Fairbanks overcomes late mistake to knock off Avalanche

FAIRBANKS – The Fairbanks Ice Dogs extended their winning streak to eight games by the slimmest of margins on Friday night before nearly 2,000 frenzied fans at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

After scoring the go-ahead goal with a little more than three minutes remaining, the Ice Dogs gave up the game-tying goal with less than a minute to play.

A scoreless overtime period didn\’t decide the winner, so the Ice Dogs won the five-player shootout 2-1 to claim a 3-2 victory over the Alaska Avalanche in a battle of North American Hockey League South division rivals.

\”It was a good defensive hockey game,\” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said. \”The first period was a little sloppy by both teams, but the second and third periods were back-and-forth. It was a lot of fun.\”

The shootout victory enabled the Ice Dogs (18-11-1) to pull within one point of the second-place Avalanche (16-6-6) in the South standings. The two teams meet again at 7:30 tonight in the final game of the three-game series that started with a 6-2 Ice Dogs win on Thursday night.

\”It\’s a big game for us,\” Hauge said. \”We\’d like to close out the series with a win and move into second place.\”

It is the last meeting between the two teams prior to the holiday break.

The Ice Dogs do have more games before the break, however, playing two games at the Kenai River Brown Bears next weekend, and hosting the Brown Bears on Dec. 18-19.

Just as they did in Thursday night\’s game, the Avalanche jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Beau Walker found the back of the net off a pass from Tyler Svoboda.

And just like Thursday night\’s game, the Ice Dogs roared back with a power-play goal, this time by Mark Pustin off assists from Kyle Politz and Jared Larson.

\”It was a real nice tic-tac-toe passing play,\” Hauge said.

That\’s where the similarities between Thursday night\’s win and Friday night\’s heart-stopper ended.

Instead of erupting for five goals in the second as they did on Thursday, the Ice Dogs went scoreless until the 16:58 mark of the third period while Kyle Politz tipped a shot from the point by Sean O\’Rourke past Avalanche goalie Landon Peterson. Politz also assisted on the goal.

\”It was just a real hard-working goal,\” Hauge said.

The Avalanche sent the game into overtime when Berkley Scott took advantage of an Ice Dogs turnover and scored with 56 seconds remaining.

\”It was a situation we haven\’t been in too often this season,\” Hauge said. \”I thought we could have handled it a whole lot better.\”

After a scoreless overtime period, Fairbanks got goals from Zach Tolkinen (first shooter) and Brock Carlston (third) win 2-1.

\”Both shots were pretty much the same, low to the blocker side,\” Hauge said.

Blake Huppert scored on Alaska\’s first shot, but Ice Dogs goalie Michael Taffe stopped the next four Avalanche attempts to preserve the win.

The Ice Dogs didn\’t need the last shootout shot.

Taffe made 26 saves in improving to 13-1 on the season. Peterson recorded 28 saves for the Avalanche.

Contact sports editor Bob Eley at 459-7581.