FAIRBANKS, ALASKA- The boys are back in town. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs open the home portion of their 2019-2020 season Friday night, when they host the Minnesota Magicians at the Big Dipper Ice arena.
“The Dip is a great place to play, great fans, great support throughout the whole city,” said third year forward Jack Johnston. “Especially coming off a couple big road wins, it’s nice to be able to play in front of these fans that have been waiting a while now.”
Johnston has been on an absolute tear the past two weeks. After a disappointing Showcase Tournament that saw the Dogs go 1-3, with Johnston failing to mark the scoresheet and register a -1 rating, the Dogs have won four straight. Johnston’s play mirrors the resurgence, as the 20-year old has 10 points off six goals and four assists, with a +9 rating in the span of games.
“It’s just intensity,” Johnston said. “I play my best when I’m moving my feet, and just trying to make things happen.”
Ice Dogs Head Coach Trevor Stewart hasn’t seen much of a change in Johnston’s play in the last four games versus the first four of the season.
“He’s put himself in good position, and has been opportunistic with the puck,” Stewart said.
With 10 points on the season, the Ice Dogs (5-3-0-0) have climbed to within two points of division leading Chippewa Falls. They sit tied with in-state rival Kenai River for second place in the Midwest Division.
Ice Dogs Defenseman Dylan Abbott, a 17-year old out of Wasilla, Alaska was listed on the NHL’s Central Scouting Watch List earlier this week. Abbott was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL following his rookie season with the Dogs, but chose to remain in Fairbanks for his second season of junior hockey. He hopes to join three other Ice Dogs that have had their names called during the NHL Entry Draft.
“He loves the game of hockey, always has a smile on his face and has unlimited potential, so he deserves to be on that list,” Stewart said. “But at the end of the day, he knows this doesn’t mean he’s getting drafted, but they’re looking at him as a potential prospect.”
“Obviously it’s a childhood dream to get drafted and potentially play in the NHL,” Abbott said. “It’s very humbling to get noticed, but there’s a lot of work to get done.”
That work begins this weekend, when Abbott and the rest of this season’s Ice Dogs make their home debut. The Big Dipper is sure to be packed with rabid fans for puck drop both Friday and Saturday nights. For some of the first year players, it will be the largest crowd in front of which they’ve played.
“With fans this intense, there’s always a little bit extra when they get screaming,” Johnston said. “So you just got to turn those nerves into excitement and make sure your feet are ready to go.”
“I don’t really talk to the newcomers about playing in the Dipper for the first time, because they’re hearing it from all the veterans on the team that have been through it before, so they’re well prepared,” Stewart said.
Puck drops at 7:30 both nights. Tickets are available online through the below links. Friday’s game marks the beginning of a 4-game home stand for the Dogs, who will host the Janesville Jets Oct. 18-19.