Ice Dogs’ season ends in first round of Robertson Cup Playoffs

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 8:30 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Very little went in favor of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs during the 2020-21 season. They were the latest team in the North American Hockey League to report to training camp. A week prior to camp, they found out that their Captain Luke Ciolli was diagnosed with brain cancer and would not be able to skate with the team during the season. If they wanted to a have a season at all, they had to be transplanted to their sister-city of Marshall, Minnesota, playing their first 39 games of the season outside of their home state. Oh, and there was a six-week pause thrown in there as well.

Trailing three goals in a must-win situation, down 0-2 in a best-of-five playoff series against the Minnesota Magicians, the Ice Dogs did as they had whenever adversity was put in front of them this year; keep fighting. Mason Plante, the future University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanook, brought life back into the Big Dipper Ice Arena when he put home a rebound in front of the net with 9:03 left to play in the second period. This, coming a couple of minutes after Ryan Keyes was plugged in between the pipes, holding the Magicians scoreless the rest of the way, which included 20 shots.

Ty Naaykens, the future St. Lawrence University Saint, brought the game within a score after lighting the lamp with just under 15 minutes left to play. However, Fairbanks was unable to find the back of the net the rest of the way, as their season ends in the first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs at the hands of a three-game sweep from Minnesota.

“That was just kind of our whole year summed up,” said Head Coach Trevor Stewart following the loss. “We kept working, we kept getting thrown a bunch of curveballs and we kept fighting, scratching and clawing and unfortunately it didn’t work out in the end for us.”

As every season, the roster will look a little different next year as some players have aged-out of junior hockey, some will make the jump to the collegiate level, some may play for another NAHL program, while new faces will join the 2021-22 roster as rookies. Knowing that it is the last time a specific team will take the ice together doesn’t get much easier as the years go on.

“It is tough anytime that your season ends and you see the emotion on these players faces, especially the guys that don’t have the opportunity to come back and play,” said Stewart, completing his 10th season with the organization. “It is really emotional and more than anything you just hate to see the 20-year old’s not be able to play a little bit longer.”

As said within the organization in the past, the main goal is give these players, kids really, a chance to continue their hockey career while receiving a college education. Fairbanks has at least eight players on their current roster who have committed to Division I hockey.

PlayerSchool2020-21 Stats (Games)Birth
Luke Ciolli (F)Army West-PointDNP, 15G, 24A, 39PTS in 2019-20 (52)1/7/2000
Andrew Garby (D)Army West-Point6G, 19A, 25PTS (44)9/17/00
Jasper Lester (D)Air Force Academy7G, 16A, 23PTS (48)7/21/00
Bret Link (F)University of Alaska Fairbanks22G, 18A, 40PTS (47)4/9/02
Ty Naaykens (F)St. Lawrence University6G, 19A, 25PTS (37)1/27/01
Owen Neuharth (F)Colgate University6G, 19A, 25PTS (39)10/25/01
Nicholas Ostbloom (F)University of Alaska Fairbanks2G, 5A, 7PTS (20)10/18/02
Mason Plante (F)University of Alaska Fairbanks9G, 14A, 23PTS (4)6/3/00

The Magicians move on to the second round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs, awaiting the winner of Kenai River/Janesville, with the Brown Bears holding a 2-0 series lead. After a turbulent season, the Ice Dogs look to bounce back for a strong (and hopefully a more normal) 2021-22 season.

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