The Maine Nordiques’ season got off to a slow start at the North American Hockey League Showcase at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, Wednesday afternoon. Jake Hale had a goal and two assists in the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ 4-1 victory over the Nordiques.

Nordiques coach Nolan Howe isn’t too worried about the result in the first game of the regular season.

“I think we need to clean everything up a little bit, get a little sharper as the team becomes a cohesive unit and everybody being on the same page,” Howe said. “It was more about (the players) understanding our concepts and doing our structure than any one thing in particular.”

The Ice Dogs (2-0-1, 5 points) have had a head start on the Nordiques, having already played two regular-season games prior to Wednesday’s game.

Hale opened up the scoring for the Ice Dogs just past the seven-minute mark of the first period.

Nordiques forward Zion Green tied the game 1-1 on the power play with six minutes remaining in the first period. Johnny Meiers and Caden Pattison recorded assists on the goal.

“We have a lot of talent; we have guys that can make plays,” Howe said. “It’s just a matter of competing a little bit harder and do the little things that earn success in this league. Fairbanks is one of the perennial powerhouse (teams in the NAHL). For us to earn success, we have to do certain things and today was a good learning experience of what works and what doesn’t work.”

Maine was 1 for 2 on the man-advantage while Fairbanks was 1 for 3.

Hale set up Tyler Stewart’s goal to give Fairbanks a 2-1 lead with 3:09 remaining in the first period.

Cameron Riccota put Fairbanks up 3-1 with five minutes remaining in the second period. Hale and Stewart added to their point total with assists.

Alexander Malinowski scored on the power play to extend the Ice Dogs lead to 4-1.

Kayden Hargraves stopped 27 shots in the win for the Ice Dogs. Third-year goalie Avery Sturtz made 36 saves in the losing effort.

Howe feels the defense will come along as the season progresses.

“There was a bunch of guys competing pretty hard,” Howe said. “They are a younger group this year — with some veterans sprinkled in. We are learning to play at this level. I think there are going to be some mistakes that happen and they need to continue working on backing each other up. Overall, I was happy with (defense), the ability to move pucks and transition us to some offensive opportunities.”

The Nordiques return to the ice Thursday against the Bismarck Bobcats at 3 p.m. in Blaine.

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