After being swept by Kenai River the weekend of Nov. 5-6, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs wanted nothing more than to get back on a winning track as they headed to Fresno for a three-game set.
After faltering again last Wednesday - the Monsters trumped the Ice Dogs, 3-2 - Fairbanks finally turned the tide, rattling off two wins on Friday (4-3) and Saturday (6-5).
“Anytime you start going on a slide, it’s nice to be able to find you footing again,” said Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge, whose team improved to 12-6-2 on the season. “I feel like we really needed to find a way to win and it was great to get the last two of the series.”
Matt Millis got the Ice Dogs’ engines revving over the weekend. After picking up an assist on Alexander Jensen’s game-winning goal on Friday, the 20-year-old from Black River Falls, Wis., rang up a hat trick the next night, including the game-winning marker.
“There were a lot of different guys who helped pitch in, but Matt really stepped his game up,” said Hauge. “With him being the leader of the team, it really got everyone rolling.”
The Ice Dogs were also boosted by strong performances from forwards Tyler Voigt, the team’s high scorer in Fresno with three goals and three assists, along with defenseman Sean O’Roarke (three assists on Saturday) and Brock Carlston (two assists in three games).
“We’re a pretty big team that can play physical and has a solid skill set,” said Hauge. “The thing I like most about this team is its character.”
Speaking of big, Fairbanks added some size on their blue line recently with the addition of Oldrich Kotvan. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Slovakia played his first three games against Fresno and impressed.
“He’s a big, physical presence on the back side we were missing,” said Hauge.
The Ice Dogs also like what they have between the pipes in three-year veteran Joe Phillippi and first-year keeper Steve Perry. Both have seen action in 11 games this season with Phillippi holding a slight edge, statistically.
“Joe's a proven winner who’s been around our program for three years and is a kid who gives us a chance to win every night,” said Hauge. “And Steve has been a very pleasant surprise. He works extremely hard and has helped pace our team.”
The Ice Dogs have a big test in front of them this weekend, as co-division leading Wenatchee makes its first of two trips up to Fairbanks for a pair of games.
“We have to improve our overall team defense and the ability to be consistent,” said the coach. “We’ve been very good a lot of nights, but have taken a few off as well.”
WEST DIVISON NOTEBOOK
ALASKA AVALANCHE: Forward Andy Pearson connected for two goals and an assist in the Avalanche's two losses to Kenai River last weekend. The 20-year-old from Burnsville, Minn., has five goals for 14 points through 18 games this season.
DAWSON CREEK RAGE: Forward Dakota Mason unleashed for four goals in the Rage’s 5-2 triumph over Wenatchee on Saturday. The 18-year-old from Edmonton leads the team in goals scored with 10.
FRESNO MONSTERS: Forward Mike Cox, 19, came through with two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, as the Monsters downed Fairbanks on Wednesday, 3-2. The Needham, Mass., native has seven goals for 14 points through 19 games.
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS: Defenseman Andrew Huckleby, a 19-year-old from Bloomfield, Mich., picked up two assists and was a plus-6 in the Brown Bears’ two-game sweep over Alaska. The wins extended Kenai’s winning streak to four games. "Huck’s overall ability is unquestionable,” said head coach Oliver David. “He’s an athlete and a great teammate, and seeing him make strides last weekend was exciting for us all.”
WENATCHEE WILD: Only 16, defenseman Zach Frye tallied two more goals and three assists as the Wild fashioned a 2-1 record against Dawson Creek last weekend. Frye leads the team in scoring with 16 points (five goals) through 18 games.