FAIRBANKS — Usually, the term “hard-fought win” is a euphemism.
Not for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Friday night, when they punched, gouged and wrestled their way to a 7-3 victory over the Alaska Avalanche in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The ordeal lasted three hours, taken up mostly by a 75-minute third period in which several players and Avalanche coach Dave Boitz were ejected.
Oh, and they played hockey, too.
The brawls in the third period left Alaska at a 5-on-3 disadvantage for several minutes. The Ice Dogs capitalized by scoring two of their six power-play goals on the evening.
“It wasn’t pretty as we would like it, but our power play really came through,” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said.
The special teams dominance began in the first period.
With 9:50 remaining in the first, Ice Dogs forward Kyle Politz snuck the puck into a four-man barricade in front of the crease with teammate Jon Waggoner in the center. The puck pinged around and eventually popped into the goal for the first power play conversion on a 6-of-12 night for the Ice Dogs.
In the first six minutes of the second period, Tyler Voigt and Zach Tolkinen each deposited the puck to give Fairbanks a 3-0 lead.
Forward Zach Smith and Berkley Scott got the Avalanche back in the game with two goals at 14:07 and 15:49 of the second period, but a long pass from Fairbanks’ Josh Nelson to Michael Juola resulted in a goal with 3.5 seconds before the period ended.
Nelson’s pass — from behind Fairbanks’ goal to Juola at the opposite blue line — marked the end of the game and the beginning of the wrestling bout.
The Ice Dogs (23-12-1) increased their lead over Alaska (17-11-6) by seven points in the NAHL West division standings. Fairbanks is in second place, 17 points behind the Wenatchee Wild.
The Ice Dogs can make that lead nine points with a win at the Big Dipper at 7:30 tonight.
“We’re fighting for that (No. 2) division spot with them right now,” Hauge said. “Tomorrow is what matters. What we did tonight doesn’t matter anymore.”
Forgetting this game might be tough for either team to do. They served a combined 203 minutes for 47 penalties.
Juola, who tops the NAHL with 54 points after a goal and two assists Friday, was removed from the game in the third period after he took a hard check from behind and, later, a stick to the face that left him bloody.
Juola did not seem to suffer any significant injuries — he was clean-faced after the game and walking normally.
“Obviously, Mike’s a talented guy and we’ve got to protect him,” Hauge said. “I don’t know if they were going after him, but if they were, we have to protect him. He knows he’s going to get some liberties taken out on him.”
Fairbanks goalie Mike Taffe got the win, stopping just 10 pucks on a seemingly uneventful night. With 30 seconds left in the game, though, he was involved in a scrum that caused him to be ejected and — as he told Hauge after the game — bit.
Contact staff writer Joshua Armstrong at 459-7523.