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Ice Dogs win shootout with Johnstown Tomahawks

By:  Danny Martin, dmartin@newsminer.com

 FAIRBANKS — The mood Saturday night in the Big Dipper Ice Arena and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs lockerroom was more upbeat compared with a night earlier.

The Ice Dogs prevailed 3-2 in a shootout against the Johnstown Tomahawks for a split of the North American Hockey League series that marked Fairbanks’ first games of the 2016-17 on its home ice.

Veteran right wing Cayden Cahill made the only conversion of the shootout for the Ice Dogs, who improved to 5-2-1-1 for 12 points and second place in the Midwest Division.  Joshua Sarlo, in his goaltending debut for the Ice Dogs, denied 25 of 27 shots in regulation and denied all three Tomahawks participants in the shootout.

The Tomahawks, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and the NAHL’s East Division, trounced the Ice Dogs 5-1 Friday. The loss dampened Fairbanks’ home-opening night that featured a pregame ceremony of several banners from last season unveiled, including one for the Robertson Cup national championship. The Ice Dogs also captured the Tier II Junior A league’s prized trophy in 2011 and 2014.

The Ice Dogs played better puck control Saturday compared to the home opener.

“We didn’t turn over as many pucks in bad areas,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by cellphone. “We were a little bit harder on the pucks and there’s still so much room for improvement.

“That’s encouraging, and obviously, it’s encouraging that we found ways to get a point (in the standings for going to overtime) and get another point in the shootout. 

“We need to understand the consistency our of compete needs to increase, starting in practice and every single time we take the ice,’’ Stewart added.

The Ice Dogs scored the game’s first goal Friday, but the Tomahawks took the honor Saturday with Nick Bruce’s goal at 13:48 of the first period with assists from Mitchell Hale and Joshua Norman.

Veteran defenseman Aaron McPheters tied it for the Ice Dogs with the first of their two power-play tallies Saturday. McPheters’ man-

advantage deposit at 40 seconds into the second period was aided by Hampus Erikkson and Dean Hewines.

Samuel Solensky’s

power-play goal at 6:03, with help from Joseph Kile and Hayden Rowan, gave the Tomahawks a 2-1 edge. With 19 seconds left in the period and the Ice Dogs on the power play, Schaeffer found the back of the net with help from Erikkson and McPheters.

Schaeffer, in his first season as an Ice Dogs defenseman, provided the team’s only goal Friday.

Both teams went scoreless in the 5-minute overtime. 

Cahill converted his shootout opportunity as the Ice Dogs’ first participant. Johnstown goaltender Drew Hotte denied Daniel Haider’s chance.

Sarlo turned away attempts by Solensky, Dalton Hunter and Donovan Ott.

The Ice Dogs play host to another East Division team, the New Jersey Titans, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Contact sports editor Danny Martinat 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.