FAIRBANKS—The Fairbanks Ice Dogs often resided in the low-slot neighborhood — particularly in the third period — in Friday night’s North American Hockey League game in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Ice Dogs became frequent visitors to the front of the crease during the opener of their weekend Midwest Division and Ravn Alaska Cup series against the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Fairbanks’ journeys to the low slot proved bountiful in a 7-2 victory that kept the Ice Dogs within one point of the division-leading Minnesota Wilderness.
“Kenai (River) is a hard-working group, and overall, we’ve just got to be better at getting those dirty goals,’’ said Ice Dogs left wing Jacob Hetz, who scored in the third period, and along with center Chandler Madry, assisted on both of linemate Jesper Ohrvall’s team-high two goals.
“I think we brought it together, realizing that’s what it’s going to take in the playoffs and we’re going to have to start doing it now,” added Hetz, a third-year veteran for the NAHL’s reigning Robertson Cup champion.
Goaltender Patrick Munson collected 22 saves and Adam Wilcox, Tyler Tomberlin, Hans Gorowsky and Jakob Stridsberg provided goals to help the Ice Dogs imrprove to 29-13-3 for 61 points. Fairbanks is one point back of the Wilderness, 29-10-4 and a 4-2 winner Friday over the visiting Minot (North Dakota) Minotauros.
Zack Zulkanycz accounted for both goals and Evan Hauser stopped 23 shots for fifth-place Kenai River (13-30-2).
Ohrvall snapped a 1-1 deadlock with his goal at the end of a rush at 33 seconds into the second. Ohrvall’s seventh goal in the last five games was started by Madry’s first of three assists Friday for the league-high scorer (60 points in 45 games).
Tomberlin capitalized on assists from Hans Gorowsky and Ethan Somoza at 9:31 of the second for the two-goal cushion for the Ice Dogs.
Hans Gorowsky gained an assist from Somoza, the NAHL’s No. 5 scorer with 52 points, at 2:14 into the third for a 4-1 lead for Fairbanks.
Zulkanycz cut the lead in half at 4:11, as Jack Gessert’s centering pass deflected in off the Brown Bears forward. Maurin Bouvet also assisted.
The Ice Dogs recovered later in the third with a pair of goals from the low slot.
Hetz, the league’s third-leading scorer, buried his 24th of the season at 4:27, aided by Madry and Josef Ingman’s first of back-to-back assists.
Stridsberg converted Fairbanks’ first power-play opportunity at 7:18, helped by Ingman.
Ohrvall, with help from Hetz and Madry, surprised Hauser with another low-slot marker at 7:33 of the third.
“In front of the net, that’s the place where you score goals,’’ Ohrvall emphasized.
Wilcox, with helpers from John Zimmerman and Lonnie Clary, delivered the game’s first goal for the Ice Dogs at 2:20 of the first period. Zulkanycz answered with a rebound goal from about the mid slot at 4:31, set up by Alex Jackstadt and Evan Butcher.
The Ice Dogs lead this season’s Ravn Alaska Cup Series at 7-1. The teams meet again at 7:30 p.m. today.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.