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Fairbanks Ice Dogs let another one slip away

FAIRBANKS – The Fairbanks Ice Dogs showed promise Saturday night in the first period of Game 2 of the North American Hockey League West Division Championship Series. Then, the Wenatchee Wild showed the same traits that led to a first-game victory over the Ice Dogs.

Fairbanks fell 6-2 Saturday at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, Wash. It was the same score by which they lost in Friday\’s opener of the best-of-five series.

\”We were just not getting a lot of stuff going,\” said Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge in a telephone interview. Saturday\’s loss saw Fairbanks outshot 37-14, including 29-7 in the first two periods. 

\”Offensively, we were getting limited on shots and they weren\’t always as good as we expected them to be,\” Hauge said. \”They took away a lot of our opportunities and they took advantage of the ones they had.\”

Defenseman Zach Tolkinen and forward James Saintey scored Saturday for the Ice Dogs, who will try to avoid a sweep when Game 3 takes place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Ice Dogs (35-24-4) and the Wild (50-10-3) have both qualified for the USA Hockey Robertson Cup National Tournament on May 4-9 in Wenatchee, but Fairbanks is hoping to capture the division title after it lost to the Wild in four games in last year\’s divisional series.

\”We can\’t focus on anything other than winning Game 3 on Friday night. That\’s the biggest thing,\” Hauge said. \”We\’ve got video to watch; there\’s a lot of work to be done. We pretty much have to play better than we have, and it starts with the coaching staff on down.\”

The Ice Dogs started well in the first period Saturday, emerging with a 1-1 tie. Fairbanks was outscored 3-0 in the first period Friday.

Tolkinen provided Saturday\’s first score at 7:17 with a shot over the glove side of Wild goaltender Brandon Jaeger (12 saves). Forward Will Aide and fellow defenseman Sean O\’Rourke provided the assists on Tolkinen\’s first goal and the fourth point of the playoffs.

\”He just got behind the D and shot upper glove,\” Hauge said. \”It was a great shot by Zach Tolkinen.\”

\”We set a goal to win the first period and we got win in less than 10 minutes,\” Hauge continued. \”We\’ve had some pretty bad first periods in our last three games with them, and tonight we made that a point of emphasis.\”

Forward Armandt Deswardt tied the score at 14:36 with Wenatchee\’s fourth power-play goal of the series.

Fairbanks then saw the second period become a replay of Friday\’s loss, as Wenatchee rattled off three goals.

Wild forward Mark Miller snapped the 1-1 tie at 2:33 of the second period Saturday with his first goal of the postseason. Wenatchee continued its momentum at 10:52 with Deswardt\’s second goal of the night and third of the playoffs. Alex McLean, with his second goal of the series, made it 4-1 with 44 seconds left on the scoreboard clock.

Deswardt kept his foot on the gas, putting Wenatchee ahead 5-1 with an unassisted goal at 9 seconds into the third period.

Saintey, with his second playoff goal and fourth point, interrupted Wenatchee\’s momentum at 4:19, with assists from defensemen Pete Spratte and Brock Carlston.

\”He got the puck up the ice, used the d-man as a screen and beat the goalie glove side,\” Hauge said.

McLean tacked on an unassisted marker at 6:21 to wrap up the win for the Wild.

Mike Taffe registered 31 saves in his first postseason start for the Ice Dogs.

Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.