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Fairbanks Ice Dogs lose two straight to Wenatchee Wild after clinching NAHLWest

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs hosted their annual North American Hockey League outdoor game against the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday night in front of just more than 2,000 fans, and it wasn’t only the temperatures that were cold. The Ice Dogs, after being down 5-0 in the fourth quarter (four 15-minute quarters are played in the outdoor game rather than three 20-minute periods), lost 5-3 to their West Division rivals.

“I thought we were pretty bad in the first 30 minutes,” Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge said, adding that the team’s emotions from Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss were still lingering Saturday. “We were focused on how we lost the night before. We were flustered and rattled.”

Wenatchee’s Carl-Johan Sjogren scored the Wild’s first two goals — both during the power play. His first goal, on assists from DJ Vandercook and Mario Puskarich, was scored at the 9:05 mark of the first quarter, and his second was at the 12:29 mark in the second quarter, on a puck passed from Max McHugh and DJ Vandercook.

Jacob Barber scored at the 8:13 mark of the second, upping the Wild’s lead to 3-0. Ben Carey and Puskarich picked up the assists. Evan Schmidbauer scored on a puck passed from Brennen Parker at the 8:11 mark to give the visitors a 4-0 lead heading into the third quarter.

“After we got embarrassed being down 4-0, we decided it was time to get after it,” Hauge said. “I take full responsibility for the first 30 minutes. I let our emotions get the best of us.”

After a scoreless third quarter, the Ice Dogs found some life and picked up three goals in the final 15 minutes.

Wenatchee found the back of the net once more, too, however. Vandercook, on a pass from Sjogren and Kyle Huson, put the Wild ahead 5-0 with about 12 minutes left to play.

Zach Vierling put one away for the Ice Dogs at the 9:50 mark on passes from Jared Linnell and Brandon Carlson.

“It was a relief to get one that finally counted,” Hauge said, reflecting on goals waved off on Friday and a goal called off in the second quarter Saturday.

JT Osborn scored one minute, 7 seconds after Vierling on passes from John Stampohar and Gabe Levin. With 5:23 left on the clock, Linnell brought the Ice Dogs within two, scoring on a power play puck from Tayler Munson and Charlie Thauwald.

“We were just playing hard, the complete opposite of before,” Hauge said of his team’s mentality after narrowed the gap with time to spare. “We’re successful if we’re aggressive, and that’s when we started to be aggressive.”

Time ran out before Fairbanks could make another run, however. The Wild advanced to 31-20-3 with the win while the Ice Dogs dropped to 37-13-3.

Brandon Jaeger made 29 saves between the pipes for Wenatchee, and Fairbanks goalies Joe Phillippi — who picked up the loss and played for 30 minutes — and Steve Perry finished with 10 and 11 saves, respectively.

“In all reality, I think this is the best thing for a hockey team,” Hauge said. “We had been smooth for so long, and there’s nothing like getting beat to make you self evaluate a little more.”

The Ice Dogs host a two-game series against the Kenai River Brown Bears on Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

Contact staff writer Renee Thony at 459-7583.