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Ice Dogs sweep rival Kenai River

FAIRBANKS — What goes around, comes around.

After being swept in its three-game series against North American Hockey League Midwest Division rival Kenai River in late November, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs got revenge when the team returned to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex this weekend.

Fairbanks skated to victories in the first two games, and it took down the Brown Bears 3-1 to complete the series sweep.

With the three wins, the Ice Dogs sit in fourth place in the Midwest Division standings with an 18-22-2-1 record for 39 points.

“It’s what we needed,” Fairbanks coach Trevor Stewart said in a phone interview. “We needed to play better, but we also needed to get some points in the standings to try to create a little bit of room. We know it’s going to be tough the rest of the season, so that was good for us to do that this weekend.”

Kenai River, meanwhile, fell to 10-30-2-0 on the season.

The Ice Dogs had been behind the Coulee Region Chill in the standings for much of the year. However, this weekend’s sweep puts Fairbanks into the playoff picture.

Unlike Friday, when the Ice Dogs had to sweat out the third period before securing a 2-1 victory, Fairbanks was much more comfortable during the series finale.

The team jumped out to a 3-0 lead, with Tanner Schacle scoring first 6:43 into the contest.

Hunter Wendt and Hampus Eriksson added second-period goals before Lucas Carroll put Kenai River on the board 13:36 into the middle frame.

 “It was nice to have that extra cushion. We needed it,” Stewart said.

“We were making some pretty big mistakes, in my opinion, toward the end of the game,” the coach added. “Obviously we’ll need to be better down the stretch of games if we want to go places this year.”

Fairbanks goaltender Josh Benson stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, while the Brown Bears’ netminder, Colt Hanks, made 33 saves in defeat.

Neither team capitalized on power-play opportunities, as each went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage.

The rivals won’t have to wait long to see one another again. Kenai River will visit Fairbanks and face the Ice Dogs on Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

Both games will begin at 7:30 p.m.

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