FAIRBANKS – Suddenly, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are starting to play defense.
Couple that defense with red-hot goaltender Joe Phillippi, and the Ice Dogs have posted two straight North American Hockey League shutout wins against the Alaska Avalanche.
Friday night the Ice Dogs scored a goal in each period and Phillippi made 21 saves for a 3-0 win.
\”It\’s something we\’ve been stressing in practice and it\’s nice to see them finally start doing it,\” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said of the Ice Dogs\’ defensive effort. \”I\’m really glad to see it\’s finally starting to pay off.\”
The Ice Dogs opened the three-game series with a 1-0 win on Thursday night.
Michael Juola, Josh Nelson and James Saintey had two points apiece for the Ice Dogs. Juola and Nelson each had a goal and an assist, while Saintey had two helpers.
Juola got what proved to be the game-winner on the power play at 1:20 of the first period.
Nelson scored his goal on the power play just 39 seconds into the second after the Ice Dogs pulled Phillipi for an extra attacker to give them a 6-on-4 advantage.
\”It\’s something we\’ve been working on in practice,\” Hauge said. \”It\’s a little risky, but it ended up working for us. It\’s something we may try again.\”
Justin Kirchhevel scored the final goal of the game into an empty net with 1:07 remaining. Aaron McGill and Brock Carlston picked up the assists.
Avalanche goalie Landon Peterson stopped 28 shots Friday night.
Hauge said he\’s concerned about the Ice Dogs\’ lack of production offensively in the past month or so, but he expects the Dogs to pick it up soon.
\”I know high-end skill players go through slumps,\’\’ he said, \”but now that we\’ve got them playing defense, I know they\’ll come out of their slumps.\”
The win gives the Ice Dogs a five-point cushion against the Avalanche in the NAHL standings. The Dogs have played five more games than the Avalanche.
The two teams play again at 7 tonight in Wasilla.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.