FAIRBANKS—Jesper Ohrvall missed 33 of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ 40 games this season to recover from a concussion and a nerve problem in his neck.
The first-year Ice Dogs right wing said he wanted to help Fairbanks win against the Wenatchee Wild in Friday night’s opener of the North American Hockey League nondivisional series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Ohrvall provided gargantuan help, producing four goals and an assist in the Ice Dogs’ 7-1 victory before a partisan crowd on 2,242.
“This is my way to help the team win,” Ohrvall, a native of Halmstad, Sweden, said after the game. “I’m really glad I can help the team win; that was the most important thing for me.”
Ethan Somoza contributed two goals, Yannick Vedel pitched in a first-period marker and goaltender Patrick Munson registered 30 saves for the Ice Dogs, who improved their second-place record in the Midwest Division to 26-11-3.
The Ice Dogs, with 55 points in the standings, are just one point behind the Minnesota Wilderness, who fell to 26-10-4 following Friday’s 2-0 loss to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings in Cloquet, Minnesota.
“I think puck luck was on our side today. I thought our team worked hard out there tonight,’’ said Jacob Hetz, who distributed three assists Friday along with fellow Ice Dogs veteran forward Chandler Madry.
Munson, who improved to 18-5-0 this season, faced some hard shots from the Wild, including attempts in the first period that bounced high out from his pads. The Ice Dogs netminder, though, rarely saw a second shot Friday as his teammates often cleared pucks from in front of him.
“They’re a really fast and skilled team, and we knew right away that you’ve got to weather the storm against them,” Munson said.
Fairbanks gained individual assists Friday from Johnny Mueller, Robin Karlsson, Hans Gorowsky and Todd Burgess.
The Wild, of Washington, got a second-period goal from Collin Burston and 27 saves from Zach Quinn in their sixth of seven games this season against the Ice Dogs. Wenatchee, 15-18-7 for fifth place in the South Division, and Fairbanks close their season series at 7:30 tonight in the Big Dipper.
The Ice Dogs, despite getting outshot 14-12 for the first period, grabbed a 2-0 lead in a 39-second span during the opening stanza.
Ohrvall, set up by Hetz and Madry, scored into an empty net at 3:31 after Quinn was out of position. Vedel, at 4:10, parked himself at the left side of the crease to sneak in a shot, courtesy of feeds from Mueller and Clary.
Among Munson’s stinginess during the first 20 minutes of the game was backstopping two penalty kills and stoping a two-on-one breakaway.
“We had a lot of energy early,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said. “After we scored that second goal, I thought, for the most part, they had a quite a bit of momentum and scoring chances for the remainder of the first period.
“We were fortunate to get out of that (period) up two,’’ he added.
The Ice Dogs denied four power play for the night while going 1 for 2 with the man advantage.
Ohrvall pushed the Ice Dogs to a 4-1 lead in the second period while recording his first hat trick of the season.
Ohrvall buzzed into the slot to one-time in Hetz’s crossing pass at 12:08, just 27 seconds after Collin Burston provided the Wild’s first goal on a rebound shot in the low slot. Burston was assisted by Brendan Harris and Jake Ahlgren, who each notched their team-high 29th points for the Wild.
“I think Hetzie worked really hard for me today. He gave the puck in good opportunities and hopefully, I could score,” Ohrvall said.
Ohrvall, with help from Madry and Hetz, had put the Ice Dogs in front 3-0 at the 5-minute mark of the second with a shot from the mid slot.
Ohrvall, aided again by Hetz and Madry, generated his fourth goal of the night at 8:28 of the third, one-timing the puck in from near the right edge of the crease.
“He’s a skilled player and tonight, things were just going in for him,” Stewart said. “He had a good game and I thought his linemates, particularly Jake Hetz, worked really hard and found him in some areas where he could be successful.”
Ohrvall and Karlsson aided Somoza’s put-back backhand from the right side of the crease at 11:34 of the third for Fairbanks’ first power-play conversion of the weekend.
Somoza, assisted by Hans Gorowsky and Burgess, finished off a rush for the game’s final goal with 44 seconds left on the Big Dipper clock.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: