Ice Dogs beat Wilderness in shootout

Posted: Friday, October 31, 2014 11:41 pm | Updated: 7:42 am, Sat Nov 1, 2014.

Danny Martin

FAIRBANKS— Fairbanks Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart welcomed Friday night’s outcome against the Minnesota Wilderness.

He wasn’t happy, though, with how the Ice Dogs made their way to a 4-3 shootout victory in the opener of the series between the top two teams in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division.

Before a scoreless overtime period and Ethan Somoza’s game-winner in the shootout, the first-place Ice Dogs (11-6-1) held a 3-1 lead until the last 1:36 of the third period.

The second-place Wilderness (9-5-1) had constantly applied pressure and the Ice Dogs struggled to transition the puck from their zone in the third period. Wilderness forward Darian Romanko capitalized on his pressure by scoring twice to eventually force overtime. 

Romanko, with assists from Troy Grahl and Niklas Lehtimaki, beat Ice Dogs goaltender Patrick Munson with a shot that rang off the left post at 18:24 into the third. 

With Minnesota goaltender Brock Kautz out of the net for an extra skater, Romanko redirected a shot through traffic in front of the crease  at  the 19:28 mark. Michael Covach and Ivan Chukarov had the assists on the game-tying tally.

Stewart said his team just played “stupid hockey’’ in the third period of the Halloween contest and the first game of a nine-game, four-week homestand for Fairbanks.

“From the coaching staff down to the players, it just wasn’t good hockey, We needed to have more urgency,’’ Stewart said. “Under two minutes left in the game and we’re up by two goals, it should be boring hockey, keeping pucks to the outside; but we didn’t find a way to do that and as a result, we gave the fans a little bit more of a game than maybe it needed to be.

“In the end,’’ he added, “guys found a way to win the shootout, which was good, but we needed to be better (in tonight game’s at 7:30).”

Somoza found a sliding wrist shot to send past Kautz for the game-winner in the five-round shootout.

“I had been working on that move in shootouts during practice this week,’’ Somoza, who also had an assist in regulation, said. “It was just one hard move and low blocker, and it was working.”

Todd Burgess, who also scored in regulation, and Chandler Madry had Fairbanks’ other shootout conversions with backhands, while Covach and  Lehtimaki each surprised Munson with forehand shots.

Munson finished with 25 saves to improve to 9-3-0 this season and Kautz compiled 20 saves to move to 5-2-1.

Ryner Gorowsky provided the game’s first goal during a four-minute power play, taking a rebound of Somoza’s shot from the top of the slot and flipping it in from the right edge of the crease at 5:01. Jakob Stridsberg had the other assist.

The Ice Dogs received the long power play after Wilderness defenseman Jack Weiss garnered a double minor for spearing and a game ejection at 4:58 of the period.

Fairbanks gained a two-goal cushion during the first 3:46 of the second period with shots from Burgess and Yannick Vedel that went through Kautz’s pads.  Burgess scored at 1:45 with help from defenseman John Zimmerman, who was making his Ice Dogs debut, and Vedel, a veteran right wing, scored an unassisted short-handed goal at 3:46.

Nineteen seconds later, Wilderness forward Brett Heikkala scored an unassisted power play goal at 4:05 of the middle period.

DOG BYTES—The Halloween jersey of first-year Ice Dogs forward Mitchell Baumann was auctioned for $1,000 during the first intermission. … Dominick Capobianco, attending his first Ice Dogs game, was dressed as the Green Giant. The 5-foot-10 Capobianco painted himself green and his green costume included long pants that covered stilts, which made him 7-foot-5. … Wilderness assistant coach Brian Meisner was an Alaska Nanooks assistant from 2008-13.

Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: