Fairbanks Ice Dogs
For dedicated hockey fans, there’s nothing quite like experiencing a historic upset or win. These moments are etched into the memories of players and fans alike, shaping the identity and legacy of a team. And for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, a junior hockey team based in Fairbanks, Alaska, there have been plenty of these memorable moments throughout their history.
From unexpected victories against powerhouse opponents to record-breaking achievements, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have made their mark on the junior hockey world. In this article, we’ll take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most significant upsets and wins in the team’s history.
Early Years: Establishing a Legacy
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs were founded in 1997 as a member of the North American Hockey League (HL). The team quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, racking up division titles and making multiple appearances in the Robertson Cup playoffs.
In 2002, the Ice Dogs made their first historic upset when they defeated the highly favored Texas Tornado, who were riding a 29-game winning streak, in the semi-finals of the Robertson Cup playoffs. Despite ultimately falling to the Topeka ScareCrows in the championship game, the Ice Dogs’ victory over the Tornado remains a highlight of the team’s early years.
Dynasty Years: Three-Peat Victories
But it wasn’t until 2010 that the Ice Dogs truly made their mark in the junior hockey world. Led by head coach Josh Hauge and a talented group of players, the team embarked on a historic three-peat, winning three consecutive Robertson Cup championships from 2010-2012.
During this time, the Ice Dogs showcased their dominance, recording a 138-34-12 record and breaking numerous league and franchise records. In 2011, they set a new HL record by clinching the division title with 97 points in just 55 games. And in 2012, they became the first team in HL history to win back-to-back championships.
The 2010-2012 Ice Dogs team will forever be remembered as one of the most dominant and historic teams in junior hockey history, solidifying their place as a dynasty in the sport.
2014: From Last to First
2014 was a pivotal year for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. After finishing last in their division the previous season, the team underwent a major rebuild, bringing in a new head coach and making significant changes to the roster.
Many experts predicted a rebuilding year for the Ice Dogs, but the team had other plans. Led by captain and leading scorer Lonnie Clary, the Ice Dogs made a stunning turnaround, finishing first in their division and clinching a playoff spot for the 15th consecutive season.
In the playoffs, the Ice Dogs faced the defending Robertson Cup champions, the Amarillo Bulls, in the semi-finals. Despite being the underdogs, the Ice Dogs pulled off a major upset, defeating the Bulls in a thrilling five-game series, with the final game going to double overtime. While they ultimately fell to the Austin Bruins in the championship game, the Ice Dogs’ remarkable season will go down in history as one of their most impressive feats.
2016: The Goaltender’s Record-Setting Season
In 2016, the Ice Dogs had one of their most impressive individual performances in the franchise’s history. Goaltender Gavin Nieto set a new HL single-season record for wins (35) and played a crucial role in leading the team to the Robertson Cup playoffs.
But it was in the playoffs that Nieto truly made his mark. In a decisive third game of the semi-finals against the Minnesota Wilderness, Nieto made 60 saves to help the Ice Dogs secure a 2-1 victory and advance to the Robertson Cup finals. Despite falling short in the finals to the Wichita Falls Wildcats, Nieto’s record-setting season will always be remembered as a standout moment for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
2019: Davis Strikes Gold
In 2019, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs made history once again as they claimed their fourth Robertson Cup championship. Led by forward Jack Johnston and goalie Mattias Sholl, the Ice Dogs swept the Aberdeen Wings in the finals, with Davis striking gold in a dramatic overtime victory in game three.
In addition to winning the Robertson Cup, the Ice Dogs also made their mark on the record books, finishing the regular season with a franchise-best 45-12-2 record. And for Jack Johnston, it was a bittersweet victory as he ended his junior hockey career on a high note.
Memorable Moments that Shaped the Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Throughout their 24-year history, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have given hockey fans countless memorable moments. From historic upsets against powerhouse opponents to record-breaking achievements, these moments have shaped the identity and legacy of this junior hockey team.
And with the team’s continued success in the HL, there’s no doubt that the Fairbanks Ice Dogs will continue to make their mark on the sport and give their fans more memorable moments in the years to come.