The host Fairbanks Ice Dogs were aggressive offensively for the first two periods against the Minot Minotauros in Friday night’s opener of a North American Hockey League series.
The Minotauros wore the aggressors’ skates in the third period but the Ice Dogs kept the North Dakota visitors from building on their momentum in the Big Dipper Ice Arena and held on for a 3-2 victory.
Before pulling out its third straight win and improving to 5-5-1, Fairbanks outshot Minot 28-11 and manufactured all of its goals during the first two periods.
Cayden Cahill’s eventual game-winner sent the Ice Dogs into the second intermission, but the mostly partisan crowd of 2,242 saw the Minotauros outshoot the hosts 10-9 in the third period and pressure Fairbanks goaltender Patrick Munson (19 saves).
“The first and second periods we played pretty well,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said. “It was kind of a risk-versus-reward thing in the third period. Mostly, the players that are new to our team were making the little mistakes that led to a big mistake with (second Minot) goal or sustained zone time for them.
“It was just a lot of learning that we need to do from it,’’ Stewart added.
One of those first-year players helped pull the second-place Ice Dogs to within one point of the first-place Minnesota Wilderness in the Midwest Division.
Cahill skated through the right circle at 12:09 of the second period and snapped a shot that rang in off of the right corner of the goalpost and eluded the glove of Minotauros netminder Atte Tolvanen (34 saves).
“I thought it was going to be a shot on net with a rebound or it was going in the back of the net,’’ said Cahill, a center who was assisted by fellow newcomer Ryner Gorowsky and veteran Ethan Somoza.
Nick Monfills cut the Ice Dogs’ lead to 3-2 at 6:22 of the third, blitzing in from the left side of the crease to tap in a rebound of Blake Lizotte’s shot that struck Munson’s pad.
Yannick Vedel, who had a goal and an assist for the Ice Dogs, described the Minotauros as a team “that doesn’t get a lot of pucks to the net but they get a lot of high-end chances.”
“I think that’s part of why the shots were that different but the score was that close,’’ Vedel said. “In the third, we made some bad decisions defensively and kind of let them transition on us, and off turnovers, they got shots. We obviously tried to eliminate that and we stuck in there, and granted, we went out with the win.”
Fairbanks killed two Minot power plays but missed on five opportunities Friday.
Vedel, aided by Chandler Madry, recorded the series’ first goal on a short-handed play at 14:49 of the first period. Minot, in third place in the Central Division at 4-3-1, evened the score at 26 seconds into the the second with Jacob Howe’s short-handed, set up by Troy Degler.
Lonnie Clary put Fairbanks ahead 2-1 at 10:22 of the second, taking advantage of helpers by Adam Wilcox and Vedel amid a crowd in front of the crease.
“Yannick did some hard work in front, Adam Wilcox fed him and Lonnie was the recipient of the goal on the back door,’’ Stewart said. “He just kept his feet moving and found the puck in a good area.”
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.