FAIRBANKS—The Fairbanks Ice Dogs came within one win of a USA Hockey Tier II Junior A national championship last season.
As the team began training camp in preparation for the 2010-11 season earlier this week, coach Josh Hauge has high expectations for a team that will have many new faces in the lineup.
“Our expectations are to win the last game that we didn’t win last year,” Hauge said Tuesday afternoon between the Ice Dogs morning practice and evening scrimmage.
After an up-and-down regular season in 2009-10, the Ice Dogs put it all together in the North American Hockey League playoffs. They finished second in the Robertson Cup Finals, losing 3-0 to the Bismarck Bobcats in the championship game. The Ice Dogs have some rebuilding to do after losing most of their offensive firepower from a year ago, but Hauge said the team will be more consistent than it was a year ago.
“There’s no question we have high standards for this group,” Hauge said. “We lost a ton up front, but I’m real excited for what we’ve got coming in this year.
“This camp will give the new guys the opportunity to show what they can do and the returning players a chance to step up from what they did last year,” the third-year Ice Dogs coach added.
Hauge said the 2010-11 Ice Dogs will be different from last year’s team, which was inconsistent from night to night.
“This team is bigger and stronger and will work harder to be more consistent,” Hauge said. “We’ll know we’re going to get a good effort every night. I think the fans and the town can relate to this team.”
The Ice Dogs have 29 players and four younger Fairbanks players in training camp. Hauge must trim that list to 25 by Sept. 11 when the team heads to Blaine, Minn., for the season-opening NAHL Showcase. The roster is limited to 23 players after Oct. 1.
Hauge said the returning players will have to fight just as hard as the rookies for spots on the roster.
“I think any of the guys we have to let go will wind up playing on other teams in the league,” Hauge said. “Right now we’ve got to find out exactly who can do what and get an idea of who can fill what roles.”
Goaltender Joe Phillippi, who anchored the Ice Dogs’ Robertson Cup run, heads the list of returning players that includes four defensemen and four forwards.
Returning defensemen include Peter Spratte, Alec Doig, Sean O’Rourke and Brock Carlston. Returning forwards are Matt Millis, Tyler Voigt, Jared Linnell and Taylor Munson.
Joining Phillippi in the nets are Fairbanks’ Riley Jewkes-Leonard and Steven Perry of Pittsburgh. Jewkes-Leonard is on the injured list, according to Hauge.
Other players hoping to make the defensive lineup include Robert Monfore of Wasilla, Preston Hodge of Lincoln, Neb., John Kirtland of Overland Park, Kan., Mike Parnell of Roseville, Minn., Nick Hinz of North St. Paul, Minn., and Andrew Herbert of Woodbury, Minn.
Up front are Jesse Nemgar of Bemidji, Minn., Gabe Levin of Marina Del Ray, Calif., Zach Blaisdell of Buffalo, Minn., Nick O’Donnell of Boulder, Colo., Ryan Wolter of Shoreview, Minn., John Stampohar of Chisolm, Minn, Zach Vierling of Coon Rapids. Minn., Andrew Amendola of Iowa City, Iowa, Chad Hickson of Kenosha, Wis., Alec Hajdukovich of Fairbanks, Charlie Thauwald of Rochester, Minn., and Joe Blake of Firth, Idaho.
The four younger Fairbanks players who are working out the team are forwards Colton Wolter, Jacob Wolter, Sam Bratten and Logan Wendling.
“The younger guys are here mostly to gain a little bit of experience, but a couple of them are looking pretty good so far,” Hauge said.
The Ice Dogs open the season with a 10-game road trip starting Sept. 14 with a Showcase game against the Austin, Minn., Bruins. Fairbanks’ first home game is at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 against the Fresno, Calif., Monsters at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
For season ticket information, contact the Ice Dogs office at 452-2111.