By Brad Joyal, BJOYAL@NEWSMINER.COM
Nov 11, 2017
FAIRBANKS — It went from bad to worse for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs with a blink of an eye.
The Ice Dogs never recovered after allowing North American Hockey League foe Bismarck to build a 3-0 lead during the first period.
Although Jax Murray put Fairbanks on the board early in the third period, the damage had already been done as the visiting Bobcats handed the Ice Dogs an embarrassing 5-1 loss Friday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
“I don’t know what team was in our locker room tonight. That was not a team that I’m familiar with,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said. “I guess we’ve looked that bad at times, but not for an entire three periods. It was very disappointing.”
The Bobcats (9-7-2-0) began their dominant performance 2:04 into the contest when Grant Johnson rifled a wrist shot off the post and into the net past Fairbanks (9-5-1-2) goaltender Josh Benson. It was the first of Johnson’s two goals on the night, as he put a rebound home to extend the visitors’ lead to 2-0 only 6:18 into the game.
Johnson’s first goal showcased his hard shot, while his second score — the eventual game-winner — displayed his grit and tenacity as he battled for a loose puck in the Ice Dogs’ crease.
“He’s a really good player for us,” Bismarck head coach Layne Sedevie said. “Obviously he showed his skill on his first goal, and then the second one he was sort of dogmatic in there. Not every goal is going to be pretty. That’s why you have to be hard on your stick around the crease.”
As bad as the first few minutes were for the Ice Dogs, the Bobcats took complete control at the 13:32 mark when Ty Enns finished off a nifty pass from Alex Pollock to beat Benson (18 saves) and give Bismarck a 3-0 advantage.
After finding the back of the net, Enns skated along the boards with his index finger raised to his mouth, signaling for the Big Dipper crowd to remain quiet.
That was the boiling point for the Fairbanks players’ frustration.
“It’s just unacceptable for us to play how we did,” Fairbanks rookie forward Ty Proffitt said. “We can’t let that happen. We can’t let guys come in here and run their mouths like that.”
Proffitt, a Fairbanks native, tried his best to get Enns to drop his gloves for a fight before the ensuing faceoff at center ice.
Enns, a forward from Cartwright, Manitoba, turned down Proffitt’s offer.
“I was just trying to get energy for the boys and pick everybody up,” Proffitt said of the exchange. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
After taking a 3-0 deficit into the locker room at the first intermission, the Ice Dogs’ deficit grew in the final minute of the middle period.
With just 47 seconds remaining in the frame, Patrick O’Connor tickled the twine with a wrist shot past Benson’s glove. Enns later padded the team’s lead with an empty-net goal 15:50 into the third period.
The only bright spot for Fairbanks came 1:14 into the third period, when rookie forward Jax Murray lit the lamp with a wrist shot that beat Bobcats goaltender Ryan Ullan (24 saves) and cut the Ice Dogs’ deficit to 4-1.
“It felt pretty good,” Murray said. “It was the first one since I’ve been here, so that’s always nice to get the first one. I was hoping it would spark a little more energy with the team to get us going, though.”
Despite holding a 25-23 advantage in shots on goal, there wasn’t much Fairbanks could do against Bismarck, which used the Big Dipper crowd as fuel for its quick start.
“We haven’t come up here a ton, but I think this has to be one of the hardest buildings to play in and one of the funnest buildings to play in,” Sedevie said. “We were just trying to keep the momentum on our side and I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
The Ice Dogs will look to split the series when the teams meet at 7:30 p.m. today back at the Big Dipper.
Murray said he and his teammates will have to bring more urgency with them to the rink if they’re going to upend the Bobcats.
“We just need to show up and have the attitude that we’re going to outwork them,” he said. “If we do that, everything else will fall into place.”
The Ice Dogs are doing a joint fundraiser, Operation: Frosty Warrior, with Fort Wainwright for tonight’s game at the Big Dipper. Fans attending the game are encouraged to make donations to the program, which provides 250 care packages to Alaskan troops who are deployed during the holidays.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMSportsGuy.