By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM
FAIRBANKS — Hunter Wendt has found an offensive rhythm and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have found themselves unbeaten in the season-opening North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota.
Wendt had multiple points for the second game in a row, a 4-2 win over the Corpus Christi IceRays, of Texas, on Thursday morning on Rink No. 4 in the Schwan’s Super Rink.
The second-year Ice Dogs forward from Troy, Michigan, provided two assists Wednesday in a 3-1 win over Midwest Division Minnesota Magicians in the first game of the season for Fairbanks.
Wendt has four points on the season after he scored two goals against the South Division’s IceRays on the second day of the four-team tournament. It took him four games last season to reach four points.
“He’s done a good job. He’s a good hockey player,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by cellphone. “A lot of his success is just based on him moving his feet and going into scoring areas.”
Wendt contributed 38 points (20 goals and 18 assists) in 59 games for Fairbanks last season.
Newcomers made significant contributions for Fairbanks on Thursday.
First-year Ice Dogs defensemen Trenton Woods, a former West Valley High School skater, and Jake Willets scored goals, and forward Mason Vukonich recorded two assists. Logan Neaton registered 21 saves in his first regular-season start at goaltender.
“I think we were just slightly better than we were the previous day,” Stewart said. “We came out really strong. We had a goal in the first period, we put ourselves in a good position.”
The Ice Dogs overcame a flatness spell in the second period to take a 3-1 lead.
“We were a little flat and it was somewhat similar to Wednesday’s game,’’ Stewart said, “but we were just a little bit better in all facets of the game.”
Willets, from Detroit, produced the only goal of the first period at the 6:40 mark with help from Vukonich, who’s from Phoenix.
Wendt made it 2-0 at 1:35 into the second period off an assist from Caleb Hite, who had a goal and assist on Wednesday.
After Corpus Christi cut the lead to 2-1 more than two minutes later, Woods scored at 12:11 of the period with helpers from veteran forwards Tanner Schachle and Robert Blueger, who also had an assist Wednesday.
The IceRays threatened in the third period, trimming the lead to 3-2 at 3:56 with a power-play deposit by Jack McDonough that was set up by Brendan Miller and CJ Regula.
Wendt chilled the IceRays’ threat at 12:41, assisted by newcomer defenseman Noah Wilson and veteran blueliner Nolan Schaeffer, who had an assist against Minnesota.
Corpus Christi got a goal from John Moncovich and an assist from Garrett Hallford at 3:42 of the second period, and goalie Camden Burggrabe finished with 22 saves.
Fairbanks faces the Brookings Blizzard, of South Dakota and the Central Division, at 2:30 p.m. AKDT today. The Ice Dogs wrap up the Showcase with a game at 10 a.m. Saturday against the South Division’s Topeka (Kansas) RoadRunners.
Brookings is 2-0 in the tournament after Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes and Thursday’s 3-1 over the Lone Star Brahmas, who also are from Texas and are the defending Robertson Cup champions. The Ice Dogs captured the Tier II junior A league’s prized trophy in 2011, 2014 and 2016.
Both Ice Dogs games in Showcase are being streamed and watch parties are taking place at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.