FAIRBANKS—Tayler Munson had seen four Fairbanks Ice Dogs teammates denied by Wenatchee Wild goaltender Greg Lewis during a shootout of the opener of the two-game North American Hockey League West Division series in the Big Dipper Ice Arena on Tuesday night.
Pavlo Padakin, JT Osborn, Rudy Sulmonte and Alec Hajdukovich either had their attempts greeted by Lewis’ pads or go awry.
Munson decided to be patient, leading to a 4-3 shootout victory and sole possession of first place in the division for the Ice Dogs.
Munson skated up to Lewis, waited briefly and then skated around the Wild netminder’s stick side to deposit a backhand.
“The first two guys did the same thing I did, but they just hit the pad,” Munson said before heading into the Ice Dogs lockerroom. “I just saw what they were doing and I opened it up and I just tried to get over his pad, and it happen to go in.”
Ice Dogs goaltender Alex Fons helped secure the shootout victory for the Ice Dogs (29-14-3) by withstanding attempts by Ben Carry, Jerad Tafoya, Max McHugh, Jacob Barber and Matt Cope.
The Ice Dogs also ended up recovering from the third-place Wild rattling off three unanswered goals in regulation, capped by Trace Redmond redirecting in Chris Knudson’s shot from the top of the right circle during an extra-attacker session with 1:26 left in the third period. The Wild (24-14-5) had pulled Lewis 19 seconds earlier for the extra skater.
Fairbanks had hoped to avoid an eventually scoreless 5-minute overtime period and the shootout after the Ice Dogs led 1-0 in the first period and 2-0 for most of the second period.
“We’ve just got to play more consistent,” said Osborn, who was credited with two goals, giving him 69 points for the season, which are two behind teammate Gabe Levin’s league-leading total.
“We’ve got to stick to the little things,” Osborn added. “We were getting away from the game plan. We’ve got to buckle down and block shots and do what it takes to not let that (Redmond’s goal) happen.”
Wenatchee head coach John Becanic was happy to see his team emerge with a point on Valentine’s night after the Wild were missing six players, including 6-foot-7 defenseman and team captain Kyle Huson to a bout of flu.
“I thought Fairbanks controlled the game for the most part, and they should have with us missing six (players),” Becanic said. “I think if you take Osborn, Hajdukovich and (Sean) O’Rourke out of the (Fairbanks) lineup, it’s a much different team. That was the case for us missing six pretty darn good players. So I’m really proud of us because we wanted to get a point out of tonight’s game, knowing how short we are.”
Osborn, aided by Russell Finch, provided the game’s first goal with 1.6 seconds left on the Big Dipper clock.
Finch attempted a shot from near the right point but was screened by a Wild. He instead flung it down low to Osborn, who scored with his own rebound from the right side of the crease.
“I was able to pick it up (pass) out of the corner and I know there wasn’t a lot of time left, so I just wanted to get it to the net ,” Osborn said. “I just jammed it as hard as I could and it went in.”
The Ice padded their lead to 3-1 in the second period, starting at 11:43 with Alec Hajdukovich’s unassisted backhand and Osborn drilling in a power-play wrist shot from the slot at 14:15.
The Wild avoided the shutout four seconds after the Ice Dogs completed their fourth straight penalty kill. Carey bolted in from the left side of the net to lift in a rebound of Dylan Abood’s shot from the high slot at 17:33.
Wenatchee’s Chris Kerr had a chance to cut Fairbanks’ lead to one on a penalty shot at 6:06 of third but his attempt struck the right post. Carey, though, made it 3-2 at 11:40 of the period with a wraparound effort before Redmond forced overtime.
Ice Dogs players wore pink jerseys to promote the Circle of Foundation’s “Stick it to Cancer,” campaign.
The jerseys had pink ribbons on the shoulders, big hearts on the backs and smaller hearts on the tails of the jerseys. The Ice Dogs’ stick blades and skate laces were pink. The Wild also skated with pink laces.
The on-ice officials were pink shirts with black stripes.
Some Ice Dogs jerseys were auctioned during intermissions.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.