FAIRBANKS – The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are one win away from claiming the first national title in franchise history.
The Ice Dogs completed the round-robin portion of the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament with a perfect 3-0 record after posting a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against the Amarillo Bulls on Thursday evening in Topeka, Kan.
That puts the Ice Dogs in Saturday night’s championship game against the winner of today’s contest between Amarillo and the Michigan Warriors.
“We’re pretty beat up right now, so it will be great for the guys to have a day off,” an elated Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said via telephone after Thursday afternoon.
The championship game is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. ADT Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
Ice Dogs fans can watch a live video of the game at Tubby’s BBQ and Sports Bar in the Regency Hotel.
Thursday’s 2-1 victory was as dramatic as the first two games of the tournament when the Ice Dogs defeated the host Topeka Roadrunners 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday, then rallied for four goals in the third period to take out the Michigan Warriors 4-2 on Wednesday.
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, the Ice Dogs reached into their bag of tricks as Jared Linnell and Zach Vierling scored third-period goals and netminder Joe Phillippi turned in another outstanding performance to earn the win.
“We came out well in the first period, but they definitely were better than us in the second,” Hauge said. “In the third period we executed better, moved the puck well and managed to bury two.”
Linnell tied the score 1-1 with an unassisted goal at 8:24 of the third period.
“Jared Linnell is the best player on the ice right now,” Hauge said. “He cut in front of the net, faked a shot, pulled the puck back and buried it through the five-hole.”
Vierling’s game-winner at 13:02 came off assists from Jack Callahan and John Stampohar, but Hauge said it was Tyler Voigt’s work in the corner that got the play started.
“Tyler did the work in the corner and when we got the puck to Zach out front, he made no mistake about it,” Hauge said.
Phillippi was outstanding the entire game as he stopped 35 of 36 shots “He’s been great the entire tournament,” Hauge said. “He’s the reason why we’re going to play on Saturday night.”
Hauge is elated the Ice Dogs get the chance to rest up for the championship game. “This is just huge for us; we needed it,” Hauge said. “We get to sleep in and get some rest.”
Hauge also lauded the 100 or so fans who are in Topeka cheering on the team’s efforts.
“It’s by far the biggest contingent of fans of any of the visiting teams,” Hauge said. “It’s great to have that kind of support.”
The host Topeka RoadRunners, who had the best regular season record of any team in the NAHL at 43-12-3, were eliminated Thursday night when they suffered a 5-2 loss to the Michigan Warriors.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.