FAIRBANKS – At least the Fairbanks Ice Dogs don\’t have to beat the Wenatchee Wild to qualify for the Robertson Cup championship tournament.
But after getting swept Friday and Saturday night by the Wild, the Ice Dogs lost their bid for home ice advantage against the Alaska Avalanche in the first round of next week\’s North American Hockey League West Division playoffs.
\”It\’s kind of a disappointment that we\’re not playing at home (to start) in the first round, but you just got to fight through it,\” said Ice Dogs captain Jared Larson, who sat out Saturday after crashing into the goal post and suffering a concussion the night before. \”I have a good feeling that we\’ll go down there and play well and we\’ll come back here and finish them off.\”
The Ice Dogs will travel Friday and Saturday to Wasilla for the opening two games of a best-of-five series against the Avalanche. Game 3 will be April 9 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, with the fourth game, if necessary, scheduled for the Dipper on April 10. The Avalanche would host a fifth and deciding game if necessary.
Before another big crowd Saturday at the Dipper, the Ice Dogs got blasted 6-1 for their eighth defeat in nine games this season against the Washington club. The loss followed Friday\’s 4-1 defeat and was their worst loss of the season, exceeding by a goal the margin of defeat in three other games, two of them against the Wild.
\”We just got to come to practice on Monday and regroup. … I think we can kind of shrug this one off and look forward to the playoffs,\” Larson said.
The Ice Dogs (32-22-4) entered the final homestand with a one-point lead over the Avalanche for second place in the West, but fell to third after dropping a pair to Wenatchee while the Avalanche took two from last-place Kenai River.
Wenatchee won the West with 93 points, followed by the Avalanche with 71, the Ice Dogs with 68 and Kenai River with 30. The Wild (45-10-3) also tied Topeka for the league\’s best record.
Normally only the winner of the divisional playoffs qualifies for the Robertson Cup, but because tournament host Wenatchee is automatically entered, the second-place squad also will gain a berth, making the upcoming Ice Dogs-Avalanche series a winner-goes-on, loser-goes-home battle.
\”It\’ll be a fun series against them,\” said Larson, adding that the Curtis Menard Memorial Arena in Wasilla is \”not really a tough place to play in.\”
The Ice Dogs spotted Wenatchee a pair of goals in the first period Saturday. The gloves came off shortly after the first power-play goal at 6:15, as six players received fighting majors and two were ejected.
Wenatchee stunned the Ice Dogs with four more goals in the second before forward Matt Millis got Fairbanks on the scoreboard 41 seconds before the period-ending horn.
Fairbanks goalie Joe Phillippi stopped 20 of 25 shots before being replaced by Mike Taffe (nine saves) after 32 minutes. The Ice Dogs managed just 20 shots against Wenatchee\’s Brandon Jaeger.
With little to cheer on the ice, the highlight of the night might have been the auction of forward Will Aide\’s jersey during the second intermission for a record $2,300 as a pair of bidders on opposite sides of the stands dueled back and forth. Next up was 20-year-old Fairbanks native Jon Waggoner, who generated $1,300 after removing his jersey and pads until he was bare-chested.
Contact staff writer Matias Saari at 459-7591.width: 100%\”>