FAIRBANKS – Everything that could go wrong went wrong for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs during a critical two-game North American Hockey League series with the Alaska Avalanche at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Needing two wins to virtually lock up second place in the NAHL West division standings, the Ice Dogs suffered a pair of losses and now find themselves tied for second place with the Avalanche with just three weeks left in the regular season.
\”We just didn\’t play with the desperation and urgency that we should have or needed to,\” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said. \”It\’s as simple as that.\”
Fairbanks did pick up one point for Friday night\’s shootout loss to the Avalanche, but Alaska collected four points during the weekend as it posted a 5-3 win Saturday night.
What makes things even tougher on the Ice Dogs is that they have just four games remaining, while Alaska has six on its schedule.
Fairbanks hosts Wichita Falls March 12 and 13 (outdoors) and closes the season March 26 and 27 against division-leading Wenatchee. The Avalanche host Alexandria on March 19-20, Wenatchee on March 23-24 and Kenai River on March 26-27.
\”We know we\’re going to play them in the first round and we\’ve had success in both rinks, but it would be nice to have home ice,\” Hauge said. \”Now, we\’ll just have see how things play out and go from there.\”
One of the things that killed the Ice Dogs this weekend was allowing three short-handed goals – two in Friday night\’s loss and one Saturday night.
\”The power play has been one of our strengths all season, but this weekend we gave up three shorthanders and that\’s very frustrating,\” Hauge said. \”We were just standing around and trying to be cute instead of putting the puck on the net and going after it.\”
Alaska never trailed Saturday night as it took a 2-1 lead in the first period and built the advantage to 4-1 before the Ice Dogs mounted a late comeback.
Matthew Friese, Blake Huppert, Berkley Scott, Andy Pearson and Robb Halder accounted for the Alaska goals. Zach Smith had two assists.
Trailing 4-1 in the third period, the Ice Dogs scored two goals in less than a minute to pull within 4-3. James Saintey had a power-play goal with assists from Michael Juola and Zach Tolkinen at 13:21 and Aaron McGill scored 56 seconds later off assists from Tolkinen and Juola.
But the Ice Dogs couldn\’t get the equalizer and Halder scored into an empty net with 30 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Avalanche.
Justin Kirchhevel scored Fairbanks\’ first goal off assists from McGill and George Michalke to tie the game 1-1 in the first period.
Fairbanks had 38 shots on goal and the Avalanche had 27.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.