Ice Dogs sweep Bobcats

  • By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM
  • Oct 1, 2017

FAIRBANKS — A pair of firsts on Saturday night helped the Fairbanks Ice Dogs sweep their weekend North American Hockey League series against the Bismarck Bobcats in Bismarck, North Dakota.

On the way to a 5-2 win in the series finale in the VFW Sports Center, Robert Blueger scored his first career hat trick for Fairbanks, which registered its first power-play goals of the season.

Blueger, a veteran center from Riga, Latvia, accounted for both power-play goals in the second period, where he started his natural hat trick, or three goals in a row by the same player.

“He’s just figuring out how to work a little bit and use his attributes,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by cellphone. “He’s a player we need to take that next step, and definitely this weekend was a step in the right direction.

“He just has to keep it up and be a big-time player for us,’’ Stewart said of Blueger, who has committed to the NCAA Division I program at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Lake Superior is a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which includes the Alaska Nanooks of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Blueger’s third goal, aided by Tanner Schachle and first-year Ice Dog Jack Johnston, put the Ice Dogs ahead 4-1 at 11:56 of the third.

Blueger also had an assist on veteran defenseman Erkka Vanska’s first-period, game-tying goal for Fairbanks, which improved to 5-1-0-0 for 10 points and second place in the Midwest Division. Goaltender Josh Benson recorded 18 saves after denying all 21 shots by the Bobcats in Friday’s 2-0 win.

Schachle and Vanska had multiple points and Chilton Connor also scored for the Ice Dogs on Saturday.

Bismarck, 2-4-0-0 for four points and fourth place in the Central Division, produced Saturday night’s first goal with Alex Pollock doing the honors from an assist by Jake Leitner at 10:20 of the opening period.

Vanska, who also was assisted by first-year Ice Dogs defenseman Trenton Woods, evened the score with his goal at 17:49 of the first.

Schachle set up Blueger for the go-ahead goal at 15:39 of the second period and the power-play marker ended Fairbanks 0-for-22 skid this season in extra-skater situations.

 “The guys were more committed to shooting the puck and getting to the net,’’ Stewart said. “We weren’t doing anything different on the power play (on Saturday) except getting more pucks to the net.”

Blueger got his second power-play conversion at 17:31 of the second, assisted by Schachle and Vanska.

After goal No. 3 for Blueger, Ty Enns scored unassisted for Bismarck at 14:57 of the third period. Connor’s empty-net goal, helped by Daniel Haider and Hunter Wendt, wrapped up the win for Fairbanks with 40 seconds left in the game.

Vladimir Cibulka finished with 20 saves for the Bobcats.

The road trip continues for the Ice Dogs on Friday and Saturday in Springfield, Illinois, where they will face the Springfield Jr. Blues in a Midwest series. Friday’s contest is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. AKDT and Saturday’s matchup is set for 3:05 p.m.

Each game can be seen at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road.

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