Ice Dogs overcome sluggish start for 4-2 win

By Brad Joyal, BJOYAL@NEWSMINER.COM

FAIRBANKS — Sometimes one shot is all it takes to get a team going.

After surrendering two first-period goals to the Shreveport Mudbugs, Fairbanks forward Luke Orysiuk gave the Ice Dogs the spark they needed minutes into the middle frame.

The defenseman from Endmonton, Alberta, buried a goal on Fairbanks’ first power play of the night, and it sparked a scoring spree that helped the Ice Dogs leave the Big Dipper Ice Arena with a 4-2 victory over the Mudbugs on Friday night.

“It was huge,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said of Orysiuk’s goal, which cut the team’s deficit to 2-1 exactly 3 minutes into the second period. “For us to score on that (power play) gave us some momentum. It was a big key for us to turn it around in our favor.”

Orysiuk’s blast came 57 seconds into a man-advantage after Shreveport forward Jordan Fader was sent to the penalty box for cross checking at the 2:03 mark.

The Fairbanks defenseman gathered the puck at the top of the slot and quickly took a couple strides toward the Mudbugs’ net. Although the puck was off edge and spinning like a merry-go-round, Orysiuk let it rip and beat Shreveport goaltender James Durham for the Ice Dogs’ first goal of the night.

“(The puck) was a little in front of me and there were a lot of guys out front,” Orysiuk said. “I just thought, ‘If I could get it through, it’s going to have a good chance.’ That got everybody up.”

Fairbanks never looked back after the goal. Jack Johnston netted the equalizer off a rebound 9:20 into the second period before Erkka Vanska launched a rocket into the top corner past the blocker of Durham, who made 24 saves in defeat.

Vanska’s game-winner, which was his fifth goal this season, also came on an Ice Dogs power play and gave the team a 3-2 lead at the 12:58 mark of the second period.

“Obviously we laid an egg during the second period,” Shreveport head coach Karlis Zimis said after his club, which competes in the South Division of the North American Hockey League, fell to 10-4-0-1.

“We took some bad penalties and had to pay for it,” Zimis continued. “We just have to be more disciplined tomorrow.”

The Ice Dogs players were glad to see the power-play unit come alive to help the team improve to 8-3-0-2 on the season.

“It’s important for us to capitalize on our chances when we have them,” Vanska said. “We did a good job of doing that tonight.”

“You don’t even have to necessarily score on the power play,” Orysiuk said, “you just have to get some chances to give the team some momentum.”

Fairbanks forward Caleb Hite padded the team’s lead to 4-2 with his team-best eighth goal of the season 17:44 into the third period. It was his second point of the night after tallying a helper on Orysiuk’s score.

Hunter Wendt, Jake Borgida, Jake Willets, Robert Blueger and Kyle Mayhew also recorded assists for the Ice Dogs. The team’s goaltender, Josh Benson, stopped 29 shots to secure the win after Brendan Gysbers and Jake Transit lit the lamp to give the visitors an early 2-0 lead.

Although the Ice Dogs controlled play throughout the final two periods, Stewart said his players need to get off to a quicker start.

“We’ve got to move our feet,” he said. “It was like men among boys during the first period. They were winning puck battles, they were first to the puck and we were just chasing the game.”

After snapping a losing skid following back-to-back losses to Midwest Division rival Minnesota at home last weekend, the Ice Dogs hope to extend their winning streak when they finish the series against the Mudbugs at 7:30 p.m. today back at the Big Dipper.

“We need to start stringing some stuff together,” Stewart said. “If you don’t do that, you’re just a .500 club or lower. Hopefully we learn from tonight and be a little better tomorrow.”

Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMSportsGuy.