Benson secures shutout for Ice Dogs at Bismarck

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, in seven days, went from being shutout victims to shutout victors in the North American Hockey League.

The latter occurred with Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Bismarck Bobcats in the opening game of a non-divisional series in the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Josh Benson registered his first shutout of the season, and the veteran goaltender was supported by goals from newcomer Jake Willets and veteran Daniel Haider.

Benson turned away 21 shots by the 2-3-0-0 Bobcats, of the Central Division. The native of Stillwater, Minnesota added to the three career shutouts he recorded while playing in 18 games with the Ice Dogs last season.

“It started with Benny in the net. He got all the saves he was supposed to and he had a good game,’’ Ice Dogs assistant coach Scott Deur said by cellphone.

“Defensively, we kept it simple — get the puck to the forwards as quickly as possible,’’ Deur added.

The Midwest Division’s Ice Dogs, 4-1-0-0, were coming off a 4-0 loss to the Topeka RoadRunners on Sept. 23 in Fairbanks’ last game of the season-

opening NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota. The Ice Dogs were 3-0-0 in the tournament at Schwan’s Super Rink before the loss.

“It was a good bounce-back win for us,’’ Deur said of Friday’s victory over Bismarck. “It was good to see the guys rebound like that and get the ‘W.’”

Willets, a first-year Ice Dogs forward from Detroit, got a tough goal to help pave the way for the win.

With assists from newcomer defenseman Jake Borgida and veteran blueliner Erkka Vanska, Willets beat Bobcats goalie Ryan Ullan with a high shot on the short side of the net at 11:19 of the first period.

“Vanska was playing the puck in space and Willets came down the ice right behind him,” Deur said.

“It was a really nice shot and the only place he could have put to get a goal,’’ he added.

Haider parked his first goal of the season into an empty net at 19:38 of the third, aided by veteran forward Samuel Ruffin and newcomer Chilton Connor.

“His hard work, he finally got rewarded for it,’’ Deur said of Haider, who’s from Anchorage.

Ullan finished with 28 saves for Bismarck.

Both teams in the VFW Sports Center came up empty on power plays — the Ice Dogs 0 for 4 and the Bobcats 0 for 5.

The series wraps up with today’s game at 4:15 p.m. AKDT. The game can seen at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road.

“They (Bismarck) lost their first game in their barn this season,’’ Deur said. “They’re going to come out even stronger and tougher than they did tonight. Our guys have to be ready for that.”

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.