Ice Dogs sweep Knights, finish road trip 8-0

By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM
8 hrs ago

 FAIRBANKS — Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights seemed to speak well of the character of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs at this point of the North American Hockey League season. The nondivisional win in the Revolution Ice Centre in Pittston, Pennsylvania came at the end of a five-week, eight-game trip for Fairbanks, which is in first place in the Midwest Division.

The Ice Dogs won, too, in the first seven games of the trip, including a 5-3 victory Friday over the Knights, of the East Division of the 23-team, Tier II junior A league.

The trip began with a sweep of Midwest rival Minnesota Magicians on Dec. 8 and 9 in Richfield, Minnesota. The Ice Dogs swept another divisiion rival, the Coulee Region Chill, on Dec. 15 and 16 in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

After a break for Christmas, the Ice Dogs swept the East Division’s Johnstown Tomahawks on Dec. 30 and 31 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

“I think we have pretty good characger,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said from Pittston on Saturday.

“I think we were not overly great the last couple of weeks, but that’s expected when you come back from Christmas,’’ he added. “The guys find ways to win and different guys stepped up on different nights. We’re obviously pleased with the results we got.”

The Ice Dogs improved Saturday to 23-5-3-2 for 51 points in the standings, and were aided by a goal and an assist from Connor Chilton, two assists from Grayson Gavin and 31 saves from Josh Benson.

Benson built on Friday’s 29-save performance, as he allowed Adrian Danchenko’s goal that gave the Knights a 1-0 lead at 13:08 of the first period. Danchenko was assisted by Tyrone Bronte and Blake Kryska.

“Josh was our best player tonight,’’ Stewart said. “He was square to the puck and there were not many second-chance opportunities (for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton).

The Ice Dogs took the lead for good during the last minute of the first period Saturday.

Jax Murray, with help from Jack Johnston and Samuel Ruffin, tied the game with 47 seconds left in the period. Hunter Wendt capitalized on assists from Gavin and Chilton to produce the eventual game-winner with 1 second left in the Revolution Ice Centre’s scoreboard clock.

“We survived the first period for the most part,’’ Stewart said. “We were fortunate to get one with 1 1/2 seconds left to put us up 2-1.

“The guys picked up the game in the second period and we got better as the game went along in each period,’’ he added.

Chilton planted a goal at 14:03 of the second with help from Gavin and Noah Wilson. Tanner Schachle, with his 16th goal of the season, sealed the win at 16:13 of the third off assists from Erkka Vanska and John Stampohar.

Christian Stoever made 27 saves for the Knights, who are in second place in the East at 20-9-3-0 for 43 points.

The Ice Dogs play host to the Lone Star Brahmas, last season’s Robertson Cup champions, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Brahmas, of North Richland Hills, Texas, are in third place in the South Division at 17-9-4-2 for 40 points.

The Ice Dogs won the Robertson Cup in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

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