Ricotta scored thanks to an assist from Link and Brendan Miles. The Brown Bears finally got on the board at the 11:29 mark thanks to a power play goal from Max Helgeson. The Dogs answered back two minutes later when Link earned his third point of the night on a goal assisted by Austin Becker and Owen
In the third period, Jake Hale got in on the scoring action on a power play goal assisted by Lester and Brendan Murphy to make it 6-1 Dogs. Brandon Lajoie scored a power play goal for Kenai River at the 15:13 mark, but it was too little, too late and Jack Ring’s unassisted short-handed goal at the 16:12 mark made sure of it.
The Dogs outshot Kenai River 48-27 on the night as Kayden Hargraves picked up 25 saves on the evening.
Now, Fairbanks heads to Kenai River for the last two games of the regular season before heading to the playoffs. They’ll play the Brown Bears at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday night. Link believes the Dogs will be ready to go.
“These guys are our rivals,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to beat them this weekend and we’re looking forward to bringing our A game.”
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/hpisani91.