FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks Ice Dogs left wing Grayson Gavin made a tough goal against a tough goaltender during the second period of Friday’s night North American Hockey League game against the Northeast Generals in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Gavin’s power-play conversion against 6-foot-6, 220-pound Michael Fessenden was the only time Friday that the 1,934 fans in the Big Dipper saw a goal light activated.
“It was a tough game,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said after the 1-0 win during the second game of the three-game series against the expansion Generals, of Attleboro, Massachusetts and the NAHL’s East Division.
During the rubber match of the series, the Generals didn’t resemble the team that lost 4-1 and got outshot 52-12 in the series opener Thursday. There were many times, too, on Friday that Northeast didn’t look like a team that owns a 1-32-3-0 record.
The Ice Dogs, in fifth place in the Midwest Division at 13-20-2-1 for 29 points in the standings, outshot the Generals 38-15 but Northeast generated several scoring chances.
“They came out, they played really hard,” Stewart said of the Generals on Friday. “They took it to us, especially in the first period. We got our feet under a little bit in the second period. (Ice Dogs goaltender Josh) Benson was good in goal and we’ve got to be better (today).”
The Ice Dogs went for 0 for 3 on the power play in the scoreless first period, including missing on a two-man advantage session that lasted for 1 minute,
2 seconds. They denied the Generals on two opportunities.
Their fourth power play of the night proved to be the charm and the game-winner for the Ice Dogs.
Gavin skated into the left circle, collected Kyle Mayhew’s crossing pass and sent it in between Fessenden’s stick-side elbow and the left post at 1:51 into the second period. Hampus Eriksson also assisted on Friday night’s only marker in the Dipper.
Gavin’s sixth goal in 16 games this season with the Ice Dogs developed with a brief odd-man rush.
“It was a 3-on-2 or 3-on-1 there, a really nice play by Mayhew,’’ Gavin said. “I don’t think the goalie expected him to pass that over. I had a lot of net to shoot at there.”
Fessenden reduced the space before Gavin’s delivery got past him.
“I just shot the puck and I saw it went in. I just tried to get it on net. I knew he’d be sliding over,” he said.
The Ice Dogs finished 1 for 7 with the extra skater and helped Benson withstand three Generals power plays while recording his first shutout in his 16th game in his first season with Fairbanks.
“The team did really well tonight,’’ Benson said of his teammates. “They (Northeast) obviously kept in their zone most of the time. I just had to stay focused mentally for the rushes that came when they did.
“It’s really huge,’’ Benson said of the shutout. “It just builds confidence, momentum for the team. It just really got us pumped up.”
The Generals were pumped up for the third period, generating two odd-man early.
“It wasn’t very good that they started the period that they had two odd-man rushes when we’re up by a goal,’’ Stewart said. “We were not taking care of the puck or paying attention to situations when we were exiting our offensive zone.”
The series finale starts at 7:30 p.m. today.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.