A pre-game spotlight in the Big Dipper Ice Arena shined Friday night on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs’ five North American Hockey League banners from last season, particularly the one for the Robertson Cup championship.
An emotional spotlight turned to Yannick Vedel at 10:20 of the second period against the Bismarck Bobcats in the Ice Dogs’ first home game this season.
The veteran forward delivered the game-winner in the 3-1 victory with a penalty shot after he was pushed down from behind in the slot during a solo breakaway.
Vedel beat Bobcats goaltender Alex Bitsakis with a backhand that rang in off of the right post on Bitsakis’ glove side.
“I tried to make one strong move but I think he got a piece of it. Fortunately, it snuck in,” Vedel said while walking to the Ice Dogs lockerroom after the game.
“It was a happy moment, and it gave us the win at home in our opener,’’ he added. “I think that’s big for the team.”
Fellow veteran forward Jacob Hetz, with Hans Gorowsky’s second assist Friday and a helper from Jakob Stridsberg, sealed the win with an empty-net shot with 46 seconds left in the game. Goaltender Patrick Munson stopped 23 of 24 shots, helping the Ice Dogs improve to 3-5-1 to end a four-game losing streak and move into fourth place in the Midwest Division.
Bitsakis stopped 25 shots for the Bobcats, of North Dakota and the NAHL’s Central Division. Bismarck, which faces the Ice Dogs again at 7:30 tonight at the Dipper, slipped to 3-4-0 for a fourth-place tie with the Brookings (South Dakota) Blizzard.
Chandler Madry, another Ice Dogs veteran forward, provided the game’s first goal, and Fairbanks’ first of the season on its home ice, as time was expiring in the opening period.
Madry sent a shot from the high slot and the puck went high off the glass behind the net. Ice Dogs teammate Lonnie Clary gained the puck amid a scramble in front of the crease and Madry joined in, getting the puck on his stick and sneaking it in the net with 37 seconds left in the first period.
The Bobcats made it 1-1 inf the second period, as Anthony Song gained an assist from Alex Toscano and surprised Munson at the 12-minute mark.
Both teams missed on two power-play opportunities in the game that drew a sellout crowd of 2,242.
Following this weekend’s series, the Ice Dogs return to the Dipper to face another Central Division team, the Minot (South Dakota) Minotauros, at 7:30 p.m. next Friday and Saturday.
Minot are in third place in the Central at 3-2-1 following Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss to the the Kenai River Brown Bears in Soldotna. The Brown Bears, at 4-5-0, are tied for second in the Midwest with the Minnesota Magicians.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.