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Fairbanks Ice Dogs claim another thrilling win

FAIRBANKS — To hear coach Josh Hauge tell it, Sunday’s game between the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Texas Tornado was a tale from the Wild Wild West.

“It was one of the more exciting games I’ve ever been involved in,” Hauge said after the Ice Dogs pulled out a 6-5 overtime win to complete a two-game sweep of the Tornado.

“Outside of the Dipper, I would say that Texas and Wenatchee are the toughest places to play, so to sweep a series down here is pretty great accomplishment for our guys,” Hauge said.

The Ice Dogs won Saturday’s series opener 5-3.

Sunday’s game came to a dramatic end 38 seconds into overtime when Sean O’Rourke knocked in the game-winning goal off assists from Zach Vierling and Brock Carlston while the teams were skating 3-on-3.

The 3-on-3 situation arose because of a bizarre set of circumstances late in the third period, Hauge said.

It all started when the Ice Dogs’ John Kirtland was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 3:03 left in the game.

Normally that would have given Texas a man-advantage, but two Tornado players received major penalties — one for leaving the bench and another for grabbing Kirtland’s facemask — giving the Ice Dogs an eight-minute power play.

The Ice Dogs couldn’t score the game-winner in the final three minutes of regulation, so Fairbanks went into overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage. Ice Dogs forward Alexander Jensen was given a high-sticking penalty four seconds into overtime, setting up the 3-on-3 situation.

“It was just a really bizarre finish,” Hauge said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

The victory boosted the Ice Dogs’ record to 5-0-2, with all seven games being played on the road. Now, the Ice Dogs head to Wenatchee, where they will take on the defending NAHL West champion Wenatchee Wild on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It should be fun one for next weekend, Hauge said, “So, here we go again.”

Fairbanks plays its first home game against the Fresno, Calif., Monsters at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Ice Dogs fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the first period before roaring back with three unanswered goals in the second to take a 4-3 lead. Texas tied the game late in the second, but the Ice Dogs took a 5-4 lead at 11:17 of the third on JT Osborn’s second goal of the game.

Just 15 seconds later, the Tornado tied the score to set the stage for Sunday evening’s bizarre ending.

Osborn continued his torrid scoring pace by picking up two more goals for the Ice Dogs, while O’Rourke, Vierling, Kirtland and John Stampohar each scored once.

Vierling and Carlston picked up two assists apiece for Fairbanks, while Kirtland, Tyler Voigt and Jared Linnell each had one.

Steve Perry came in for Joe Phillipe at the start of the second period and picked up the win in goal for the Ice Dogs. He stopped 16 of 18 shots. Phillipe made 13 saves in the first period.

Hauge lauded the play of Nick O’Donnell, who saw action for only the second time this season. He got into the lineup because Tayler Munson and Gabe Levine sat out because of injuries.

“He really gave us a lift today because he played so hard,” Hauge said. “He sparked us with some really big hits. I was really happy with the way he stepped up.”

Contact sports editor Bob Eley at 459-7581.