Ice Dogs begin new season against the same team that ended their previous one

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are ready for the 2021-22 season.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are ready for the 2021-22 season.(Jordan Rodenberger (KTVF))
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:40 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The last time the Fairbanks Ice Dogs were on the ice for an official game, they were swept at home in the first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Minnesota Magicians. While returning players had the offseason to shake off the disappointment, they won’t have to wait long into their season for a chance at vengeance.

Fairbanks opens their 2021-22 campaign in Minnesota against the Magicians Friday at 4 p.m. AKDT to not only ignite a two-game series, but to ignite their new season.

“I would think deep down the players themselves probably have a little bit of animosity going into this season,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said, entering his 11th season with the organization. “There is going to be some [thoughts] going into this weekend about what happened last year for the guys that were there for that, but as a coach you realize the logos are the same but the teams are completely different.”

The 2020-21 Fairbanks Ice Dogs season was anything but normal. In effort to have a season at all, they had to partner with Marshall, Minnesota to house players and skate in ‘home’ games. They were the last team in the North American Hockey League to report to training camp once they made the arrangements and arrived in Marshall. They had their season put on pause for six weeks, while their home debut was repeatedly pushed back, originally eyeing a January 21 date, but weren’t able to return to Fairbanks until April 22. On top of all of this, their Captain Luke Ciolli was diagnosed with brain cancer ahead of the season, missing the entire year as he continues to recover.

This year, the Ice Dogs started training camp on time and in their home barn of the Big Dipper Ice Arena, hoping for a ‘normal’ 2021-22 season with less disruption. In order to have a strong campaign, they’ll look to lean on their veterans.

“Well I think one of the strengths of our team is going to be that we have had a lot of players that have played last year, hopefully they want to be able to hang a [division championsip] banner,” Stewart added. “I am excited to see their response, their will, their effort as we go into the regular season.”

Those returning to don the Ice Dog jersey once again include goaltenders Kayden Hargraves and Ryan Keyes, defenseman and University of Michigan commit Brendan Miles and forwards Cam Ricotta (Buffalo, NY), Owen Neuharth (Prior Lake, MN), Jake Hale (Minnesapolis, MN), Tyler Herzberg (Milwaukee, WI), Nick Ostbloom (Fairbanks, AK), Zachary Murray (Arlington, VA), Tyler Stewart (Lower Burrell, PA), Jack Ring (Guilford, CT) and Billy Renfrew (Fairbanks, AK) - who will be making the jump from rookie to leader.

“It is definitely different especially coming in as a veteran this year,” Renfrew said at training camp. “You’re more of a top guy on the team, people look up to you a little bit more than they did last year and stuff. It is definitely good, we are excited to kick off the year this year and hopefully have a good season.”

Newcomers wearing the Ice Dog jersey for the first time include forwards Dakota MacIntosh (Winnipeg, MB), Ryan Mulrenin (Plymouth, MN), Bradley Beals (Anchorage, AK), Noah Griswold (Apple Valley, MN), Alexander Malinowski (Linkoping, Sweden), McAbe Dvorak (St. Louis Park, MN), Alexander Kulmanovsky (Fairbanks, AK), goaltender Eric Ward, defensemen Joe Greniuk (Elk River, MN) Camden Shasby (Anchorage, AK) Nolan Cunningham (Great Falls, MT), Gavin McDonald (Eagle River, AK) Sam Berry (St. Louis Park, MN) Evan Fritze (Fairbanks, AK) and Love Bergvall (Boras, Sweden) - who has already recognized Fairbanks’ love for the Ice Dogs and vice versa.

“It is just crazy to see how many people that are actually into Fairbanks Ice Dogs, it is just amazing,” Bergvall said, having never stepped foot in the United States prior to joining the Ice Dogs. “I have heard about all the fans, it is pretty crowded at the games here. The Juniors in Sweden is not that big, so it is going to be amazing, amazing season I think.”

Following their series with the Magicians, the Ice Dogs - and the rest of the North American Hockey League - will compete in the NAHL showcase from September 15-18 in Blaine, Minnesota.

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