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Finally dropping the puck

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes on Thursday night drops the puck for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ first home game of the season. A limited crowd of 150 fans cheered at the Red Baron Arena while the Ice Dogs faced off against the Austin Bruins.

MARSHALL — The long wait was finally over.

Fans hoping to see the North American Hockey League’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs had picked out their spots in the stands at the Red Baron Arena. And even though the crowd size was limited for COVID-19 safety, everybody was ready to cheer.

“We’ve got to make 150 people sound like 1,000,” Ice Dogs General Manager Rob Profitt said, as he greeted Marshall area hockey fans Thursday night. It turned out that wouldn’t be too big of a task for the crowd, especially when Marshall native Mason Plante scored an early goal for the Ice Dogs, in their first home game of the season.

Profitt said being able to relocate to Marshall has given the Ice Dogs a chance to keep playing during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder to do so. For their part, area hockey fans were also happy to have a chance to see the games.

“People are really excited,” Visit Marshall director Cassi Weiss said.

Some of the young fans in the stands before Thursday’s game, like Jacob Allen, were wearing Ice Dogs jerseys, hats and other gear. Allen and his family said they had been waiting a while to come see the team play. The Ice Dogs’ first home games had originally been scheduled in November, but COVID-19 restrictions delayed them.

On Thursday the Ice Dogs faced off against the Austin Bruins. It was the first of three games for the Ice Dogs this week, with a two-game series against the Aberdeen Wings coming tonight and Saturday.

For COVID safety reasons, only 150 fans are being allowed to attend each game. About 100 tickets had been sold in advance for Thursday’s game, with the rest of the tickets available at the door, Weiss said.

“We do expect to fill them,” she said. Spots for the two weekend games were also filling up faster, she said.

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