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Ice Dogs sweep Topeka for sixth straight win

FAIRBANKS — For the first time in two weeks, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs found themselves in a battle.

After rolling the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights last weekend, and cruising past the Topeka RoadRunners on Friday, the Ice Dogs were finally met with a challenge Saturday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

Still, even though it wasn’t easy, the result proved to be the same.

Fairbanks took care of the visiting RoadRunners once again, this time earning a 2-1 victory in the season series finale.

The win was the sixth in a row for the Ice Dogs, who improved their record to 30-24-2-1 for 63 points on the year. Fairbanks upended Topeka 9-2 in Friday’s series opener.

“I don’t think we were as sharp tonight,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said in a phone interview. “Topeka was better, there’s no question about it. But that is the difference between us right now and four months ago: we found a way to win a close game, where four months ago, we probably would’ve lost.”

Although Topeka, which dropped to 18-32-4-1 on the season, held tough during the opening period, Fairbanks took control during the middle frame.

That is when the Ice Dogs tested RoadRunners goaltender Ben Churchfield with 25 of their 45 shots on goal, and defenseman Benton Maass and forward Connor Chilton each lit the lamp late in the period.

Maass and Chilton scored 15 seconds apart from one another, with Maass finding the back of the net on the team’s first power play of the night.

Hampus Eriksson and Dean Hewines recorded assists on Maass’ fifth goal of the season, which came 17:19 into the period.

Seconds later, Chilton buried his fifth of the season, finishing off passes by Bauer Neudecker and Erkka Vanska to extend the Ice Dogs’ advantage to 2-0.

“We got a little bit better as the game went on,” Stewart said. “During the third period, it was more of us trying to hold on. We haven’t really been in that position lately. So this was probably a good time for us to be in that situation, a tight game where we have to find a way to win.”

Devon Fields put Topeka on the board midway through the third period, though, Fairbanks netminder Erik Gordon made 29 saves to secure a hardfought win for the Ice Dogs.

Alex Frye tallied a helper on Fields’ score.

The RoadRunners failed to score on their lone power play when Chilton was sent to the box for a minor penalty in the opening frame.

Fairbanks will look to finish the regular season strong when it hosts Midwest Division rival Kenai River in a three-game series beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Big Dipper.

The Brown Bears recently announced they will cease operations at the end of the season.

Fairbanks and Kenai River play for the Ravn Alaska Cup each year, which gives the winner of the seasonlong series bragging rights until the next season.

The Ice Dogs have never lost the series to the Brown Bears.

Although Fairbanks hopes to claim another Cup victory, Stewart said next weekend’s series has much bigger implications for the postseason.

“All of the players’ parents are coming up, so there will be some distractions,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be exciting, but we know we haven’t clinched anything yet. We’re expecting our guys to be fired up and ready to try to end the regular season with a bang.”

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

@bradjoyal.