Ice Dogs open season with win over Magicians

Danny Martin / dmartin@newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS — The North American Hockey League scoresheet stated that Fairbanks Ice Dogs forward Samuel Ruffin scored as Thursday’s season-opening game against the Minnesota Magicians in the North American Hockey League Showcase was just starting.

The scoresheet had 0:00 after Ruffin’s goal that was assisted by fellow veteran Hunter Wendt and Ice Dogs newcomer Caleb Hite.

“The clock was wrong, it was about 20 seconds into the game,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by cellphone.

Ruffin’s goal, regardless of how soon it occurred, helped set up the Ice Dogs’ 3-1 win over their Midwest Division rival in the season opener and first-day contest of the four-day Showcase at Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota.

“I liked a lot of things about today’s game,” Stewart said. “We made a few mistakes and I think we can work a little harder. We had to work in the third period for us to be successful.”

Wendt and Hite, who are from the respective Michigan cities of Troy and Grand Rapids, had multiple points on Schwan Rink No. 1 and returning goaltender Josh Benson turned aside 31 of 32 shots from the Magicians, of Richfield, Minnesota.

“He did a nice job. He made a couple of big saves and gave us a chance to win,” Stewart of Benson, who appeared in 18 games last season for Fairbanks.

After the Magicians tied the game in the first period, Ice Dogs veteran forward Erkka Vanska delivered the game-winner in the second period and Hite registered his first goal with Fairbanks in the third period.

Veteran forward Robert Blueger had the initial assist on the play, moving the puck from the lower goal line up to another veteran, defenseman Nolan Schaeffer, high in the attacking zone.

“The (Magicians) defense kind of made a mistake and left Vanska alone in front of the net,” Stewart said. “Schaeffer made a nice read finding him and Vanska made a nice move and got the puck in the net.”

At 18:53 of the third, Wendt won a battle for the puck and passed to Hite, who deposited the puck into an empty net.

“It was a big goal for us with a minute left to get that insurance goal,’’ Stewart said.

Charlie Weinand, with an assist from Connor Clemons, tied the game at 1 for the Magicians at 16:53 of the first period.

George McBey made 17 saves for Minnesota, which also is Fairbanks’ home-opening opponent at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 and 21 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Ice Dogs continue the NAHL Showcase with a game at 7:15 a.m. AKDT today against the Corpus Christi IceRays, of Texas. Corpus Christi lost 3-1 to the Bismarck (North Dakota) Bobcats on Thursday.

Fairbanks’ last two opponents of the tournament split in their Showcase openers.

The Ice Dogs play at 2:30 p.m. Friday against the Brookings (South Dakota) Blizzard, who defeated the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes 2-1 on Thursday.

Fairbanks concludes the Showcase against the Topeka (Kansas) RoadRunners at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Topeka lost 5-2 to the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks on Thursday.

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/newsminersports.