Ice Dogs come up short in Avalanche series opener

FAIRBANKS—Friday’s loss fell on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs like an Avalanche.

“The kind of execution I like to see is some, and tonight, there was none.” Fairbanks head coach Josh Hauge said after his team’s 5-4 loss to in-state rival Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla.

Hauge said the North American Hockey League game at the Big Dipper Ice Arena game was decided “pretty early.”

“I’d say it was decided in warm-ups,” he said. “We were just going through the motions in warm-ups, and we were just going through the motions out there now.”

In reality, the game wasn’t decided until the third period, when the Ice Dogs were outscored 1-0. The teams scored two goals each in the first and second periods, playing pretty well-matched hockey throughout.

“It’s embarrassing,” Hauge said of his team scoring a high number of goals and still picking up the loss. “All defense is hard work. All it is about is wanting it. I don’t think there was enough want.”

The Avalanche scored first on a goal by forward Wehebe Darge at the 9:48 mark of the opening period during a power play put in motion by an interference minor on Fairbanks’ defenseman Charlie Thauwald.

Less than two minutes later, the Ice Dogs answered with forward John Stampohar’s unassisted goal with 8:28 left in the period.

Both teams would score again before the end of the period. First, at the 7:44 mark, Alaska’s Evan Hesse found the net on a short pass from defenseman Chase Van Allen. With 2:14 left in the period, Fairbanks’ Jared Linnell tied the game on a JT Osborn-assisted goal.

“I was just trying to move my feet and keep the puck low,” Linnell, a North Pole native, said after the game. “I was just trying to keep the positive energy out there.”

Linnell did all he could to keep the “positive energy” alive for the Ice Dogs, scoring the final goal of the second period, as well, tying the game at 4 during an Ice Dog’s 5-on-3 power play.

Darge and fellow Avalanche forward Jacob Barber scored the first two goals of the second period, putting Alaska ahead 4-2.

Fairbanks defenseman Sean O’Rourke answered at the 12:26 mark of the period to put the Ice Dogs within one and ultimately give Linnell the opportunity to tie it up.

But a tipped goal by Alaska’s Brandon Brossoit off a shot from Jake Williams sealed the Ice Dogs’ fate as they were unable to score in the third period.

“I think where we lost it was in our defensive zone,” Linnell said. “We just broke down there and left our goalies out to dry.”

Goalie Joe Phillippi started the game for the Ice Dogs. He faced 15 shots and had 11 saves in the 26:21 he spent on the ice. Steve Perry picked up the loss playing about three-quarters of the second period and the entire third period. He faced 12 shots and made 11 saves.

Alaska’s goalie, Landon Peterson, made 24 saves on 28 shots.

“This is a tough place to win, so if feels good,” Avalanche head coach Brian Huebel said. “I feel like we were riding some momentum after our bye week. Actually, I thought we were a little rusty to start, but it feels good to get the win.”

Huebel credited the opportunistic goals his team generated for the win.

“We had good shots on the goals at great opportunities,” he said, adding that the team’s goal is to focus on tonight’s game. “I told them to enjoy the win tonight but to be ready and focused again tomorrow.”

The Avalanche and Ice Dogs play the second game of their series tonight at 7:30 in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

“We’re going to have to show up tomorrow (tonight),” Hauge said about what his team will have to do to bounce back and pick up the win. “I’d love to see some execution.”

“I think we underestimated the team coming out here,” Linnell said. “We had two weeks off and we just weren’t focused, but tomorrow (tonight) we’re going to prepare and be more focused. And we’ll be more crisp in warm-ups.”

The loss drops the Ice Dogs to 8-3-2 in the NAHL and gives the Avalanche a record of 9-6-0.

Contact staff writer Renee Thony at 459-7583.