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Fairbanks Ice Dogs win defensive struggle

FAIRBANKS – The Fairbanks Ice Dogs persevered for nearly 57 minutes Thursday night in Wasilla, as they held on for a 1-0 victory over the Alaska Avalanche in a battle between two top teams in the North American Hockey League.

Center Aaron McGill\’s goal at 3 minutes, 28 seconds into the first period proved to be all the offense the second-place Ice Dogs would need against the third-place Avalanche. Only one point separated the teams in the standings prior to the opener of their three-game West Division series at the Curtis C. Menard III Memorial Arena.

\”I think it was a commitment to defense, which we haven\’t had a whole lot this year. I think we\’ve tried to outscore teams a bit,\’\’ Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge said from Wasilla. \”Tonight, we took pride in defending and we got good goaltending from Phillipi.\”

Left wing Justin Kirchhevel and defenseman Brock Carlston assisted on McGill\’s sixth goal of the season and goaltender Joe Phillippi stopped 20 shots to register his first shutout of 2009-10 while improving to 4-4-1.

Kirchhevel had returned from shoulder injury that sidelined him for six games and the Ice Dogs also welcomed back right wing Matt Millis, who missed the team\’s last 40 games because of a broken wrist.

Fairbanks, 28-19-3, had chances to stretch its lead Thursday but it missed on 10 power plays. The Ice Dogs, though, denied six man-advantage sessions for the Avalanche.

\”Our power play was disappointing,\” Hauge said. \”We weren\’t winning one-on-one battles that we normally do, and we some poor decisions with the puck.\”

Kale Robertson, who turned away Fairbanks\’ power plays, made 18 saves for the Avalanche (25-14-6). 

The teams meet again at 7 tonight and Saturday.

Contact the Daily News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.