FAIRBANKS – Down a goal with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs were itching to get their league-leading power play on the ice.
The Kenai River Brown Bears obliged twice and the Ice Dogs put in late goals by James Saintey and newcomer Justin Kirchhevel to pull out a 3-2 victory Friday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
\”To turn it over to that kind of offense and that kind of a power play is not a place to put yourself in,\” Kenai River coach Oliver David said.
Added Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge, who wasn\’t happy with his team\’s play in the second period: \”It\’s a good thing our power play bailed us out.\”
The Brown Bears had allowed only two power-play opportunities – and killed both – before Derek Bayagich hooked the Ice Dogs\’ Jon Feavel and Matthew Cinader slashed Fairbanks\’ Michael Juola in a four-minute span.
Fairbanks made them pay each time.
First, a wide-open Saintey one-timed a blast from the right circle that found the top shelf with 8:35 left.
\”They were playing off him because Justin Kirchhevel is such a threat, so it allowed James to have that space and he buried it,\” Hauge said.
With the crowd finally engaged, Kirchhevel scored from point-blank range off a pass from Joe Krause with 5:39 remaining.
\”Krause was sitting on the half wall. He made a great feed backdoor to me,\” Kirchhevel said. \”I just snuck back there where they can\’t see you. … I couldn\’t really miss from there.\”
Kirchhevel has had quite a month with the Ice Dogs since being acquired Nov. 24. He was the NAHL West Division player of the week on Dec. 14 and Friday got his first game-winner.
Kenai River fell to 7-25-2, the worst record in the North American Hockey League. Fairbanks moved to 21-12-1 and is now 12-3-0 at the Big Dipper this season.
Mike Taffe made 15 saves for the Ice Dogs to improve to 15-2-0. Kenai River\’s Dainis Vasiljevs – a 6-foot-2, 210-pound Latvian – blocked 27 shots but was the tough-luck loser.
Jon Feavel opened the scoring at 8:38 of the first period when he took a nifty no-look pass from Tyler Voigt and snuck in a shot just inside the upper left post.
Kenai River responded with second-period goals from Johan Skinnars and Josh Royston (on the power play) to claim a 2-1 advantage that held up until Fairbanks\’ late rally.
Fairbanks is 8-2 against Kenai River and the rivals have played eight times since Nov. 20. They\’ll meet again tonight at
7:30 p.m. and goaltender Joe Phillippi will get the nod in net for the first time since being reacquired by the Ice Dogs.
\”We gotta be a lot better tomorrow night,\” Hauge said.
Contact staff writer Matias Saari at 459-7591.