FAIRBANKS — The Monster side of the Fresno hockey team came out Saturday night.
After getting shellacked by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 6-1 on Friday night, the Fresno Monsters came storming back Saturday night and captured a 7-5 North American Hockey League victory in front of more than 2,000 Fairbanks faithful at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Led by North Pole’s DJ Carnley, who scored two goals, the Monsters stormed to a 4-2 lead in the first period and never let the Ice Dogs get closer than a goal.
And each time the Ice Dogs did close to within one, the Monsters almost immediately responded to regain control of the game.
“This is a big deal for our hockey team,” Monsters coach Eric Ballard said outside the jubilant Fresno locker room. “The Ice Dogs have an exceptional hockey team with a lot of veterans from last year’s Robertson Cup team, and we have 16 kids who are first-year juniors, so this was a big turnaround for us.”
Carnley had a fan club of about 40 or so fans from North Pole, most from the North Pole Worship Center, who cheered behind the Monsters bench.
“I had a lot of friends and family out there cheering for us, and it felt good to get the win,” said Carnley, who scored the Monsters’ fourth goal of the first period and then netted what proved to be the game-winner on a 2-on-1 break at the 14:55 mark of the third period.
“That was my favorite shot and if felt great to be able to rub it in a little bit,” Carnley added. “It was awesome.”
The Monsters will be treated to lunch at the North Pole Worship Center before heading to Wenatchee, Wash, for a series against the Wenatchee Wild next weekend.
“We’re in kind of a quandary,” said Cal Coblentz, one of the lead pastors for the North Pole Worship Center. “A lot of people in our church have Ice Dogs season tickets, but we’re also DJ fans, so this weekend we were rooting for him.
“It makes a little more exciting for us, knowing that the whole team is going to be at church for lunch (today),” he added.
The way Saturday night’s game started, it looked like the outcome might be the same as it was on Friday night, as the Ice Dogs’ Tayler Munson, a Fairbanks native, scored 2:35 into the game.
The Monsters responded with three straight goals against Fairbanks rookie netminder Steve Perry and eventually went into the locker room with a 4-2 advantage.
“We left our goalie hanging out to dry,” an angry Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said after lashing out at his team in the locker room following the game. “We played lackluster hockey on defense and none of those goals were his fault.”
Trailing 5-3 going into the third period, the Ice Dogs seemingly got the break they needed when Tyler Voigt scored a power play goal 22 seconds into the period.
Despite several good scoring chances, including a penalty shot awarded to Alexander Jensen, the Ice Dogs couldn’t net the tying goal.
“It’s disappointing,” Hauge said “We cut the lead to 5-4 and had several chances. Some guys need to step up and finish.”
Hauge said he knew things were going to be difficult when he saw the Ice Dogs demeanor during pregame warm-ups.
“I could tell they didn’t have the same energy as they did on Friday and that’s just not acceptable,” he said. “This is a team that averages five goals a game and the only two games we’ve lost we’ve given up seven.
“It’s not the goalie’s fault,” he added. “We never gave him a chance. It’s the team’s fault.”
In addition to the goals by Munson and Voigt, the Ice Dogs got goals from Matt Millis, JT Osborn and Jared Linnell. Zach Vierling, Charlie Thauwald, Jensen, John Stampohar, Nick Hinz, Brock Carlston and Jesse Nemgar were credited with assists.
Perry made 18 saves in goal for Fairbanks. Fresno goalie Jake Williams made 28 saves to notch the win for the Monsters.
Riley Borer, Josh Obregon, Walker Hyland, Manny Glaledakis and Willie Hess also scored goals for the Monsters.
The Ice Dogs (8-2-2) are idle until Oct. 22-23 when they host the Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla. Fresno (5-4-1) plays at Wenatchee next weekend.
Contact sports editor Bob Eley at 459-7581.