The word of the night was “guts.” Both Josh Hauge and John Stampohar described the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ 4-3 overtime win against the Wenatchee Wild Friday night as a battle, one that was won on the home team’s display of guts.
“They showed a lot of guts,” Hauge, the Ice Dogs head coach, said of his team’s don’t-give-up attitude. “They were determined to find a way to win.”
Showing the determination Hauge spoke of was Stampohar, an Ice Dogs forward, who scored the game-winner with 1 minutes, 36 seconds left in overtime.
“It was back and forth, back and forth,” the 6-foot-4, Minnesota native said of the overtime period. “It took lots of guts from the guys. We gave it all in that overtime, and in the end, I think we got what we deserved.”
Friday’s game gives the Ice Dogs a 1-0 advantage in the best of five series to determine the North American Hockey League’s West Division champion, a series Stampohar anticipated would be difficult.
“It was a step up from the last series for sure,” he said. Fairbanks beat the Kenai River Brown Bears in the first round of playoffs earlier this month.
“I think we were caught on our heels for the first five minutes, but after that it was just a real good puck battle.”
The next two games of the series are at the Big Dipper Ice Arena at 7:30 tonight and at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Each team’s goaltenders put in major work Friday night. Brandon Jaeger made 33 saves for Wenatchee while Joe Phillippi stopped an impressive 47 pucks for the Ice Dogs.
The teams scored single goals in each period, keeping the score knotted at each intermission.
Wenatchee put the first goal on the board, at the 9:18 mark of the first period, on a Mario Puskarich goal, assisted by Tyler Hope and Ben Carey.
With under a minute left in the opening 20 minutes, Tyler Voigt found the back of the net for the Ice Dogs on the team’s only converted power play of the night (they had four of them). JT Osborn and Zach Vierling picked up the assists.
Fairbanks took a 2-1 lead after Charlie Thauwald scored on a Vierling and Sean O’Rourke-assisted puck just 23 seconds into the second period. At the 7:02 mark, the Wild tied things up again as Jacob Barber scored a power play goal on passes from Chris Rumble and Hope.
“They scored goals on our mistakes,” Stampohar said. “That’s what it was.”
Matt Millis put away an unassisted, shorthanded goal at the 7:11 mark to put the Ice Dogs ahead 3-2 in the third period, but with just under 40 seconds remaining in the game, Rumble scored, unassisted, with an extra attacker to knot the game and send the teams into an extra 20 minutes.
“Obvious it was disappointing to give that one up late,” Hauge said. “We knew in overtime we had to tighten up. Wenatchee does a good job of getting us caught up, so we just had to take care of the puck.”
“Of course we were disappointed,” Stampohar added of the late goal in the third, “but you can’t show it. Coach told us we had to head into overtime with the mentality that we scored that goal, we tied it up, we had the momentum heading into that overtime. Plus, overtime is better than losing.”
It turned out that way, yes.
“I don’t know how he ended up with it,” Hauge said of Stampohar’s overtime goal. “He was getting to the dirty areas and found a way to get it. It was huge.”
Stampohar said he kept is eye on the puck as Voigt had it in the corner, took it behind the net and dropped it to Vierling. Stampohar was in the right place at the right time, he said, but as of the final buzzer in Friday’s game, he’d already forgotten about what had happened and was focusing on tonight’s game.
“This win (Friday) will be in vain if we don’t win tomorrow (Saturday),” he said. “We have to step it up a notch now and work even harder.”
Contact staff writer Renee Thony at 459-7583.