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Ice Dogs celebrate Captain Luke Ciolli with 7-2 win over Kenai River

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 7:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Throughout the 2020-21 season, Ice Dogs forward Luke Ciolli was with the organization wherever they went in spirit and with his jersey in their locker rooms. In this weekend’s home-series with the Kenai River Brown Bears, the Captain was reunited with the program in Fairbanks for the first time this year.

“It was awesome just to be able to see him smile and be with he teammates and friends, that was pretty special.” said Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart after Saturday’s 7-2 win.

In October, Ciolli was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of cancerous brain tumor. Since, Ciolli had successful brain surgery to remove a hard mass and is currently undergoing chemotherapy until December of this year.

“His spirit is amazing, his attitude is off the chart, I admire this young man,” said Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Proffitt ahead of Ciolli’s ceremonial puck drop Friday.

Ciolli, of Colorado Spring, CO, previously committed to Army West Point to continue his hockey career and begin serving in the military.

“Everybody here loves Luke and he is a big part of this team even though he is not playing and we definitely rallied around him this weekend.” added veteran forward Bret Link.

Throughout the weekend, each player’s game-worn jersey was auctioned off during intermission. The last two jerseys belonged to Ciolli, where Ice Dogs fans put up over $8,000 combined, with the proceeds from the Marshall jersey going to the Ciolli family.

With the energy of Ciolli’s return to the locker room, the Ice Dogs came out of the gates on a mission after their shootout loss Friday night. After giving up the first four goals of the contest in game one, Fairbanks flipped the script by scoring the first four goals of game two.

The offensive flurry was sparked by none other than the team’s leading goal-getters in Laker Aldridge and Bret Link. Ty Naaykens, the future St. Lawrence Saint, found a streaking Aldridge during a 2-on-1 break, where the three-year veteran scored the first of the game and his 19th of the season to get things going.

Just three minutes later, Link, the Alaska Nanooks commit, snuck one past the goaltender in front of the net while getting shoved to the ice to give the ‘Dogs a 2-0 lead. Still in the first period, Nick Ostbloom, the Fairbanks-native, scored his first Big Dipper goal by deflecting the puck from the stick of Jasper Lester to make it a three score game.

“We had a much better start than [Friday], I thought that was the difference,” Stewart said after the victory. “Just happy to get back in the win column and get end the regular season at the Dipper the right way.”

Forward Cam Ricotta scored his second goal in as many nights, before Link put home his second goal and third point of the game in front of his visiting family.

“It means so much to be able to do that in front my parents, my godfather and my godmother and my sister were here and it was just awesome to be able to have a game like I did in front of them,” said Link, who scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season Saturday.

To cap off the scoring, Jake Hale and Jack Ring both lit the lamp, while Kayden Hargraves stopped 25 of 27 shots sent his way in his 16th win of the year between the pipes.

The regular season - and Alaska Airlines Cup series - conclude in Soldotna with games Friday and Saturday. The Ice Dogs are still looking to clinch home ice for the Robertson Cup Playoffs.

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