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Ice Dogs top Avalanche; take 2-0 series lead

Thanks to their power play on Saturday, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs are in position to sweep the Alaska Avalanche.

The Ice Dogs used three power-play goals to key a 6-4 win over the Avalanche that gives them a commanding 2-0 lead in their opening-round North American Hockey League playoff series.

The Ice Dogs, who sported the league\’s second-best power-play percentage during the regular season, scored on their first three attempts with the man-advantage on Saturday at the Menard Memorial Arena in Wasilla. 

The goals by Matt Millis (17:38 of the first period), George Michalke (4:13 of the second) and Aaron McGill (13:50 of the second) sprung the Ice Dogs to a 4-1 lead. 

\”Guys were just going to the net hard,\” Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge said by phone, adding that the team\’s power play had struggled a bit toward the end of the season.

The Ice Dogs can clinch the West Division first-round series on Friday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena. A fourth game, if necessary, would be Saturday at the Dipper.

\”We definitely want to close them out on Friday and not give them any hope,\” Hauge said.

The Ice Dogs entered the series with the mission of winning at least one of the opening two games in Wasilla in order to steal the home-ice advantage. They accomplished that with a 2-1 overtime win on Friday, then one-upped themselves on Saturday.

\”Worse-case scenario, we were hoping for a split,\” Hauge said.

The regular-season champion Wenatchee Wild lead the Kenai River Brown Bears 2-0 in the other West Division playoff series.

Joe Krause\’s goal 22 seconds after McGill\’s put the Ice Dogs ahead by four goals after two periods and Fairbanks withstood a comeback bid from the Avalanche in the third period.

Mark Pustin (at 59 seconds into the second period) and Michael Juola (5:21 of the third) also scored for the Ice Dogs.

Michalke\’s goal was his first in 

10 games for Fairbanks. \”He\’s been playing hard and I was glad to see him get rewarded,\” Hauge said.

James Saintey and Zach Tolkinen each contributed two assists for the Ice Dogs, who finished three points behind the second-place Avalanche in the regular season standings.

The Avalanche pulled within two goals on tallies by Jed McGlasson and Kyle Pichler 73 seconds apart midway through the third period.

\”It was getting close to getting nervewracking,\” Hauge said.

But Fairbanks goalie Joe Phillippi, starting for the second straight night, shut the door to finish with 30 saves. Landon Peterson also made 30 stops for the Avalanche.