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Ice Dogs dominate Knights from start to finish

FAIRBANKS — All season long, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have been trying to replicate the style of play which helped them capture the Robertson Cup national championship a year ago.

On Friday, when the Ice Dogs hosted Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first contest of a two-game series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, they did just that.

Fairbanks was dominant in every facet of the game, as it skated to a lopsided 7-0 victory over the visiting Knights.

“Everything seemed to be working,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said. “I know (WBS) had some long travels getting up here, but we played pretty well. I can’t discount anything we did tonight.”

It didn’t take Fairbanks long before it took control of the game, as Cayden Cahill ignited the scoring spree when he beat Knights goaltender Grant Valentine with a backhand 2:12 into the contest.

Four other players found the back of the net for the Ice Dogs, though Cahill lit the lamp twice more to finish with a hat trick.

“He was finding himself in the right spot,” Stewart said. “His linemates, or whoever was he out there with, found him as he was progressing towards the net. He didn’t make any mistakes when he got opportunities.”

Although Cahill put Fairbanks on the scoreboard minutes into the game, the team really established its pace from the opening faceoff.

“Coming out, first shift, you kind of have to push the pace a little bit,” Cahill said. “For them, it was a long day of travel, so it was good to get one right away to get things going.”

Ryan Kero, Grayson Gavin, Hampus Eriksson and Benton Maass each found the back of the net for the Ice Dogs, who improved to 27-24-2-1 for 57 points on the season.

Robert Blueger recorded three assists, while Samuel Ruffin, Hunter Wendt, Eriksson and Gavin finished with two helpers apiece.

Aaron McPheters and Daniel Haider both tallied an assist in the win.

Three of Fairbanks’ seven goals came on the man advantage, as Gavin, Cahill and Maass each netted power-play goals.

“They really didn’t have an answer for us on the power play,” said Maass, who is committed to the University of New Hampshire. “Our guys were moving the puck good, a lot of tic-tac-toe passes. We found the open guy and buried some goals.”

As good as the offense was, the Ice Dogs were equally impressive on defense.

It started with goaltender Erik Gordon, who stopped each of the 21 shots he faced to secure his second shutout with Fairbanks and his third of the year.

The Ice Dogs’ penalty kill was perfect on its three trips to the ice, and the team made WBS work for every scoring chance it generated throughout the night.

“I think that’s ultimately what is going to get us to be some sort of a championship team, or do well in the playoffs if we do get there,” Stewart said of the defense. “We need to play strong defense if we want to experience any type of success.”

The victory marks Fairbanks’ first against the Knights, who fell to 26-24-1-3 on the season.

WBS handed the Ice Dogs 4-1 and 4-2 losses when the two teams met in January in Pittston.

Although the Ice Dogs had a stellar performance in the first game of this weekend’s series, Maass said he believes the team can improve with six games remaining in the regular season.

“I think there is another level that we can get to,” the defenseman said. “That’s the level that’s going to get us into the playoffs and help us do well when we get there. I think we’re close to reaching that level. We just need to continue to work hard.”

Fairbanks will host the Knights at 7:30 p.m. today at the Big Dipper.

Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @bradjoyal.