FAIRBANKS — After being shut out by the Aston Rebels in a North American Hockey League tilt on Friday, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs were motivated at the start of Saturday’s rematch in Aston, Pennsylvania.
The Ice Dogs tested Aston goaltender Jack Leavy early and often, as Hunter Wendt gave Fairbanks a one-goal lead when he buried his ninth goal of the season just 5:38 into action.
However, Aston regained control and built a 2-1 advantage by the second intermission.
The Rebels piled their offense on in the third period, beating Fairbanks netminder Joshua Sarlo three times in the frame before ultimately skating to a 5-2 victory over the Ice Dogs.
“In the third period, it seemed like they were the stronger and better-conditioned hockey club at this point,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said in a phone interview.
“Their guys made some plays and we didn’t make those plays.”
With the loss, the Ice Dogs dop to 11-19-2-1. They sit in fifth place in the Midwest Division with 25 points.
Aston, meanwhile, improved its overall record to 26-5-1-0. The Rebels hold first place in the East Division with 53 points.
Minutes after Wendt scored for Fairbanks — Dean Hewines and Nick Rodgers both recorded assists on his goal — Aston evened the score 1-1 when Carter Woolley was the first to best Sarlo 10:57 into the contest.
Woolley’s sixth goal of the season sparked the Rebels offense, as Gianluca Esteves, Evgeny Yakovlev and Ryan Patrick each tickled the twine before Nolan Schaeffer cut the Ice Dogs’ deficit to 4-2 with 1:01 remaining in the third period.
Nick Rogers and Robert Blueger tallied assists on Schaeffer’s fourth goal of the season.
Leavy secured the win with 24 saves, while Sarlo finished with 16 saves in defeat.
Fairbanks outshot Aston 8-3 in the opening frame, though, that didn’t matter after Esteves lit the lamp to give the Rebels a 2-1 advantage with 45 seconds to play in the middle period.
Neither team capitalized on two power-play opportunities.
Saturday’s result marked the third straight loss for the Ice Dogs. They were blanked 4-0 on Friday after the Johnstown Tomahawks dished out 5-1 and 3-0 losses on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, respectively.
Fairbanks has gone 4-5-0-0 on its current East Division road trip. The team will close out its visit to the East Coast when it visits the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in Pittston, Pennsylvania on Jan. 14 and 15.
The series opener starts at 3:30 p.m. AKST and the last game of the trip is set for an 8:30 a.m. AKST start.
After that, the Ice Dogs wil return home and host the Northeast Generals in a three-game series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena on Jan. 19-21.
But before Fairbanks can begin thinking about home cooking, Stewart said his club needs to
manufacture results against the Knights.
“We need to get some points out of that weekend to get back into the playoff picture before our homestand,” the coach said. “It’s as simple as that. We need to get some points.”
Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: