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Fairbanks Ice Dogs are swept in playoff series — but advance anyway

FAIRBANKS – It was a different building but the same outcome for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League West Division Championship Series against the Wenatchee Wild.

The Ice Dogs fell 7-1 in Game 3 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on Friday night, getting swept in the best-of-five series.

The mostly-partisan crowd of 2,001 in the Big Dipper saw what the fans in the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Wash., witnessed in Games 1 and 2 last weekend – the Wild dominate the Ice Dogs.

The Wild won by back-to-back 6-2 scores in the first two games, and on Friday night at the Dipper, they took a 1-0 lead in the first period and padded it to 5-0 in the second before the Ice Dogs avoided a shutout.

\”We just didn\’t move our feet very well in the second period and they\’re a very good hockey team,\” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said. \”Once we get down, once one bad thing happens, we go into meltdown mode.

\”We\’ve done it for the last five games we\’ve played them, we got to get over that if we\’re going to have a chance to beat them in the national tournament.\”

Friday\’s loss, though, didn\’t end the season for the Ice Dogs. Fairbanks, along with the Wild, Traverse City (Mich.) North Stars, Bismarck (N.D.) Bobcats and the winner of the ongoing South Division title series between the Topeka (Kan.) RoadRunners and the St. Louis Bandits are headed to the USA Hockey Robertson Cup National Tournament in Wenatchee on May 4-9.

After Friday night\’s 2-hour, 57-minute contest, the Ice Dogs were thinking less of the Robertson Cup and more about losing in the West Division title series to the Wild for the second straight year.

\”I don\’t know what to say,\” said Ice Dogs forward Matt Millis, who assisted on fellow forward George Michalke\’s power-play goal early in the third period. \”We were definitely prepared for the game. Sometimes bounces don\’t go your way.\”

One bounce did for the Ice Dogs at 6:22 of the third during their fifth power play of the night. 

Millis passed to Michalke behind and just to the right of the net, and Michalke zipped a shot that struck the back of Wenatchee goaltender Brandon Jaeger\’s skate and eased into the net.

Besides seeing the Ice Dogs get swept, the Fairbanks fans saw the team finish the game with a short roster and minus Hauge.

The officiating crew of referee Tom Chmielewski and linesmen Chris Hoy and Tara Leighton had its hands full at 13:28 of the third when all five skaters and both goaltenders engaged in a brawl. 

The game was delayed for about 15 minutes while the officials sorted out penalties. Both goaltenders were replaced, as Joe Phillippi, who was taken out of the game after Wenatchee\’s fifth goal in the second period, returned to the ice for Mike Taffe and James Adamo took over for Jaeger.

Exactly 180 minutes of penalties were assessed during the ruckus and eight game misconducts were dispensed, including two to Fairbanks\’ Will Aide (fighting and leaving the bench). Aide was also ejected along with Jaeger (third man in) and Wild teammate Nolan Youngman, who collected a match penalty for a deliberate attempt to injure.

Hauge picked up a game misconduct for throwing sticks onto the ice not long before play was to resume.

\”It was mostly out of frustration,\” Hauge said. \”I felt like they had been taking runs at our goalies the whole time and it was just a lot of frustration – frustration by our guys, frustration by me. 

\”I shouldn\’t have done it and I lost my head at the time, and it wasn\’t anything the officials did tonight. It was a lot building up to that.\”

The Ice Dogs were outshot 33-14 for the night and fell into a 5-0 hole in the second period after allowing only one goal in the first 20 minutes of the contest.

Wenatchee\’s four-goal burst in the second also led to Phillippi getting replaced by Taffe.

The first three Wild goals came from outside and forward Michael Di Puma figured into the first two markers.

Di Puma skated to the top of the right circle and diagonally passed to Ryan Timar for a one-timer into the upper right corner of the net at 1:04. Brandon Burrell, at 6:54, ripped a shot from the top of the slot that Di Palma redirected through traffic for a 3-0 lead.

Armand Desward, a 6-foot-5 forward, sent a shot from the left circle through a screen at 8:03 and Andrew Christ scored amid a crowd in front of the crease at 11:44, sending Phillippi to the bench and bringing in Taffe.

The unassisted tally by the 6-4 Christ also sent many of the fans toward the exits.

Joe Krause provided Fairbanks\’ best opportunity for a goal in the period – and one of its best chances of the night – at 17:30 of the second. The forward from Hermanton, Minn., took a pass at the blue line and had an open path to the top of the left circle. However, his wrist shot was greeted by Jaeger snapping his pads shut.

The Ice Dogs got outshot 10-2 in the first period but limited Wenatchee to one goal at 13:42 of the period.

Defenseman Brandon Burrell was crowded with teammates Jeff Jubenville and Dajon Mingo in the slot when Burrell lifted a quick shot that got over Phillippi\’s stick-side shoulder. The game\’s first score occurred 10 seconds after Wenatchee killed the second of three Fairbanks power plays in the period.

The Ice Dogs often struggled to create opportunities but they were effective in blocking the Wild\’s passing lanes during often-long cycles by the visitors. They also kept three skaters high to slow Wenatchee\’s transition and they killed the Wild\’s lone power play of the first 20 minutes.

Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.