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Ice Dogs fall to Johnstown Tomahawks in series-ending shootout

Danny Martin Dmartin@newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS—Consistency is expected to be an emphasis for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs as the North American Hockey League regular season winds down.

The Ice Dogs didn’t have enough consistency in Saturday night’s finale of a North American Hockey League series against the Johnstown Tomahawks at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

The Ice Dogs fell 4-3 in a shootout after holding a 2-0 lead in the first period and a 3-2 edge in the third period of the nondivisional contest.

“I just think we don’t control our consistency throughout the game very well and that’s what happens sometimes,’’ said Ice Dogs center Chandler Madry, who produced the game’s first goal and is the league’s second-leading scorer with 19 goals and 47 assists for 66 points in 52 games.

“We need to be consistent throughout each shift …” Madry added. “When we take shifts off, that what happens and we find the puck in the back of our nets sometimes.”

One consolation of the shootout setback is the Ice Dogs gained a point in the Midwest Division standings and moved into a first-place tie with the Minnesota Wilderness, as each team has 72 points. The Ice Dogs are 34-14-4 and the Wilderness are 33-11-6 following Saturday night’s 8-4 loss to the Bismarck Bobcats in a nondivisional game in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The first-place tie, though, doesn’t mean that consistency won’t be addressed in this week’s practices for a nondivisional series against the Minot Minotauros on Friday and Saturday in Minot, North Dakota.

“When we weren’t playing well it’s all based on decisions — poor decisions on our part,”  Ice Dogs assistant coach Paul Kirtland. “Getting those out of the game is biggest thing for us, and with that will come consistency.” 

A series split came on Saturday night for Johnstown, courtesy of Alex Alger’s offense.

The Tomahawks center scored two goals in regulation, including the overtime-forcing tally. Alger also provided the lone conversion in the shootout following a scoreless, five-minute overtime session.

The shootout was scoreless after Ice Dogs goaltender Kevin Aldridge had denied Tanner Barnes and Zac Robbins and Tomahawks counterpart Ryan Bednard had stopped backhands by Ice Dogs center Hans Gorowsky and Madry. 

Alger snapped a forehand shot from just inside the left circle and the puck went in slightly over Aldridge’s glove.

“I’ve done it in the past and I’ve had success with it,” Alger said of his attempt. “I kind of had it in my head going forward, and when he played how I wanted him to play it, he left a lot of that glove side open.

“So I just took what I had there and luckily, managed to bury it,’’ he added.

Aldridge, who also denied Joe Drabin and Steven Quagliata in the shootout, finished with 20 saves. Bednard, also stopping Jesper Ohrvall, Todd Burgess and Jacob Hetz in the shootout, ended the game with 36 saves.

Ice Dogs defenseman Johnny Mueller scored twice in regulation, including at 2:14 of the third period to give the hosts a 3-2 lead. Mueller took Adam Wilcox’s second assist of the night and lined a shot from the left circle, beating a screened Bednard into an open right side of the net.

Alger forced made it 3-3 and forced overtime at 5:26 of the third, getting behind two Ice Dogs on a rush and wrapping the puck around Aldridge’s glove-side skate. Robbins assisted Alger for the second straight time and Barnes also helped on the play.

The Tomahawks tied it at 2 in the second period, starting with Joe Delandro’s shot from the left circle at 3:50, aided by Collin Montgomery and Dalton Hunter. Alger, with help Brady Bender and Robbins, scored through traffic in front of the crease at 8:58.

Madry sparked the Ice Dogs and their fans by scoring at 22 seconds into the game, courtesy of assists from Robin Karlsson and Hetz, who is tied for fifth among league scores with 24-33-57 totals in 52 games.

Mueller found the back of the net at 11:12, aided by Burgess and Wilcox.

The game also was the last of a 17-game, eight-week stint in Alaska for the Ice Dogs. Fairbanks finished the state stand at 13-2-2.

Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:

@newsminersports.