FAIRBANKS — Head coach Trevor Stewart had a simple message for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs before they took the ice on Thursday night’s opener of a three-game, North American Hockey Series against the Northeast Generals in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
“Get pucks and bodies to the net,” Stewart said by cellphone. “Things seemed to be going our way, especially in the first period.”
The Ice Dogs soared to a 10-3 win in the New England Sports Village against the Generals, an expansion franchise and East Division member that’s looking for its first win after 27 games in its inaugural season in the 24-team, Tier II junior A league.
Defenseman Aaron McPheters distributed five assists and Grayson Gavin scored four times for the Ice Dogs, who won for the second time in their past three games after enduring an 11-game winless streak (0-10-1) before their December and January road trip against East Division teams.
Gavin’s output marked the first four-goal total by an Ice Dogs player this season.
“He was going hard to the net, his line mates got to the net,” Stewart said, “and good things happen when you go to the net with your stick on the ice.”
Hunter Wendt and Julius Marva each had three assists; Tanner Schachle scored twice; and goaltender Joshua Sarlo made 20 saves for the defending Robertson Cup national champions, who raised their fifth-place record in the Midwest Division to 9-15-2-1 for 21 points in the standings.
The Ice Dogs played disciplined Thursday — one minor penalty for the night compared with three minors for the Generals — while jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first period and tacking on five more goals during the last two periods.
Gavin scored on a power play at 1:45 of the first with help from McPheters and Hampus Eriksson. Ryan Kero and Schachle set up Tanner’s first of the series at 11:56 of the period and Luke Orysiuk, aided by Samuel Ruffin and Erkka Vanska, scored at 12:25. Cayden Cahill, coming off an injury, contributed a goal at 13:46 with Wendt’s help and Kero scored at 16:24 with McPheters’ second assist of the contest.
Cahill also had an assist Thursday, and Ruffin had two helpers along with Vanska.
Eriksson scored the only goal of the second period with assists from Vanska and Marva.
The Generals, 0-23-4, scored all of their goals in the third period, where the Ice Dogs got three from Gavin, including a power-play deposit at 18:26. Schachle contributed his second of the game at the 4:56 mark.
Stewart said he broke up the game a little bit to help keep the Ice Dogs focused.
“We were playing like it was 0-0,” he said.
“It was one of those games where it was hard to focus for periods at a time,” Stewart added, “but for the most part, we did OK.”
Stewart wants the Ice Dogs to be focused for the second game of the series at
3 p.m. AST today.
“We just have to remind them to know that (today) obviously is going because they’re (Northeast) is going to be better prepared,” he said, “and it’s up to us be better prepared.”
Gabe Vinal made seven saves for the Generals, and David Fessenden came in later and recorded 13.
The Ice Dogs and Generals close out the series at 3 p.m. AST Saturday.
After a break for Christmas, the Ice Dogs play the Johnstown Tomahawks in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Dec. 30 and 31. Fairbanks stays in Pennsylvania to face the Aston Rebels on Jan. 6 and 7, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Jan. 14 and 15.
The Ice Dogs are back home in the Big Dipper Ice Arena for a three-game series against the Generals on Jan. 19-21. The first game of the series starts at 7 p.m., and the last two each begin at 7:30 p.m.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.