By: Danny Martin
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs tied the Coulee Region Chill early in the first period of Friday night’s North American Hockey League game in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
That was the only time that Chill goaltender Todd Scott-AP had a puck get past him in the opening game of the Midwest Division series at the Green Island Arena.
The Ice Dogs didn’t build on Blueger’s contribution and lost 5-1.
“Our compete needs to step up,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by cellphone.“We didn’t win a lot of puck battles; we lost a lot races to the puck; and then we were chasing the game,” Stewart continued.
“We need to do a way better job of putting ourselves in position to win battles.”
The Ice Dogs, at 7-5-1-1 for 16 points, remained in third place in the Midwest standings, but slightly ahead of Coulee Region, which is 7-4-1-0 for 15 points.
Joshua Sarlo started at goaltender for the Ice Dogs and he compiled 10 saves among 14 shots. CJ Boothe came in later and denied all 11 shots he encountered.
Scott-AP made 30 saves for the Chill.
Blueger, a first-year Ice Dogs center from Riga, Latvia, provided his third goal and fourth point of the season at 4:20 of the first period, aided by defenseman Dean Hewines and forward Samuel Ruffin.
Ruffin sent the puck to Hewines, whose shot from the left point was redirected in by Blueger.
“It wasn’t anything special. He (Blueger) was in the right place at the right time,’’ Stewart said.
Kevin Dineen had two goals and two assists for Coulee Region. His efforts started with the game’s first goal at 1:36 of the opening period with assists from Marshall Plunkett and and Joey Sofo.
Trenton Bliss produced the game-winner and gave the Chill lead with help from Matt Doran and Caleb Schroer at 11:46 of the first.
The Chill stretched their lead to 4-1 in the second period with goals from Sofo and Dineen.
Sofo scored at 4:39 with assists from Dineen and Plunkett, and Dineen capitalized on a power play at 10:45, set up by Isaac Theisen and Bliss.
Theisen, with help from Schroer, sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 57 seconds left in the third period.
The Ice Dogs and Chill resume their rivalry at 4 p.m. ADT today.
After the series, the Ice Dogs remain in Wisconsin and take on the Janesville Jets at the Janesville Arena next Friday and Saturday.
Janesville, in second place in the Midwest, lost 5-4 Friday to the fifth-place Springfield Jr. Blues in Springfield, Illinois.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.