FAIRBANKS, ALASKA- Capacity crowds watched as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs claimed 3 of 4 possible points over home opening weekend at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. The Minnesota Magicians won a 2-1 goalie duel in a shootout that went 12 rounds Friday night. Ethan Benz sparked a 4-1 Ice Dogs win Saturday night with a pair of goals, his first two as an Ice Dog.
“It was such a good feeling,” Benz said of his first NAHL goal. “I literally didn’t know what to do after I scored, my teammates were all over me. It was really loud.”
With Tyler Deweese controlling the puck deep, Benz jumped into the zone off a change and found open ice in the high slot. Deweese’s offering found the tape, and Benz ripped a shot that beat Samuel Vyletelka glove side for a 1-0 Ice Dog lead early in the second period.
Later in the second, with the score tied 1-1, the rookie lit the lamp for his second marker of the season. Brendan Murphy, from his own zone, slung a pass up ice that found a streaking Benz, who again beat Vyletelka’s glove for a 2-1 Ice Dog lead.
Six seconds later, lightning in a bottle. Jack Johnston threw a shot on net that Matt Koethe redirected passed a surprised Vyletelka for a 3-1 Ice Dogs lead. Andrew Garby sealed the game with an empty-netter for a 4-1 win.
The Magicians outshot the Dogs on Friday, but a different story as Fairbanks outshot Minnesota 32-21 on Saturday.
“It was just guys throwing more pucks there, and I thought we had more traffic in the conflict areas,” said Ice Dogs Head Coach Trevor Stewart. “Everything was just a little bit better. Not great, but better.”
Mattias Sholl (3-3-0-0) stopped 20 shots to collect the win. Sholl and the Dogs spent a good portion of the third period shorthanded, as the home team was whistled for 3 infractions in the frame. Game management will be a focus for the Dogs moving forward.
“That’s not a way to be a championship caliber team,” Stewart said. “That’s something you look at early in the season and realize you need to get better in that area.”
The Dogs remain in the Golden Heart City for a matchup against the Janesville Jets Friday and Saturday (Oct. 18-19) at the Dip. The Jets are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Kenai River Brown Bears and share the NAHL Midwest Division cellar with the Magicians. The Dogs sit alone in second place, one point up on the Brown Bears and three bak of division leading Chippewa.
The Ice Dogs continue their friendly rivalry with the Ben Eielson High School volley ball team with a match against the Lady Ravens on Wednesday. Tickets for the fourth annual event are available at Play it Again Sports, or at the door. The best of three match gets underway at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
To get on Eielson AFB you will need ID, vehicle registration and insurance. There will be a silent auction table, signed jersey auction, door prizes, 50/50 and the Ice Dogs will be available for autographs after the game. Cash and Check only, with an ATM on site.