FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs seemingly fed off the crowd in Friday night’s neutral-site North American Hockey League game in Palmer.
“It was great. It was standing room only and there was not much standing room,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart, by cellphone, said of the 1,527 who packed the MTA Events Center for the Midwest Division and Ravn Alaska Cup series contest against the Kenai River Brown Bears.
The fans in the first of two neutral-site games between the teams saw an impressive performance from Fairbanks — a 6-1 win in which the Ice Dogs limited their rival from Soldotna to 12 shots for the night while generating 33.
Defense was a big factor for an Ice Dogs squad that got a goal and two assists each from Erkka Vanska and Luke Orysiuk, and 11 saves from goaltender Josh Benson to help it improve its league-best record to 44-6-3-3 for 94 points in the Midwest standings.
“We kept them (Kenai River’s offense) to outside for the most part and it was good to see,’’ Stewart said. “In the third period, we capitalized on the chances they had to take, and it all worked out in our favor.”
Vanska registered the game’s first goal with a power-play deposit at 15:30 of the opening period, courtesy of assists from Orysiuk and Kyle Mayhew.
The Ice Dogs stretched its lead to 3-1 in the second period with goals from John Stampohar and Daniel Haider, from Anchorage, the site of today’s Fairbanks-Kenai River game.
Stampohar’s contribution at 2:39 was assisted by Hunter Wendt and Haider, who scored at 6:19 with help from Samuel Ruffin and Wendt.
Robert Blueger, set up by Orysiuk and Vanska, converted a power-play opportunity at 10:38 of the third period, where the Ice Dogs sealed the win during the last three minutes.
Tanner Schachle, from nearby Wasilla, parked the puck in the net at 17:01, helped by linemates Blueger and Vanska. Orysiuk scored at 19:42 off assists from Mayhew and Jack Johnston.
Zach Krajnik, with help from Michael Spethman and Sutton, scored shorthanded for the sixth-place Brown Bears (15-38-1-2 for 33 points) at 5:50 of the second. Gavin Enright made 27 saves for Kenai River, which plays Fairbanks at 7:30 p.m. today at the O’Malley Sports Complex in Anchorage.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.