Ice Dogs roll past Brown Bears

By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM

FAIRBANKS — The Soldotna Regional Sports Complex is home to the only Olympic-size rink in the North American Hockey League.

On Friday night, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs took advantage of the arena’s 200×100 ice sheet and rolled to a 7-1 win over the Kenai River Brown Bears in the first game of this season’s Ravn Alaska Cup Series.

Goaltender Josh Benson made 16 saves and six players had two points each for the Ice Dogs, who seized a 4-0 lead in the first period against their intrastate and Midwest Division rival.

“They had some energy to start the game,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said from Soldotna. “It was nothing really compilicated — we just got some pucks to the net and they happened to go in.

“It gave us a little confidence and momentum in moving forward.’’

Samuel Ruffin, Nolan Schaeffer and Erkka Vanska had a goal and an assist each for Fairbanks. Jake Willets, Kyle Mayhew and Jax Murray contributed two assists apiece to help the Ice Dogs improve their second place record in the Midwest to 9-4-0-2 for 20 points in the standings.

Ruffin, with an assist from Schaeffer, put the Nanooks on the scoreboard at 20 seconds into the game. Robert Blueger, set up by Willets and Murray, scored at 2:54 of the first period and Tanner Schachle’s power-play goal, with help from Vanska and Mayhew, made it 3-0 at 17:04.

Forty-eight seconds later, Hunter Wendt capped the first-period surge with assists from Daniel Haider and Murray.

Schaeffer put Fairbanks ahead 5-1 at 19:16 of the second period from assists by Noah Wilson and Ruffin.

Vanska, set up by Mayhew and John Stampohar, converted a power play at 10:50 of the third. Jack Johnston’s second goal this season with the Ice Dogs assured the win at 16:55 of the final period. The native of Saint Paul, Minnesota was aided by Jake Borgida and Willets.

The fifth-place Brown Bears (6-9-0-1 for 13 points) got a goal from Alex Klekotka at 10:10 of the second period, with help from Markuss Komuls and Connor Fedorek.

Artur Pavliukov and Gavin Enright shared goaltending duties for Kenai River. Pavliukov made 14 saves and Enright stopped 20 shots.

Stewart said the game was closer than the scoreboard indicated.

“It’s just that pucks were going in for us,’’ he said.

Stewart also saw areas in which the Ice Dogs can improve heading into today’s game at 7:30 p.m.

“We definitely need to clean up our defensive transition and our discipline,’’ he said.

“We took too many penalties,’’ Stewart said. “You want to remain aggressive but you don’t want to take penalties and be short-handed.”

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.